We Won!

Tisdale - September 17, 1999
By: Timothy W. Shire
It is not since the 1920s that Saskatchewan has had a minority government and for the first election to be held in September in this province, we have ventured into some very unfamiliar territory. I can not remember at any time after an election, or similar event, where the adversaries have all claimed victory, but in this case, they are not just blowing hot air, they are correct in their assessment of things.
The Premier and his party
  Premier Romanow has declared victory in this election and can be proud of having succeeded in having won an election in a third successive term. Few modern premiers have been able to claim such an achievement and indeed this is a victory for him and his government. When you consider he was able to win his seat and all but thirteen of his members, despite the rather adverse climate they found themselves in, is remarkable. The nurses strike, budget cutting measures, high taxes, poor roads and eight years in government can build up a lot of disaffection. He and his government weathered those things and are still in charge.
Mr. Hermanson and the Saskatchewan Party
  More voters cast their ballots for Saskatchewan Party candidates then for any other party, as this party received 39% of the popular vote. This is an outstanding achievement and claiming victory is completely appropriate. Not only did all but two rural seats in the province elect Saskatchewan Party candidates, but those who voted for them in the cities was far higher then anyone had predicted.
Dr. Melinchuk and the Liberal Party
  The Saskatchewan Liberal party was facing extinction, all the polld and pundits were writing them off expecting to see no Liberals elected to office, so the win by the leader himself and a popular vote of the same as at the last election, must be considered a clear victory. With three seats they still retain their official party status and with a minority government situation, their three members command and control the future of the government of this province.
The Voters of Saskatchewan
  With the combines trudging through the fields of the province, on a remarkable fall day there was concern about who would show up to vote. At this point (0730) we do not know the percentage of turn out, but we do know that substantial numbers of the 46% undecided or uncommitted went out and deliberately voted for whom they wanted. This is what I was advocatinghere in Ensign when the election began and it makes me pretty happy to see that the electorate of the province have chosen, not acted by default.
Democracy, The Real Winner
  Through the past year on these pages of Ensign, you have seen some pretty negative things written about the premier and the actions taken and encouraged by his office. These criticisms were based on a style of leadership which was pretty much a "command" structure. Mario deSantis referred to this as "Tinpot dictator" mentality and others, including myself, have typified the administrative structure in Saskatchewan, as less then modern, or enlightened. This election has changed the centre of power in the most dramatic way, many this morning are noting the extreme power that will fall in the lap of Dr. Melinchuk and his two Liberal colleagues, but I am telling you that for the first time since Premier Romanow assumed office in Saskatchewan, he is going to have to pay extreme attention to those people who do not have cabinet seats. The government backbenchers, the opposition backbenchers, the regular people who you the voter of Saskatchewan have put in office, now for the first time in seven decades, have a true say in the formulation of policy in this province.

You can phone, fax, e-mail, or talk to your member of the legislative assembly and for the first time in most of our lives, that member has real power. Not just a seat, or time now and then to express his or her opinion, but members, individual members, can and will, take an active role in deciding what should happen.

Of course there is a down side to that distribution of power. Think of this, if it were still operational, and there was a suggestion to close the Plains Hospital, would it happen? Not likely, major controversial issues will not be "rammed through" because power has been dispersed.
The Losers
  Those candidates who unsuccessfully ran in this election can not consider themselves losers, they did their part for their party and for the democratic process, but there are losers in this election. The credibility of surveys and polls has been totally destroyed. They were not wrong, or even off just a little, they were probably accurate and totally misleading When the poll results Monday indicated that the NDP would swamp the province and the Liberals would disappear, everyone, including me, believed them. But it did prompt me to write an article urging people to cast their votes, because I was so concerned about 46% of the voters being undecided or refusing to express an opinion, suggested that they might not participate in the election. It was this huge unqualified group that invalidated the poling process and the assumption, that those of them who voted, would simply follow the trend of the committed, was wrong.

The second major loser was the credibility of both CBC and CTV television and CBC radio who without hesitation, only minutes after the polls closed, declared that the election would be won with a majority government by the NDP. The news gathers were so remarkably inaccurate that their function and purpose is well worth questioning. The facts of this issue need to be underlined. Down sizing of the news gathering system in broadcasting is so blatantly apparent. We have seen the CBC cut its production and operating staff well below functional levels in this province and across the country. The proliferation of cable and multiple channels has put CTV under such pressure that its viability is now being questioned, so it is no wonder that when it comes to knowing what is happening, it is no longer what they do.

When a single bloated and maxi-profit oriented operation takes over all of the daily newspapers it can save a lot of money, lay off a lot of people and publish what we might think is news. But, the test is over and they failed. The failure of the province's newspapers to see such a dramatic shift in the politics of the province is for them, a disaster. No amount of hype or even Viagra would rejuvenate the horrible mess the print media is now experiencing.

Newspapers. television and radio have all made themselves impotent and superfluous, they are nothing more then trivial pursuits, making small talk on the side lines and dispensing rumors and faulty information. This criticism is not nearly harsh enough to condemn such poor performance. We must not let ourselves make excuses for their massive mistakes by pointing to the down sizing of their operations. The free press is one of the cornerstones of a democracy and when it under takes a process of self-destruction it is not a minor thing.