Gormley takes aim at provincial NDP
LEFT OUT: SASKATCHEWAN’S NDP AND THE RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF MEDIOCRITY John Gormley Indie Ink Softcover $19.95
Let’s start with the day John Gormley declared himself a Fabian socialist.
(That sound you now hear is the collective “Thunk!” of Saskatchewan leftists, union leaders and NDP backroomers fainting at the news the grand inquisitor of all things leftish and politically correct once shared their beliefs.)
It was, as he recalls, in the mid-1970s, when he was enrolled in the political studies program at the University of Saskatchewan and admitted his newfound beliefs to his father, an Irish doctor with a healthy dose of political cynicism, as they drove along.
This political conversion was, Gormley admits, all about trying to get a girl’s attention. “It lasted about a week,” he said.
Post-university, Gormley worked as a Saskatoon radio reporter and hotliner, then did a four-year stint as a Progressive Conservative MP. Defeated in 1988, he went back to university and earned a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan. He practised labour law, on the employer side, in Edmonton until 1998, when he returned to Saskatchewan as the morning talk show host for Rawlco Radio’s stations in Saskatoon and Regina.
If you haven’t heard his program, then you’re in a minority. If you’ve boycotted or complained about it, then you’re likely a member of Saskatchewan’s NDP and union establishments, which are infuriated by his enthusiastic and pointed needling of these organizations and their visions for this province.
This book had been bubbling away inside of him since about 2005.
“I thought Saskatchewan’s centennial was magnificent, but we were losing people; there was still all of this talk about ‘potential’ and not ‘actual.’”
Therein this book’s prime point: What he sees as Saskatchewan’s economic and population stagnation under successive CCF and NDP governments. In addition, he argues the NDP has a network of allies in government, the media and, especially, trade unions and academia that support the NDP — no matter what.
The tipping point toward writing this book came in May 2008 when Gormley was looking for an update on the arrest of former NDP aide Mark Stobbe for the 2000 slaying of his wife in Manitoba. But every single Google hit on “Stobbe” instead delivered a reference to the 1991 book Devine Rule — A Decade of Hope and Hardship, which was co-edited by Stobbe and, as the title suggests, thoroughly bashed Grant Devine’s Progressive Conservative government.
All this Googling occurred fully 17 years after Devine’s government (which Gormley admits was, “obviously an easy government to go after”) had been defeated. But it galled him to think the era’s history was still being defined by a partisan book “written as a campaign tool in 1991” — and, pointedly, never supplemented by a less politically self-interested book.
“This is evidence of a machine, a machine that is so well-seated through Saskatchewan that it even has its own authors,” Gormley fumes, with “an approved version of history.”
“I thought for myself, it’s not going to be long before someone at the U of R writes the definitive book on the Calvert era — and the Calvert era will be remembered as yet another high-water mark in Saskatchewan’s social progress and economic ascension of becoming a ‘have’ province and I thought, ‘You know, we’ve been through seven years with the Calvert government that were so profoundly disappointing in contrast to what else was going on in western North America.”
Meanwhile, Alberta (“with the same oil and the same resources — in fact, fewer resources” was luring away thousands of young and mid-career Saskatchewanians. “Here’s a place that we’ve continued to export our children to and in Saskatchewan, the entire dialogue is always about ‘settling’ — in the sense that, ‘Don’t get your hopes up, low expectations, these things. So, literally, it was a night in 2008 when I thought, “OK, you’ve had this stuff in you for a while, Are you going to do something? So I though, well, I’d better.”
Gormley is not always critical of the NDP. He admits he’d like to have watched Saskatchewan politics, in, say, the late 1930s, when the CCF was emerging — or perhaps in 1944, when he could have seen firsthand, “the energy of Douglas and the party and the election and those things.”
He praises Roy Romanow for restoring the province’s finances in the 1990s and Calvert’s government for revised oil and gas royalties; leading to additional drilling, revenue and jobs.
But he invariably returns to his theme that the NDP long has consciously fostered a spirit of mediocrity and “Saskatchewan exceptionalism” that held this province needs to be perpetually out of step from the rest of Canada, leading to policy decisions that have badly hurt the province’s, its prosperity and its people.
Gormley is particularly galled by the belief among the NDP and its allies in labour and academia (he enthusiastically names names) that Saskatchewan’s “natural population” was somewhere around 975,000 — and it’s just swell if it stays there; damn the consequences.
“As a result, we’ve chosen at a policy level to be the poor cousin to Alberta. Whether or not voters made that choice, I think the political elites accepted that we would be number two.”
That, he adds, has led to a mentality of “Fortress Saskatchewan” or, to borrow a phrase from the early CCF’s political biographer, Seymour Lipsett, “Saskatchewan Exceptionalism” — namely, that we absolutely, positively, have to do things differently here. But he sees this attitude ending as Saskatchewanians travel more, access the ’net and watch more TV channels. As well, the generation of elders who remember the CCF’s early days is dying off.
Of the provincial NDP and its future, he says, “demography is not helping them.”