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Thursday, 04 May 2017 04:22

New MLA speaks to NDP supporters in Swift Current

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The newest member of the Saskatchewan NDP caucus in the provincial legislature was the guest speaker at the Swift Current NDP constituency spring banquet, April 29.

Dr. Ryan Meili was elected as the MLA for Saskatoon Meewasin in a by-election March 2. A few days later the party’s interim leader Trent Wotherspoon named Meili the opposition critic for advanced education, poverty, housing, SaskEnergy and Francophone affairs.
Meili used his time in Swift Current to also attend an event in the city to celebrate the recent decision by the provincial government to restore library funding to 2016 levels. He feels the government’s initial decision to dramatically cut provincial funding to libraries was a reflection of a broader issue.
“The broader issue is an approach from this government of austerity, of really wanting to cut public services and cut our common ownership of things like our crown corporations in favour of a very small percentage of the population who benefits,” he said during an interview with the Prairie Post. “That’s the backwards way. It doesn’t work well for the economy and it certainly doesn’t work well for people.”
He views the public campaign against the funding cuts to libraries and the government’s decision not to proceed with those measures as an important symbolic victory.
“Now it is time for these same folks who rallied for this issue to continue,” he said. “This obviously wasn’t the only cut. The closure of STC, cuts to health care, cuts to education, cuts to funeral services for people in poverty. These are all things that are unnecessary. They won’t help the economy; they won’t help us recover. So I’m hopeful that this group that was so successful around the libraries will be successful in leading other efforts.”
His speech at the Swift Current NDP constituency spring banquet focused on current political events in the province and the opportunities for change that might arise from it.
“This political moment really offers us an opportunity to have that conversation more openly and more broadly where things have been quite limited so far in terms of our options in the last few years,” he said. “People have felt we’re stuck and I think now people really see there is a possibility of change.”
He acknowledged the current unhappiness of many Saskatchewan residents with government decisions, especially those related to the 2017-18 provincial budget, will not necessarily result in more support for the NDP in Saskatchewan.
“If there was an election today I think it would be a really tough battle,” he said. “I’m not sure who would come out as the government if we had one today. Certainly there is a lot of damage that this Saskatchewan Party government has been doing to itself by doing damage to the people of the province, but we have three years as the NDP to select a new leader and put forward a platform that stems from discussions with the people of this province that really articulates a credible alternative.”
He added the NDP will have to do more than point out what is wrong with the direction of the current government.
“I think it will be very easy for us to be able to tell the story of what Brad Wall and his government have done wrong, but what will be really important for us and where the big work lies is what will we do right,” Meili said. “What does our alternative look like? I think we need to be able to present the kind of platform that has involved people in its development and that they can see themselves in that vision that there really can be a dream for Saskatchewan that people can get excited about.”
Registration for the Saskatchewan NDP’s leadership race officially opened on May 1 and the party’s new leader will be elected at a convention in Regina on May 6, 2018.
Meili participated in the two previous leadership contests in the party in 2009 and 2013, and he finished second both times. He has not yet decided if he will be a candidate in the upcoming leadership race.
“I’m certainly giving it some serious thought,” he said. “It’s not something I have ruled out at all, but right now I’m focusing on this session, learning the ropes. I’m brand new in my seat and trying to figure out how that works and then we look forward to figuring out how to approach the leadership contest in the next little while.”

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Matthew Liebenberg