Ryan Meili is the new leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party.
He won with 55 per cent of the vote over rival Regina Rosemont MLA Trent Wotherspoon. Meili has served as the MLA for Saskatoon Meewasin since his victory in a January 2017 byelection.
“It is blowing pretty hard today. I think those might be the winds of change,” he said in his victory speech to applause from the crowd in Regina at the party's leadership convention Saturday.
Third time proved to be a charm for Meili, as he lost both his previous attempts at leadership in 2009 and 2013. At the 2013 leadership convention, Meili led after the first ballot and Wotherspoon was third. Cam Broten edged Meili by just 44 votes to win. This race was his first run at leadership as an elected MLA.
Voter turnout Saturday was 81 per cent, with 10,837 of the 13,414 eligible voters casting a ballot. Meili took 5,973 to Wotherspoon’s 4,860.
Throughout the race, both candidates shared similar ideas during debates, including ushering in a $15 minimum wage, protecting the Crowns from privatization and restoring the STC. Meili has offered commitments to introduce a pharmacare program across the province, hone in on a poverty-reduction strategy and bolster the provinces renewable energy generation.
During the leadership campaign, Meili pledged only to accept donations from individuals and reject funds from unions and corporations. Speaking with media after the win, he said this will not be the case in 2020, but vowed to outlaw them.
“As long as the Sask. Party has those, we need to get whatever source of funds we can get to fight a fair fight,” he said. “But as soon as — just like Notley, just like Horgan — the first bill we would put in place is eliminating corporate and union donations.”
The province also needs to develop a “made in Saskatchewan” solution to address carbon emissions, Meili said, adding the province is leaving money on the table by not signing on with the federal government's carbon pricing plan. This is in stark contracts to the current government, who have vowed to fight tooth and nail against the proposal.
Meili has also said he will take a new approach to politics, believing the party has played it too safe over the years. He argues the NDP is in need of a renewal and said it is necessary for the party to work harder to distinguish itself from those across the aisle. This, however, has led some to brand him as too left wing to appeal to the much needed rural voter in the next provincial election. Meili said this is an oversimplification of it all.
“That left-right stuff is pretty superficial,” he said. “The big difference between the ideas I am bringing forward and what the Sask. Party has been doing; it is the difference between short-term thinking, continuing to have crisis and trying to mop them up with quick responses or selling things off or cutting deeply in health and education versus long-term thinking.”
He said talks will soon begin within the NDP caucus on how the team can bring forward many of the ideas discussed during the campaign to “get moving quickly about ideas that will excite people.”
“We also need to not wait until a few months before the next election to articulate our vision in a clear way…. We have to be clear on how we achieve the things we want to do,” he said. “If we are putting forth a credible alternative, then people are going to be really interested in that.”
Meili will face recently instilled Premier Scott Moe in the 2020 provincial election, in which he is clear in his desired outcome: “We are in it to win.”
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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