Senior News Editor
Rob Dobrohoczki is a student, a teacher, a lawyer and now a candidate for political nomination.
He’s been around campus for 20-odd years, with degrees in political studies, philosophy and law and a certificate in economics. He’s a self described policy man and an instructor at the U of S campus for law and policy.
Mainly, Dobrohoczki says that he has been campaigning by listening to constituents and feels confident that he’s done so best. He mentioned his respect for Anwar’s approach in the race, even suggesting prior to Meili dropping from the race that there was a good chance that Meili was not a frontrunner.
“His first leadership run was actually a nomination bid and now we have a nomination bid that’s actually a leadership run.”
As for Meili’s unexpected drop from the race, it’s business as usual as far as Dobrohoczki is concerned.
“You know when a politician drops out for family reasons… well, it’s always for family reasons,” he jabbed.
Competition aside, Dobrohoczki has been focused on meeting constituents and feels that their prime issues are housing and skills accreditation.
As for students, the housing issue remains primary but he adds addressing student debt as a key point.
Instead of tuition freezes, he advocates eliminating student debt to the province. Tuition freezes, he feels, help current students but cause trouble for coming ones. Debt alleviation, on the other hand, affects those who are already in the workplace.
“The province should grab hold of that issue… I’ve discussed it with Rob Norris before he was elected and asked him to bring it into conversation. ”˜It works for your party and it works for mine.’ ”
Conversations with Norris, the Saskatoon Greystone MLA and Sask Party member, represent a part of Dobrohoczki’s philosophy of interparty cooperation.
“There’s a poisoned atmosphere in legislature; it’s too adversarial.” But he adds that “there could be agreement on student debt.”
As for the other student issue, housing, Dobrohoczki is pleased about coming student housing and emphasizes the need for those projects.
“Student housing is important not just for students; it brings down market prices,” he says, because it frees up affordable housing for the rest of the community.
These issues, which are ones close to the heart of any university town politician, don’t quite make it clear why he’s running for the NDP nomination — especially given his emphasis on “on the doorstep” campaigning. But he says this campaign model is exactly why this is his party. He’s attracted to the party’s Cooperative Commonwealth Federation roots. He wants to reflect its cooperative roots and use those to his advantage, specifically by forming policy from voter opinions.
“We should be moving Saskatchewan towards a social democratic culture, not necessarily a social democratic government,” he asserts.
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ISHMAEL N. DARO
With mere days to go before an NDP nomination meeting for the Saskatoon Sutherland constituency, Naveed Anwar must be feeling good about himself.
Having entered the three-way race to become the NDP candidate for the 2011 provincial election as the dark horse, he suddenly finds himself in the role of front-runner.
The assumed front-runner Ryan Meili, who last year came within a whisker of becoming party leader instead of Dwain Lingenfelter, surprised everyone when he dropped out of the running for Sutherland on Sept. 27. That leaves only Anwar, a tax consultant, and lawyer Rob Dobrohoczki before the Oct. 2 nomination meeting.
Anwar said that as a candidate, he was happy to see less competition but “being a member of the [NDP] and being a good friend, I always value Meili’s support and his hard work for the party.”
As for what he brings to the party that Dobrohoczki does not, Anwar says it’s a matter of reaching out to new people.
“I’m bringing diversity to the party. I’m bringing different communities to the party,” he said.
Even so, he does not think the Saskatchewan NDP has a problem reaching immigrant communities, arguing that they are better placed than the Sask Party to help such groups.
Anwar added that, given the nomination and successfully defeating Sask Party candidate Paul Merriman to become MLA, he would try to give back to the community.
“Hopefully, I will bring more funding to the constituency,” he said.
That constituency, Saskatoon Sutherland, is home to many students. On the issues of tuition costs and housing, however, Anwar was short on specific proposals.
“When I’m elected as MLA,” he said, “I am there to listen and to solve and to do whatever people of the constituency want”¦. I would love to listen to [students’] concerns and to bring it to caucus and we will, as a party, solve their issues.”
Originally from Pakistan, Anwar has lived in Canada for almost two decades and earned a degree in economics from Concordia University in Montreal. He says that as an ex-student, he has always thought tuition fees are too high and that there should be a cap on costs.
Anwar would not comment on whether he would stress a tuition freeze, as prior NDP governments have, but expressed concern that student debt had “skyrocketed” in recent years.
On housing, Anwar says he knows students live on limited budgets and ought to have some help coping with costs, perhaps in the form of discounted housing or financial assistance.
Still, it was clear that with Oct. 2 looming, Anwar was more focused on first winning the nomination of his party than getting bogged down in specific policies.
So far, he has signed up as many as 400 new party members, mostly from immigrant communities. This surprisingly high number for a party nomination puts Rob Dobrohoczki at a distinct disadvantage and may have been the impetus for Ryan Meili to quit the race, although he cited “the often negative and divisive aspects of political life” for doing so in a Facebook statement to supporters.
The eventual NDP candidate for Saskatoon Sutherland will face off against the Sask Party’s Paul Merriman, executive director of the Saskatoon Food Bank and the son of former Sask Party MLA Ted Merriman.
The Sutherland constituency had been an NDP stronghold from 1986 until 2007, when the Sask Party surged across the province to form the government under Premier Brad Wall. It will be a key battleground in the 2011 provincial election, scheduled for Nov. 7.
image: Pete Yee