Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Saskatchewan NDP Looks to Light a Fire With Hidden Agenda Ploy

Lorne Calvert rolls out the “hidden agenda” fallacy for an encore

With a provincial election looming on the horizon, one had to expect the Saskatchewan political scene to heat up.

With the leak of some of the governing NDP’s campaign material, the political winds have begun to shift, and it spells trouble for Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan party.

"We're saying to Saskatchewan voters, what lies behind this friendly new image, beware of," says Saskatchewan deputy Premier Clay Serby.

The pamphlet accuses the Saskatchewan party of being “inexperienced and reckless”, and insinuates that the party is obfuscating its policies on health care and Saskatchewan’s many crown corporations.

"This is about saying to Mr. Wall and the Saskatchewan Party, come clean with your polices. Make your policies available to Saskatchewan people today so that we can debate them," Serby announced.

Yet Serby’s claims aren’t consistent with the Saskatchewan party’s legislative record.

For example, Wall explained, "We have voted for the NDP legislation to keep public ownership of the Crowns.”

Unfortunately, Brad Wall doesn’t seem to realize the futility in branding these claims as “a pack of lies.” The federal Liberal party found, much to its apparent delight, that the real beauty of a “hidden agenda” claim is that you don’t have to prove it. The invisibility of such an agenda almost becomes proof that it exists.

The hidden agenda tactic also exploits weaknesses in the party it’s directed against by exploiting a not-well-rounded image. Poorly-defined policy stances can suddenly take on shades of “calculated ambiguity”, and fuel the “hidden agenda” fire all of their own.

When the target rushes to put out the fire, their arsonist antagonists simply continue to fan the flames. The efforts of the target eventually become a sort of evidence in and of itself. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and in this sense the hidden agenda tactic actually works best when it monopolizes the target’s time and effort.

Does the NDP believe the Saskatchewan party really has a hidden agenda? Probably not. But they know the tactic works, and even if the “hidden agenda” isn’t the most honest tactic, it’s politically effective.

The pamphlet also predictably targets the federal Conservative party, describing Wall and the Saskatchewan party as “Stephen Harper apologists”.

When a party is investing so much effort in campaigning against a proxy opponent, it only makes sense to utilize tactics that have been effective against that proxy. When Lorne Calvert appeared before a Senate committee crusading for “fairness for Saskatchewan”, it sounded a good deal like election rhetoric for a reason. In all odds, it was intentional.

Dragging out the hidden agenda fallacy -- and it is a fallacy, based entirely on a refusal to debate actual policy in favour of hypothetical policy – the Saskatchewan NDP has found a way to force the Saskatchewan electorate to equate Wall with Prime Minister Harper as closely as possible, if not treat him as second fiddle altogether.

From this point out, Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan party need to avoid any sparks. Lorne Calvert, Clay Serby and the NDP have doused the pile with gasoline, and the Saskatchewan party’s own ill-defined policy package has provided the kindling.

What ensues could prove to be a fire that will burn Brad Wall alive before he manages to put it out.


  1. What ensues could prove to be a fire that will burn Brad Wall alive before he manages to put it out.

    It's possible, Patrick. As someone born and raised in Saskatoon, I can attest that the Sask NDP has never been overly concerned with the truth. I still remember a 1978 TV election ad that literally accused the Opposition Tories of wanting to get rid of Medicare. Every time it aired, my mother was tempted to throw something at the television. However, such scare mongering only worked because of legal and business difficulties the then Tory leader was embroiled in, which had already made people suspicious of him. I can't see it working this time.

  2. I think something that we have to admit to ourselves is that political campaigning really isn't about honesty anymore, and I can't say for certain whether or not it ever really was.

    The fact is that a hidden agenda is something that a party campaigns on, but doesn't really believe. That's inherently dishonest. Unfortunately, some of the parties who have campaigned on this have been rewarded. They won't stop just because a few people have moral compunctions about it.


Post your comments, and join the discussion!

Be aware that spam posts and purile nonsense will not be tolerated, although purility within constructive commentary is encouraged.

All comments made by Kevron are deleted without being read. Also, if you begin your comment by saying "I know you'll just delete this", it will be deleted. Guaranteed. So don't be a dumbass.