Tuesday, October 30, 2021
In the heart of what's affectionately known as Saskatoon's granola
belt, NDP cabinet minister Pat Atkinson's seat in the legislature
is very likely safe.
Even in their most optimistic moments, it's unlikely any of her opponents
would predict that she's about to lose this election.
However, in a campaign that is all about change, she is campaigning
hard to fend off the Saskatchewan Party. Meanwhile, there is another
threat nipping at her heels from the left in the form of the Green
Party of Saskatchewan.
While the Green party is still finding its feet in this province,
there could be no more welcoming spot in the city for the Greens' message
than in Nutana.
And since Green party Leader Sandra Finley just happens to live in
the area, that's where she's running.
On this particular day, her living room is cluttered with policy papers
and backgrounders, file folders are spilling off the dining room table
and two phones are ringing simultaneously.
Running a shoestring operation, Finley's house is doubling as Green
party headquarters this year. There is no fancy ad campaign, no expensive
phone banks and no party-sponsored polls.
There is, however, plenty of e-mail traffic as various networks of
community organizations talk to one another about a different kind
On this, Finley is an expert. For the past seven years she has been
a full-time writer and activist engaged in a wide range of campaigns,
from fighting against a dam on the South Saskatchewan River to oil
and gas development in the Great Sand Hills to genetically modified
The common denominator to these is that they represent the clash between
what Finley sees as the public interest and what governments and corporations
believe represents progress.
On all of these debates, Finley has been a tireless researcher and
a dogged advocate for her point of view. Along the way, she has become
a practised organizer, something that seems to be serving her in good
For one thing, the Greens have nominated 48 candidates, an astonishing
number for a party that has had little or no presence before now. And
most of those are from the local communities they seek to represent,
with only a few parachute candidates landing from outside.
What the Greens are about is not so much targeting winning seats but
giving people an alternative to the mainstream parties.
In practice, that's largely going to mean an alternative to the NDP
even though some party-friendly blogs are suggesting there's no need
for the Greens for so long as the NDP exists.
While she has respect
for a number of green-leaning NDP members, including Atkinson, it's "preposterous" to
say the government has been doing everything it can for the environment,
"There is the translation of words into action and that translation
isn't happening. It's getting lost some place along the line," she
Whatever Finley's chances are of getting elected, there is some evidence
that the Green party is having an effect on the larger parties.
You need only look at how popular some of its policies have become
to see that. For example, the Greens favour fixed election dates, elimination
of sales tax on sports equipment and school supplies, a citizen's assembly
to explore proportional representation and a carbon tax to combat global
warming. You can see most of these items in one or another of the provincial
party platforms or among federal party policies.
At the heart of most of these issues is finding a new way to do government
and reducing rampant cynicism among voters.
"When you have a turnout rate of 25 per cent in the 18- to 25-year-old
group, when you fast-forward that, democracy is in very serious trouble," Finley
"One of the difficulties the Green party has is in delivering
the vote to the poll. We don't have party machinery like the NDP has
to do that. So what we have to rely on is the determination of the
people to bring about change. What you have is a situation where many
people accept the status quo and think it cannot be changed, but the
Green party offers people the chance if they want to engage and become
involved, the opportunity to exercise power. But they have to know
that. It's a process of empowerment," she said.
Like any marginal party, the Green party is still having trouble commanding
respect. Last week, for example, the three leaders of the mainstream
parties were invited to address the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian
Finley was recognized in the audience, but not given the opportunity
Tonight, the three main leaders will be seen on a television debate,
but Finley will be nowhere in sight.
Granted, the Greens attracted less than one per cent of the vote in
the last campaign, but they do have almost a full slate of candidates
Nor do the main parties have much to brag about in terms of their
representation. All three have been forced to jettison candidates because
of questionable activities or backgrounds.
That in itself is a distinct difference from the Green campaign.
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