The Young Voters’ Handbook: Recognizing Dog Whistles

This is an election year in Saskatchewan, and that means the monied crew that finance the far-right parties in this province are digging deep into their pockets to “get the word out” and spread the news of changes to be made, budgets to finally balance, and prosperity for all. The only thing missing from the “message” is the one thing voters are actually wanting to hear from them is this: HOW are you going to accomplish these things?

This lack of substance in political pronouncements has caused a burning sensation to fester on my soul and other parts of the anatomy for years. During the last provincial election I watched the Leadership Debate in stunned disbelief as Scott Moe piously “entertained” us with his closing remarks, starting with “We have a plan…”

Despite my constant reading of the news from various sources, including those on the far right, I never did find out just what was in those plans, save perhaps the granting of more contracts to Alberta construction businesses and continuing increase in debt that our children will end up having to pay.

This vacuousness is typical of our far-right parties; the problem is, however, when we bring up points to challenge their fake policy agenda, we get shouted down by the crackpots who still believe that despite our grievances over what’s wrong with our government’s approach to business, we must refrain from commentary that might elicit an emotional and slightly stronger in word response. For instance, during the Cam Broten (NDP) / Brad Wall (SP) debate, Mr. Broten was in the process of explaining how upgrading to at least Grade 12 of Indigenous students could be delivered and a living allowance paid whether or not they lived on reserve, when then-Premier Wall started talking through him so as to deflect public opinion away from this reform proposal. 

Whatever; the fact that the province could then turn around and send the bill for services rendered to Ottawa, as education provided to Indigenous students is supposed to be covered at the federal level – and is a fact that the ex-premier knew, or worse, SHOULD have known. However, what really ticked my delicate disposition was that later in the year when just talking to an older woman in a grocery aisle, the woman claimed that she was prepared to vote for the NDP, but changed her mind because Cam Broten “wouldn’t let Mr. Wall finish his objection,” an act she considered to be “extremely rude”. 

And the Sask Party or the Sask United Party think that only “leftists” embrace “woke” terminology? Give me a break.

Look, I understand it when I’m talking to my students or young adults who look at me in stunned belief when I tell them that they should vote, when their response is most likely to be “they’re all the same” – which, unfortunately is, at times, quite true. However, by using the Tax Hike Avoidance routine the Sask Party continually recites as its mantra, young voters AND teenagers are going to end up paying the $28 billion in debt we have at the moment if our government doesn’t change come October – and I’m not talking about electing still another off-the-wall party that has attracted so many Karens to its flock, such as the Saskatchewan United Party.

Simply put, right-wing governments have NO idea as to how to properly budget, as their focus is almost always on the “right now” – as was Mulroney’s in 1989 when Medicare costs were being discussed. For instance, in May of 2023, Finance Minister Donna Harpauer claimed we had a surplus of $1.3 billion in its offering, all thanks to royalties received from our mineral wealth. Where did it go? Four months ago Alberta Premier Danielle Smith maintained that their “surplus” of $14 BILLION was a sign of the effectiveness of the province having been governed by the UCP. Less than 8 weeks ago, the Western Standard, an online media source that rabidly supports UCP policy reported a surplus of “only” $4 billion; meanwhile, starting on Jan. 1, 2024, Albertans had their gas prices hiked by nine cents a litre.

Which one of the parties is the “tax and spend” edition, again?

However, let’s go back for a minute to illustrate the banality and superficiality of the Saskatchewan United Party’s agenda, particularly as was expressed in Nadine Wilson’s Jan. 4 MLA Report in the Herald. IF anyone can find even ONE item in that column in which she is speaking about what she accomplished or spoke out against or for in the past legislative session, then you’re far more politically tuned in than I will ever be. However, there are some interesting points she does make, even if she doesn’t actually complete any sentence by telling us what it means. 

Here is but one example:

  • “The missteps of the Scott Moe government have created conditions where people are more engaged in the workings of government than they have in several generations”

 – which is actually true, but for the fact that she was an integral part of that government for over 12 years and therefore should be feeling more of the concerns now being expressed in public.

It would be rather nice if I could just see Ms. Wilson portraying herself as this cause-motivated grandparent fighting for better health care and services for her grandchildren, but her non-disclosure agreement that she filed with a family complainant to keep from going to jail makes that picture totally unpalatable to me. Being elected as the Sask United Party’s leader is not her “Come to Jesus moment”, because if Premier Moe hadn’t outed her for not having yet received a Covid-19 vaccination, she’d still be running for the Sask Party, and probably still be on its Executive.

I guess that the point of all of these remembrances is that without a sound fiscal plan to restore our treasury to solvency, the Saskatchewan Party and the Saskatchewan United Party have precious little to offer our beleaguered voters. More to the point is this: in their public statements both of these parties have decided to play the “race” card in their dialogue, rather than coming forward with policy that can allow our Indigenous communities to better integrate into the more important affairs going on in the province.

Personally, I respectfully hope that I am not the only one to consider this lack of social value coming from these parties to end up becoming worse in the near future.