Meili launches leadership bid
Candidate comes home, stresses an alternative direction for NDP
For Ryan Meili, Moose Jaw is still home.
The current MLA for Saskatoon Meewasin grew up on a farm near Courval before attending Saint Agnes School and high school at Vanier Collegiate. Meili’s parents and brother still live in the city, but personal connections were not the only factor that pushed the candidate to officially launch his campaign to be the next leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party in Moose Jaw.
“I want to make it clear that the Saskatchewan NDP and my campaign are about more than just the big cities,” Meili said, after speaking to a crowd of between 40 and 50 supporters at the Moose Jaw Public Library theatre Friday afternoon.
The leadership hopeful said it was important for the party to reach out to people in smaller centers, not just because the party can’t win without support from outside the cities, but that it is important for the NDP to show they care about people across the province.
When asked how the party went from holding both Moose Jaw seats in the legislature until 2007 to having none currently, Meili said this has been a part of a much larger trend for the NDP.
“We lost seats everywhere, and there was an overall loss of confidence in the NDP, and people were trusting the Sask Party,” Meili explained.
These past defeats, he feels, can be overcome in part due to recent decisions made by the current government.
“Moose Jaw in particular lost the funding to Wakamow, lost the funding to the city, lots of things that have been a challenge for Moose Jaw,” he said.
Meili said while the city is currently represented by two Sask Party MLAs, he doesn’t believe that people feel they are being well served by those MLAs or the government overall.
“I think there’s a real chance that this next election, we’ll see both Wakamow and North go NDP,” he said.
Meili added that in past elections, the city, especially Moose Jaw North, has served as somewhat of a bellwether for who will form government.
As part of his push for leadership, Meili hopes to win people over by focusing on a variety of issues, ranging from improved health care and education to what he calls “real reconciliation” with the province’s Indigenous population. Health is an especially prominent component of the Saskatoon physicians’ leadership campaign, with a specific focus on putting resources in areas he refers to as being “upstream.” A key component of this strategy is a focus on early learning and education.
“Those first thousand days make the biggest difference in a kid’s life, and when we have kids that are healthy and well educated, that’s the real infrastructure that makes the biggest difference,” he said.
He said that better early childhood education could also help the province transition from having a more resource-based economy to a more knowledge-based one.
Along with his different approach to health, Meili wants his campaign to focus on “deepening democracy.” What this may look like is not yet clear, as Meili does not want to repeat what happened when reform was recently examined at the federal level.
Meili believes the federal government went about gathering feedback in the wrong way, via a government appointed panel.
“I think it (democratic reform) has to be democratic, I don’t want to be prescribing, I want to go out and have a citizens assembly, where we’re actually listening to people,” he said.
This devotion to a more “grass roots” style of democracy has won Meili some support at the local level, specifically Moose Jaw city councillor Don Mitchell. Mitchell, who spoke in support of Meili at the event, said he believes the Saskatoon MLA is well suited to engaging people and bringing them into the democratic process.
Meili said the discussion has to include talk about voter registration as well as making voting more accessible overall.
With Meili’s name on the ballot, the provincial NDP now has two contesting to be the next leader. Party members will vote to pick a new leader March 3 2018.