Saskatoon StarPhoenix

MLA Forbes backs Meili for leader

- By Jeremy Warren

This Forbes list has one name on it, and he definitely is not one of the world’s richest people.

NDP MLA David Forbes announced at a Wednesday rally his support for party leadership candidate Ryan Meili. Forbes is the first caucus member to endorse the Saskatoon doctor and community organizer.

“Ryan and I have spent a lot of time talking and I’m impressed with his work at the local level and his ability to connect social and health-care policies with economic issues,” Forbes said in an interview.

“On renewable energy, he’s more aggressive than other candidates.”

Angie Merasty, president of the Aboriginal NDPs, also made a personal endorsemen­t of Meili’s campaign.

Meili helped found the interdisci­plinary inner-city clinic SWITCH, the Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health.

Meili’s work on poverty and health issues impressed Forbes, as did Meili’s medical work in northern and rural communitie­s and South America.

“There’s good and bad and meaningful experience and (Meili’s) global perspectiv­e is so important these days,” said Forbes.

“The NDP has got to have strong links in communitie­s across the province.”

Forbes is a longtime MLA for Saskatoon Centre — Meili’s riding — and has held the labour and environmen­t portfolios.

“I’m very pleased he decided to endorse the campaign,” Meili said.

“I do believe this added legitimacy to my campaign. We started as an outsider campaign and now we have serious momentum.”

The StarPhoeni­x reported eight years ago that Meili, then 28, was arrested during a peaceful protest in Quebec City during the 2001 Summit of the Americas.

He and two other men from Saskatchew­an were found guilty of obstructin­g police by refusing to leave a sit-in outside the summit. They received absolute discharges and the conviction­s were erased after one year.

A reporter brought up the arrest at Wednesday’s rally, but Meili said this isn’t a time to get sidetracke­d by nonissues.

“I’m in the middle of a campaign and I’m talking about current issues,” he said.

“I’m not embarrasse­d about (the arrests) but it’s not pertinent. I was convicted for standing for my conviction­s.”

Also vying for the top spot are former MLA Dwain Lingenfelt­er, sitting MLA Deb Higgins and former NDP president Yens Pedersen.

The leadership convention takes place June 6.

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