Stakeholder group push may have contributed to Sask. Party membership boost

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It’s a rare opportunity in provincial politics, and getting the chance to pick the next premier has garnered plenty of interest.

“It doesn’t always happen this way,” Joe Garcea, political studies department head at the University of Saskatchewan, said. “It generally happens in a general election.”

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In January, 27,125 Saskatchewan Party members will handpick the next premier.  Party membership increased from 9,500 members since Brad Wall announced his retirement in August.

As of the membership deadline on Dec. 8, the party said 17,625 memberships were either new or renewed. Of those:

The Saskatchewan Party also announced that 13,973 of the new members had never held a party membership prior to the leadership race.

It’s estimated the new memberships generated over $385,000 in revenue for the party this year.

But some political experts say those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

“I think what we have is a lot of interested individuals but also significant interest groups,” Garcea said.

One of those groups is the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF), which called on teachers to sign up through its “Pick a Premier” campaign.

“We want to make sure that the premier, whoever wants that position, understands the importance of education,” STF president Patrick Maze said.

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The STF also encouraged teachers to sign up for an NDP membership, whichever platform aligned with their views on education.

“In these races, sometimes the economy and balancing budgets and all these things; and they’re important; but they take full priority,” Maze said. “We want to make sure our classrooms aren’t overlooked.”

The STF has no way of knowing how many teachers have signed up, but Maze is optimistic based on the feedback from teachers.

“You’ve got major groups both in the municipal sector, for example, as well as the educational sector and the health sector,” Garcea said. “All of whom have a strong interest in making sure their members get involved and choose the candidate who will be more sympathetic to their cause.”

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The Massage Therapist Association of Saskatchewan also encouraged its members to sign up and vote for the candidate who supported more regulation in the industry.

Meanwhile, the Financial Advisors Association of Canada pushed its members to vote for the candidate who supported scrapping the PST on individual health and life insurance.

Each group has the potential of sending a message to provincial representatives.

“(They’re saying) we want all these people to know that we are a significant stakeholder group and that we can make a difference in the outcome of this particular selection process, and possibly in the election as well,” Garcea said.

Members will choose Brad Wall’s replacement from five candidates at a leadership convention in Saskatoon on Jan. 27.

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