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.

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