After Cam Broten won the NDP's leadership race on the second ballot, party supporters quickly anointed the Saskatoon MLA as "Saskatchewan's next premier."
But it's far from a guarantee that he will fulfill the prophecy from the partisans.
Three-and-a-half years ago, the NDP bestowed the same label on Dwain Lingenfelter. It never materialized. Saskatchewan voters resoundingly rejected Lingenfelter, and left the NDP with nine seats in the Legislature. Lingenfelter resigned the night of the election, saving the NDP the trouble of firing him.
It shouldn't be difficult for Broten to do better than Lingenfelter, but when you're the leader of the provincial NDP, you're saddled with a “form government or bust” mentality.
The NDP will have to be patient. If Brad Wall's still the premier when the next provincial election happens in 2015 or 2016, then the NDP's goal should be improvement – win more seats, collect more votes and regain their presence in Moose Jaw and/or Prince Albert.
The NDP was a political dynasty that governed Saskatchewan for 47 out of 63 years from 1944 to 2007. It will be hard for them to wait for the next golden opportunity to seize power – an opportunity that could be nearly a decade away.
But the other thing the NDP must do – and this will be an even greater challenge – is to shift their overall philosophy.
The NDP was Saskatchewan's “natural governing party.” But the Saskatchewan of 2013 is dramatically different than even the Saskatchewan of 10 years ago, when the NDP scored their last election victory. And as the province continues to thrive, the difference between the new and old Saskatchewan continues to grow.
The NDP needs to adapt, and make a shift to the centre-left. It needs to put a greater emphasis on wooing small business owners, rural voters and new Canadians, and create some distance from the unions, whose leverage is diminishing.
A shift to a more centrist position would allow the NDP to appeal to supporters of the dying Saskatchewan Liberal Party. Right now, the Sask. Party has captured most of the former Liberal backers, but some Liberals would certainly be willing to shift to the NDP, if the NDP offered them a reason.
The NDP also needs to stop banking on a series of Sask. Party blunders that undermine public confidence. The Sask. Party isn't the Progressive Conservative Party of the 1980s. And Premier Wall is the most formidable political foe the NDP has ever faced.
It wouldn't be impossible for the NDP to regain their perch as Saskatchewan's government if they continue to operate in their traditional form, but it's getting more and more difficult in modern Saskatchewan.