At first, one might question the SGEU’s aggressive campaign against Greg Ottenbreit. He’s in cabinet, so he’s going to be a target in general, but going after him won’t have any immediate effects. He’s not closely intertwined with any impending by-elections, he’s not at risk of losing his nomination either, and his base of support in Yorkton is quite solid.
For the real answer, one must go back to the last election.
It didn’t go well for the NDP in general, but in Yorkton specifically the campaign was a complete disaster. The candidate, Greg Olsen, was an unknown seemingly selected entirely to confuse people who intended to vote for Greg O. but didn’t remember the rest of the name. He didn’t run the most bare bones campaign – that would be the Green Party’s Chad Gregoire, who did nothing at all – but he didn’t bother showing up to the Chamber of Commerce’s All Candidates Forum and was nowhere to be found for most of the election period. Ottenbreit, to his credit, did put effort into his campaign even if he was running effectively unopposed. Of course, he won with a huge margin. Who else was running?
More telling, actual numbers were down across the board, and while part of this can be attributed to some re-drawn boundaries, a lack of an inspiring opposition candidate didn’t help. Ottenbreit’s lazier supporters knew they could stay home because he would win anyway. NDP supporters could express their frustration with the poorly handled campaign by just not voting.
Clearly, if Yorkton’s NDP supporters hope to even present a challenge to the incumbent next time around, they need to actually invigorate their base, something they have failed to even attempt for a long time.
In that way, the SGEU campaign is part of an overall attempt to revive the NDP in this part of the province. If they can get enough people angry at the sitting government, maybe they can rebuild their party of choice, and get people actually interested in working for the NDP. Right now, the struggle is to get people to care about the opposition party.
I don’t know if the SGEU’s tactics are the best strategy for rebuilding interest in the NDP, but it’s actually good for both sides if they get a credible candidate next time around. That’s because it’s difficult to care about a sure thing, and without an effective opposition party we would see a continuing drop-off of voter interest in the area.
The struggle right now is voter engagement and it’s something that is going to be an issue in Yorkton unless we give people a reason to get out and vote. Having a decent candidate from two parties will have that effect.