Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Good Weekend to be a Saskatchewan Liberal

Between the over 100 people who came out to the In The Red event on Friday night (and an outstanding performance by Doll Talk and Ransom) and the three dozen or so folks who invested a beautiful Saturday to start talking about where we have been, where we are, and where we should go as a Saskatchewan Liberal Party, I am feeling for the first time in months like there is some real momentum again.

To spark some conversation, here is the front-page story in today's StarPhoenix about the renewal workshop. I will note however that though it gives a bit of the flavour of the weekend, I do think that the characterization of "Liberals may try leaning to right" (as the headline read in the Regina LeaderPost) is a gross over-simplification of the discussions that are taking place right now.

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Liberals discuss policy with eye to future
Provincial members examine direction after election shutout

Janet French
The StarPhoenix
Monday, May 05, 2008

The Saskatchewan Liberal Party has begun a period of introspection after party candidates were shut out for a second consecutive provincial election last November. And suggestions emerged Saturday the party could be nudging toward more right-wing ideals.

About 35 Liberals met in Saskatoon to ponder the party's next steps, including what policies it should espouse in the future, organizer Ryan Androsoff said.

"There is a debate happening in the party right now . . . as to what our values and messages should be," said Androsoff, who was the Liberal candidate in Saskatoon Northwest in the 2007 provincial election.

Former B.C. Liberal MLA Lynn Stephens was a guest speaker at the event, dispensing advice from her party's experience during the last two decades when it went from shutouts in the 1990s to taking 77 of 79 seats in B.C.'s 2001 election.

Androsoff said Stephens wasn't there to talk about policy, but advise Saskatchewan Liberals on how to organize themselves successfully.

Her advice? Know what your party's messages are and stick to them, Androsoff said. Stephens also advised party members to build social networks and avoid top-down decision making.

Androsoff wouldn't say directly whether the Saskatchewan Liberals are thinking of moving further right in the political spectrum, where the B.C. Liberals sit, but did describe himself as a "small-l Liberal" who believes in personal and economic freedoms.

He also hinted a move to the right could be beneficial for the party.

"The Sask. Party has really become NDP-like in its first six months in government, and that, I think, provides an opportunity for the Liberal Party to show some leadership far into the future," he said.

Liberals will meet several times over the next six to seven months to set goals and talk about the party's future, he said.

Although he admits the Liberals have much work ahead after their failure to make gains in the last election, Androsoff frames the party's recent political misfortunes in an optimistic light.

"We have one of those unique windows in the life of a political party where you don't have the baggage of the past and you really have a clean slate," he said.

"If people are willing to grab this moment, we have a chance to come together around a message and a set of values that we can all agree upon, and, I think, be able to able to fill an important space in the Saskatchewan political scene."

Androsoff did not know when the party's leadership race will begin -- that has yet to be announced by the Saskatchewan Liberal Association, he said.

Frank Proto has been the Liberals' interim leader since David Karwacki stepped aside in December. Karwacki made the move after the Liberals' failed to get back into the legislature.

Androsoff said although he has heard rumblings from some people who are interested in running for the Liberal leadership, none have declared publicly.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2008