Sask. massage therapists who want regulation called on to buy party memberships

The Massage Therapist Association of Saskatchewan recently called on its members to vote for Sask. Party and NDP leadership candidates who best support the association.

Massage industry looks to candidates to push for industry standards

The winner of the Sask. Party leadership election in January will automatically replace Premier Brad Wall, who announced his upcoming retirement earlier this year. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

Massage therapists in Saskatchewan have spent more than 15 years campaigning for one thing: provincial regulation.

Now, they are employing a new strategy.

On Friday the Massage Therapist Association of Saskatchewan posted to Facebook calling on people to buy memberships to both the Saskatchewan Party and the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party and vote for the candidates who best support the association and its goals.

"I think we've called for action and now really is the time to step up and make a move," said association executive director Lori Green.

Currently, there is no legislation in Saskatchewan preventing people from calling themselves a registered massage therapist.

Green said the public doesn't know if their masseuse has credentials, complaints against them or is being investigated.
The Massage Therapist Association of Saskatchewan posted to Facebook recently calling on people to buy memberships to both the Sask. Party and the provincial NDP and vote for the candidates who best support the association and its goal. (Facebook/Massage Therapist Association of Saskatchewan)

She said four provinces in Canada have regulated the industry, but the Saskatchewan government wants everyone who calls themselves registered massage therapists to be on board with it.

"We have no intention to stop people from practising but we do think there needs to be a criteria — a standard," Green said.  

Since the association's post last week, Green said they've had positive feedback from people within the industry and those outside of it.

"As massage therapy moves more into the health care stream, we have had so many members of the public phone us with different problems and issues and often our our only response is: 'Sorry, there's nothing we can do,'" Green said. "So the public is very much behind us."

When it comes to Sask. Party candidates, Green said Gord Wyant has been very supportive of massage therapists and has said he'd want to have legislation governing them within one year. She said Scott Moe has also spoken of the industry positively.

On the NDP side, Ryan Meili is a physician so Green said he seems to be more aware of the need for a standard among massage therapists and is very supportive of their goal.

Will it work?

Massage therapists aren't the only ones aiming to "pick a premier."

That was the tagline of a recent campaign by the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, which is also asking its members to take out party memberships and get involved in the leadership elections for the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP.

President Patrick Maze said the movement was started in hopes it would spur candidates to make education a priority.

Advocis, The Financial Advisors Association of Canada, is recommending people buy Sask. Party memberships and support specific candidates who want to scrap the provincial sales tax on individual life and health insurance. They have graded each candidate online.

Ken Rasmussen, a professor at the University of Regina who studies leadership, said if anything, the campaigns have raised the profile of the groups and the issues they are toting.

He said he's not sure if it will be enough to sway either leadership election.

According to Rasmussen, the strategy is common in Canada when a new party leader will automatically become the new premier. He said it happened in Alberta when the Conservatives were governing the province and held a leadership election.

Rasmussen said Allison Redford's campaign in favour of the public sector may have won her the election. In contrast, he said Sask. Party leadership candidates have not distinguished themselves from the pack.

"Nobody's really been willing to take strong positions," Rasmussen said. "Everybody's not willing to criticize Premier [Brad] Wall to say that they're going to do anything different so they've really missed an opportunity to try to take advantage of that and really stake out a position to try to get those voters."

The Sask. Party will pick a new leader at their convention on Jan. 27. The Saskatchewan NDP will do the same March 3.

At the end of the day, Rasmussen said it will be hard to tell whether one group had a major effect on the outcome of a leadership vote, as reasons for joining parties are not tracked.