A couple of weeks ago, former MLA Rob Norris publicly pondered whether to enter the mayoral race in 2020.
What that really means is he is testing the water to see if there is enough voter and donor support to proceed.
I was a little surprised at the timing, since the election is still 18 months out. Usually mayoral challengers have a one-year yardstick and councillor challengers use about a six-month window.
However, most serious potential candidates already have a small exploratory committee working and advising as to when to roll the candidate out. Of course, it also serves notice to others considering entering the race to rethink their prospects given the competition.
Over the next while, although Norris has notable accomplishments professionally and politically, opponents will dig out and endeavour to remind the public of every controversial and/or dubious decision the Sask. Party ever made. The intent is to make every voter opposed to the current provincial government see Norris in a negative light, even though, supposedly, political parties are not involved in civic elections. The real difference between Norris and the current crew sitting in council chambers is that his political affiliation is better known than theirs.
The Sask. Party was formed by the Liberals and Conservatives joining forces to defeat the long-term NDP government. Norris was on the Liberal side of that union, so I’m going to classify him as a hybrid politician, probably sitting in the centre or slightly left of centre in his thinking.
Who else has ties to political parties?
During the 2016 race, Mayor Charlie Clark disclosed his ties to the NDP, but that wasn’t a surprise. His ties to the hard core of that party are well known and his positions both as councillor and mayor reflect his affiliation. Besides, how can you sit down for Sunday dinner with Auntie Nettie Wiebe if you are anything but NDP?
Coun. Mairin Loewen is NDP and prior to being elected to council was employed with the NDP provincial government and closely associated with former NDP MLA Pat Atkinson.
Ann Iwanchuk is proudly NDP, married to former NDP MLA Andy Iwanchuk and her day job is working with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. (Yes, I realize not all couples share the same political stripe, but they don’t usually work against each other, with the notorious exception of Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway and husband, George Conway, a vocal Trump opposer.)
Coun. Hilary Gough is aligned with the NDP, although in the last election she declared she did not hold a current party membership provincially or federally. But she did have an abundance of help during her civic campaign from NDP supporters.
We know Coun. Darren Hill is a Liberal because he ran unsuccessfully as a candidate in 2011. Coun. Zach Jeffries also held a membership in the Liberal Party, which isn’t surprising since he and Hill appear to be joined at the hip. Then again, maybe it’s their Junior Achievement connection.
Coun. Cynthia Block ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate in 2015. She is well-known in Liberal circles and enjoyed a little help from her friends in the last civic campaign.
Coun. Randy Donauer ran unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in 2015 and his provincial ties are to the Sask. Party.
Coun. Troy Davies does not disclose his party affiliation, but he is reputedly a good friend of former premier Brad Wall.
Coun. Bev Dubois and Coun. Sarina Gersher refuse to disclose any ties they have or may have had with political parties, but given their respective positions on issues, I would guess they sit at the opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Civic election campaigns are expensive and since there is no tax deduction allowed for civic election donations, it is harder for civic candidates to secure financial support from the general public. For the better part, our incumbent candidates for city council are not just good community citizens wanting to serve the public, but well-seasoned politicians with access to the political organizations generally needed to succeed.
The purpose behind this writing is to advise those considering tossing their hats into the next civic election that many of the incumbents will have the advantage of support from their respective political parties going into the race. No, it won’t be any overt action, but subtle behind-the-scenes support.
A civic candidate affiliated with a political party, regardless of the party, can rely on people from their party who are experienced in campaign fundraising to approach their party faithful for financial support.
Provincial and federal campaign volunteers will be called upon to help the civic candidate with the campaign, and a message will be sent to card-carrying or known party members encouraging them to vote for one of their ilk.
The best sign of party support is the use of the “demon dialer,” that horrible auto-bot phone message singing the praises of a candidate and urging voters to get out and vote in his or her support. More importantly, if a challenger belongs to a party, he/she should investigate the political affiliation of the incumbent to see if he/she still holds sway with the party before entering the race.
Aside from party support, incumbents have the advantage of the $10,000 taxpayer-funded communications allowance. The allowance should be suspended during an election year, but so far incumbents have been able to use it to their advantage.
Personally, I would rather see all this backroom activity come out in the open. If political parties are going to be involved, then run the election like a federal/provincial campaign. Let the parties nominate a candidate and let the public clearly know what type of government they are electing. Candidates not involved in a party can run as independents.
Then again, honesty and transparency are hardly the tenets of politics.