Rhino's Ramblings: The Pirates of Pasqua

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Robert Thomas

For those of you who aren't well attuned to Saskatchewan politics, the big issue out there might be the carbon tax and the effects it's having upon gasoline prices in BC or the battle with BC over a new oil pipeline, all in the name of Climate Change.

But there is another looming iceberg out there and this one is former NDP, and now Independent MP, Erin Weir and allegations made about him and his subsequent treatment by the NDP brass. Depending on how much is hidden beneath the surface, it might well sink the NDP in the next federal election.

Although Weir represents the riding of Regina-Lewvan, the intrigue surrounding his being booted out of the NDP caucus has now spilled into the streets of Moose Jaw, er...well, Pasqua, at least. This past weekend, the NDP faithful met in Pasqua for the annual Moose Jaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan riding association fundraiser and rumour has it that more than trout was on the menu.

According to some in attendance, NDP federal leader Jagmeet Singh's head should have been on the platter.

According to sources at that meeting, more than a couple expressed their anger towards NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and threw their support behind Weir.

The strange, macabre thing about it was that despite being kicked out of caucus and sitting as an Independent, Erin Weir, himself, was also in attendance.

Apparently, it's been an issue silently developing within the local ranks of the NDP old time stalwarts, as many are upset the Party chose Singh to lead the Party. The treatment of the highly popular Weir, was for some, the last straw.

I have personally spoken to people who tell me that for over 60 years they have been "proud hardcore socialists who personally knew Tommy Douglas" but in the next election they are voting for the Liberals.

In many ways it explains Justin Trudeau's two trips to Evraz Steel, located in Weir's riding. It's all about winning the middle class male/union labourer vote. These are carefully choreographed photo ops which play well in a demographic the Liberals are, according to opinion polls, losing ground on.

Caring about the workers at Evraz Steel might seem like a waste of time for the Prime Minister in Saskatchewan but the steel workers are not the prime target. The true target of Trudeau's appearances is the industrial heartland and vote rich southern Ontario.

  Karen Purdy, former MLA candidate for Moose Jaw-Wakamow, Erin Weir and long time party volunteer Melody Stark at the fundraiser.

Karen Purdy, former MLA candidate for Moose Jaw-Wakamow, Erin Weir and long time party volunteer Melody Stark at the fundraiser.

According to reports among those in attendance at the Pasqua meeting were a couple of potential local NDP candidates and union organizers who the NDP relies upon as shock troops to get out the vote and insure victory. A loss of this group's support would, in my opinion, be highly devastating to the NDP, not only federally but provincially as well.

Despite what the Party might tell you, there are some very massive divides within the NDP and what these Party faithful are saying is that what happened to Weir was one group stifling the other.

So what really happened to Erin Weir?

Officially, according to the NDP, an independent third party investigation found evidence the Regina MP harassed an anonymous former NDP staffer, as well as others. Because Weir claimed innocence and went down fighting, Singh kicked Weir out of the Party and he now sits as an Independent right next to Elizabeth May.

From Weir, the entire issue is a set-up, a concerted effort to stifle debate within the NDP and it all began at the 2016 Saskatchewan NDP convention, when he wasn't allowed to bring up his views on carbon.

Stalwart NDPers I have spoken to are none too happy about the treatment of Weir. And they've quietly thrown support behind Weir and want answers from Singh.

"Nobody is going to vote for Singh and after the next election we are going to be decimated. We will be worse off and voting for a new leader once again we're right back to square one," is how a long-time NDP supporter put it.

Worse yet for the NDP is the rush towards the left in electing Singh nationally and now Dr Ryan Meili provincially, this means the union vote they rely upon is drifting away.

Other local NDP insiders point to the Party drifting away from its union roots and paying a price at the ballot boxes because of it.

Some even point to a hidden campaign, within the Saskatchewan NDP, as a dirty tricks squad is effectively eliminating dissent and discussion within the Party. They tell me MP Weir is a victim of that campaign.

But is that even possible? Or is it just wild conspiracy theorists at their finest?

Now, really how deep this sentiment is is yet to be seen but if it is widespread the NDP has some big problems in the trenches.

The bigger question is how much of a fight will those who attended the Pasqua meeting put up to support Weir? Will these modern day political pirates actually mutiny more than they already have? And if they do fight within the Party will they be successful in not only getting Weir re-instated but as a result of that change the Party's focus?

Really, how deep this mutiny runs might well not only silently determine Erin Weir's fate within the Party but also the NDP's future direction.

It leaves me thinking about whether the federal NDP is prepared to abandon Weir, and at least one important Regina seat, in a big political gamble to woo voters further to the left? With the federal Liberals now brazenly stealing every NDP platform initiative what can the Party do to fight back?

With the next Federal election a mere 18 months away, can the NDP afford not to have Weir on their team? And what happens if Weir decides to run as an Independent in the next Federal election? What sort of impact would that have on the NDP both federally and provincially?

Whether the NDP likes it or not, if there is growing dissent within Party ranks then maybe there were a few pirates who met at Pasqua. The question truly is will these modern-day political buccaneers decide to hoist the sails of dissent? If they do, prepare for some real political cannon fire.