Buckley belanger considers NDP leadership
by Phil Ambroziak
When it comes to the future of provincial politics in Saskatchewan, one MLA is confident the buck stops with the New Democratic Party.
Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger recently announced he is considering letting his name stand for NDP leader when the race to determine who will officially step into former leader Dwain Lingenfelter’s shoes (a job currently held by acting leader John Nilson) gets underway this fall.
“I haven’t ruled it out yet,” Belanger said. “With my limited exposure from being in the North, I would have to put together the right team and, if successful, eventually gather an impressive group of MLAs to capitalize on the opportunity to build the province as it should be built.”
As of June 29, five NDP MLAs confirmed they would not be seeking the leadership position. Along with Belanger, however, Saskatoon Massey Place MLA Cam Broten and Regina Rosemont MLA Trent Wotherspoon have reportedly said they might run.
“It (leadership campaign) is going to be an exciting opportunity for the NDP, as it will be our first year back after being bounced badly from the polling,” Belanger said.
Belanger went on to describe the coming year as one of rebuilding for the party, adding things will only get better for the NDP as the province moves toward the next election.
“In politics, everything ebbs and flows,” he said. “I don’t think the Saskatchewan Party is immune to that – they are not going to be the government forever.”
Belanger said the province’s booming population and financial success were both inherited by the current government, adding voters are more likely to remember the Saskatchewan Party for its decision to axe the film employment tax credit and for considering the addition of three more MLAs, something he believes the public does not support.
“Some of the things they’ve done, I don’t think the people of Saskatchewan appreciate,” he said. “We, as the NDP, need to come up with new ideas, as there is no question in my mind they (government) are being driven by their ideology.”
If Belanger does decide to seek the role of Official Opposition leader, he said it’s also important both he and others look beyond the fact he is of Métis descent.
“I know the key thing, if I do strive to be leader, is to become a leader of the party who is an aboriginal as opposed to being an aboriginal leader,” he said. “It’s important to put the public’s interest first.”
Belanger also believes in the importance of strengthening ties with the province’s business community, aboriginal community and in strengthening Saskatchewan’s immigration policy.
“It’s all about smart growth,” he said.
The new NDP leader will be selected at the party’s convention in March 2013.
If he does seek the leadership, it would be Belanger’s second attempt at earning the party’s top job. He joined the leadership race in 2001 following the resignation of Roy Romanow. Lorne Calvert was eventually selected as the new leader while Belanger was eliminated on the first ballot.