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Author Topic: CN SN: Column: Politics Has Its Own Fringe Festival  (Read 27 times)
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« on: July 11, 2007, 08:28:11 pm »

This column was also printed in the StarPhoenix

CN SN: Column: Politics Has Its Own Fringe Festival
Newshawk: CMAP
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Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jul 2021
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2007 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Murray Mandryk


Worried that you won't be given enough choice on the next provincial election ballot?

Don't be.  No fewer than eight registered political parties submitted returns for 2006, according to Elections Saskatchewan.

They included: Green Party of Saskatchewan; New Democratic Party, Sask.  Section; Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan; Saskatchewan Heritage Party; Saskatchewan Liberal Association; Saskatchewan Marijuana Party; Saskatchewan Party, and; Western Independence Party of Saskatchewan ( WIP ).

So why are we seeing a rise in fringe parties, spanning the political spectrum from the far left to the far right? Does it make any sense, given that Saskatchewan politics seems to be a two-horse race, with the one horse -- the Saskatchewan Party -- enjoying about a 25-length lead over the NDP?

The above thoughts cross one's mind because of how vocal some of the fringe parties have become this summer.

First, there was the case of Wawota student Kieran King, who was suspended for leaving his small town school and organizing a protest after being disciplined for sharing his views on the potential use of marijuana.  Those who didn't know that even Saskatchewan had its own wing of the national Marijuana Party may have been surprised how capable a single-issue party is of glomming on to what quickly became a national issue of free speech.

And yesterday we saw the release of the platform of the Western Independence Party of Saskatchewan -- a party dedicated to the establishment of an independent western Canadian nation consisting of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Territories.

University of Regina political science professor Ken Rasmussen said fringe parties have existed throughout Saskatchewan's history and notes that's how the CCF started.  And it's even more common to see such protest parties emerge when there appears to be a groundswell of support to kick out an established party.

This is the similarity that the WIP likely shares with the Marijuana Party or even the Green Party, Rasmussen said.  All represent a comparatively small protest voice of those who feel disenfranchised.  All feel they might be able to emulate the Saskatchewan Party's success from non-existence to the cusp of power in a few short years.

But while the Marijuana Party or the Green Party have been single-issue parties, the WIP is a classic mix of right-wing populism of the separatist reform movement mixed with a bit of libertarianism and rural boosterism that speaks directly to a specific region of the province, Rasmussen said.

Noting the formation of the separatist Western Canada Concept Party in 1970s, Rasmussen said it's also no small coincidence that such movements tend to "rise with oil prices".

Certainly, with consecutive federal Liberal and now Conservative governments failing to take seriously historical grievances on natural resources ownership issues -- this time, in Stephen Harper's failure to abide by his promise to remove non-renewable resources from the equalization formula -- small factions in the West begin to question the benefits of confederation.

But Rasmussen also noted that -- like in the early 1980s when Grant Devine's right-wing Progressive Conservatives were on the rise -- rural Saskatchewan fears becoming even more isolated as the Saskatchewan Party begins to moderate to appeal to more liberal/centre urban voters.

This is evident in the WIP platform, released Tuesday to every weekly and daily newspaper in the province.  The platform stresses traditional right-wing democratic reform and economic concepts like referendum votes that would override provincial laws, recall legislation for MLAs ( based on 35 per cent of all constituents signing a petition ), fixed election dates, legislated balanced budgets, a single income tax rate, abolition of all employment equity and affirmative action programs for all government departments and development of nuclear power to address global warming.

But it also hammers away at more localized issues like the privatization of Saskatchewan liquor stores ( but not major Crown corporations like SaskTel, SaskEnergy, SaskPower, and SGI ), education tax reform ( eliminating the tax on all farmland except for the home quarter ) and repeal of the Liquor Consumption Tax ( that's an "unacceptable burden for struggling hotels, especially in small town Saskatchewan" ).

In short, it's an appeal to the disenfranchised who see now -- a time of potential political change -- as the right time to make a political statement.

- - Mandryk is the political columnist for the Leader-Post. 

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