Sask. NDP leader feels voters will have a clear choice in provincial election
Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili feels voters will face a clear choice when they cast their vote in the 2020 provincial election.
He spoke to local media about his party’s platform and priorities during a campaign stop in Swift Current, Oct. 3.
“It's a choice between Scott Moe's plan of austerity, which we know means more cuts, more privatization, more backroom deals for the old boys club, and our plan to put people first by investing in the things that matter most, in health care, in education, and in keeping jobs here in Saskatchewan,” he said.
He referred to the staffing level at The Meadows long-term care facility in Swift Current as an example of where the NDP’s investment in health care will make a difference.
“We know that the staff at The Meadows is overworked, because that facility, like so many facilities in Saskatchewan, is understaffed,” he said. “The staff are doing everything they can to serve the needs of residents. They're just overwhelmed and the frustration and the challenges that it presents for residents to get the care they need are extreme. That's something we will change. We'll make investments in long-term care with minimum care standards, but we're also going to bring in the best home care in the entire country.”
The NDP’s election platform includes a commitment of $50 million to hire 700 additional home care staff, including approximately 200 certified care aides, 100 licensed practical nurses, 70 registered nurses, and 60 occupational therapists.
Meili used the example of the construction of the Chinook Power Station to contrast the NDP’s Saskatchewan First procurement policy with the approach of the Saskatchewan Party.
“You got the Chinook power station, you had pipe fitters sitting unemployed here in Swift Current and area while there were workers driving by with license plates from Alberta and Texas and Missouri on the job site there,” he said. “Our approach is that when we build our power plants or our schools, our hospitals, we make sure that's build with our workers and our companies. It's our tax dollars, it's our people that we should be putting first.”
He therefore felt the key choice for the electorate will be to decide between an NDP plan with an emphasis on investment and a Saskatchewan Party plan that he believes will result in austerity and privatization.
“We're going to invest in the people of Saskatchewan, we're going to make the decisions that improve our economy,” he said. “We have a plan to fix healthcare, to invest in our schools and to create jobs right here in Saskatchewan versus their plan of austerity with cuts and privatization that will choke the economy and hurt the people of Saskatchewan.”
Meili was accompanied by NDP candidates in the region, including two with a teaching background. Stefan Rumpel is the party’s candidate in Swift Current and Roger Morgan is the NDP candidate in the Wood River constituency. Meili noted the party’s candidate list includes 14 teachers.
“The way that this Sask. Party has cut education, cut our per student funding made it far more difficult for kids to get the support they need to succeed,” he said. “We need to turn that around with the generational investment in our schools.”
The NDP’s education plan includes a commitment of $125 million to reduce classroom sizes and to hire more teachers, education assistants, and support staff. The party has made an additional commitment of $3 million towards a rural education strategy, which will be developed by a rural education task force with involvement from teachers, parents, and local leaders to understand the challenges in each school division.
“We know the challenges in Chinook are not the same as in Prairie Spirit,” he said. “We need to understand the realities of each community. Some places it's overcrowded classrooms with too many kids in one grade, other places its three grade splits or it's busing issues. We're going to put those dollars into a rural education focus.”
This provincial election takes place during uncertain times due to a global pandemic, but Meili felt Saskatchewan voters will be willing to vote for a change of government.
“If you've got a bad government during a pandemic, you should get a good one, and that's what we have right now,” he said. “We got a government that was not ready, didn't do the planning for the pandemic, completely failed on the return to school, and they've told us what they're about to do. They've said the word austerity, we know what that means – cuts and privatization. That is a bad idea at any time, but right now it's an absolutely dangerous idea. It's the worst route we can go down.”
He emphasized the province needs a government willing to support the recovery of the economy through targeted government spending.
“Now is the time to invest in people,” he said. “That's how we get our economy moving, that's how we support people through this difficult time, and that's how we increase our economic growth and allow that revenue to come in so that we can balance the budget. … If we invest in people, get our economy moving again, support people through this time, we'll balance our budget much more quickly and we'll do so with a lot less pain, but that's not the route the Sask. Party will take us down.”
He felt voters are looking for change in this pandemic election and that they are willing to consider changing their vote.
“Now we've got a lot of people who are telling us on the doorstep I have voted for the Sask. Party the last few years, maybe I liked Brad Wall, but Scott Moe is no Brad Wall,” Meili said. “There's a lot of frustration and disappointment. A government that's had the benefit of the doubt from people for a couple of terms is now getting a pretty hard look as people are feeling the pinch. We were in a recession before COVID-19. People have been stretched and stretched and struggling, and what they hear from the government is it's fine, don't worry about, we've got this.”
Stefan Rumpel, the NDP candidate in Swift Current, said his campaign has been going well with many requests for lawn signs and a good reception at doors.
“I'm talking to people, and they're like you know what, I'm tired of the way things are going, tired of the status quo, I want change, you can put a sign up on my lawn, we need to do better,” he said. “It's been really energizing and we have a great team.”
He has been talking to Swift Current residents about senior’s care, the need for long-term care improvements and the importance of minimum standards, his party’s education plan, and the Saskatchewan First procurement plan.
“And it's really interesting, because usually they go ‘Oh yeah, that's everything I care about,’ and that's what is so exciting about this campaign,” he said. “So when I'm talking to people, we understand that times were tough before the pandemic and to put more strain on health care and to put more strain on education, to promise austerity down the line, that's dangerous. That's not what we need. We need to take care of people right now and we need to invest in people, and that's what we're going to do.”
Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili speaks to local media during his campaign stop in Swift Current, Oct. 3. NDP candidates from the region are standing behind him. From left, are Roger Morgan (Wood River), Kelly Genert (Cypress Hills), and Stefan Rumpel (Swift Current).
Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili (at left) walks with local candidate Stefan Rumpel in downtown Swift Current, Oct. 3.