On March 9, Cam Broten narrowly defeated Ryan Meili, winning the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP. This is the second of two opinion pieces on this result and what direction the party should take with their new leader. Yesterday we featued an article by Don Kossick.
The Saskatchewan NDP has a new leader in Cam Broten. From the onset, the membership had expressed a desire for a spirited and competitive leadership race. So that Cam Broten won by a narrow margin of 44-votes over Ryan Meili should satisfy those who did not wish for a coronation. Granted, there was plenty of surprise about how razor-thin the margin of victory was, but such is the will of a democratic process.
Now, the real challenge begins. The NDP and Cam Broten as the new leader must incorporate the best from all campaigns and unite the party as a first step.
As the membership begins to process the unbelievable photo finish, there will be plenty of room for reflection. However, there must also be a sense of urgency in reaching out, especially to new members, inviting them to take leadership roles within the party and keep them engaged.
The job of reaching out and uniting the party will not be an easy one, but suggestions that the party is badly fractured are exaggerated. It is true that there is a natural tendency to feel discouraged for those campaigns that did not win, but to suggest that people will walk away from the party undermines the social democratic principles of cooperation. Mind you there will be some discontent from some individuals, but that is not indicative of the party membership as a whole.
What New Democrats must now focus on is their commitment to work together for the betterment of society -- a task that starts at the grassroots. This is a point that Dr. Ryan Meili stressed in his concession speech. He reminded his supporters that it was because of their activism that the concept of a Healthy Society had gained traction. He urged them to keep on working towards that and to support Cam Broten as the new leader.
Many were also impressed with the way Trent Wotherspoon ran his campaign and he gained the respect and admiration of many skeptics as the race went on. At convention, upon dropping off the ballot, Wotherspoon gave a classy and dignified concession speech also stressing the need for party unity.
Unity is a beautiful word and a fantastic ideal, but it can be hard to achieve, especially after a six-month long campaign. Despite the clean disposition of the campaign, the nature of competitions is such that issues do arise between campaigns. Unity requires that the various camps put their frictions aside and begin to work harmoniously together. Unity requires humility, forgiving and healing.
It is incumbent upon every member to take the initiative to begin that process of renewal and commitment to progressive values that make them New Democrats. However, unity is a collaborative effort, which means that Cam Broten will need to personally reach out. Broten is a smart man, he knows the stakes and he recognizes the importance of unity.
Jaime Garcia is a Digital Media Designer and former 2011 NDP Candidate for Regina Coronation Park.