One of the candidates in the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) leadership race was in Estevan on Monday night to share his thoughts on the future of Saskatchewan.
Ryan Meili discussed his ideas, what he has heard as he travels around Saskatchewan and some of the positive steps the party can take.
The campaign has been going well, he said. Meili has visited numerous communities in the province.
“The support is really strong,” said Meili. “We’ve been selling a lot of new memberships, and we’ve had a lot of people donating their time and their money to the campaign, and it’s really encouraging just what the response has been so far.”
While there are differences in what he hears in communities, there are some common threads. People are frustrated with the deep cuts seen in the provincial budget earlier this year, but he said people aren’t willing to turn to the NDP.
“What we need to do in the NDP, and this is what people tell me over and over again, is not knock the Sask. Party and not criticize them as our major focus, but talk about what it is we could do better,” said Meili.
Meili noted a lot of people have concerns about corporate and union donations. They see donations coming in from those groups, and they believe those donations influence political process and decisions that are made.
“In our campaign, we’ve made the bold move of not only promising to get rid of corporate and union donations, but also not accepting them during this race,” said Meili. “We’re sort of putting our money where our mouth is.”
Pharmacare is also drawing a lot of attention, he said. Canada is one of the few countries with universal healthcare that doesn’t offer universal drug coverage. As a result, he said Canadians spend too much money on generic and brand name drugs.
“So I’m pushing for a national pharmacare program, but until we get there, I think Saskatchewan might have to take the lead and implement our own province-wide program,” said Meili.
On the local front, Meili said he would keep the current carbon capture and storage facility at SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station operating, but doesn’t believe the economics at this time justify expansion. He would look to invest in renewable energy and other ways to generate power while decreasing carbon emissions.
“It’s an area with lots of sunlight and lots of wind,” said Meili. “I think as we invest in renewable energy, we really should focus on making sure that a lot of that investment happens in the energy heartland of Saskatchewan.”
If the economics for CCS do improve, then Meili said he would be open to a conversation on additional investment.
The oil and gas sector, meanwhile, is very important to the southeast region, but it’s susceptible to boom and bust cycles. Meili said it’s important to support people in the industry, while ensuring there is enough investment of profits to transition to other energy sources and other employment opportunities, creating more diversity in the economy.
Meili is running for the NDP’s leadership for the third time; he finished second in 2010 and 2015. He said those experiences helped him get his name and ideas out.
“I’ve had the chance to be talking with people and in the public eye on a number of issues,” said Meili.
As he travels around the province, Meili finds that people understand what he wants to do in politics. He also believes that some of his other experiences, particularly in the healthcare sector, have boosted his profile.
He has also learned a lot in the last two campaigns.
Only a couple of people attended the event in Estevan, so Meili scrapped a planned speech on his platform, which has a large emphasis on healthcare, in favour of a question and answer session with those present.
The NDP leadership campaign will be held on March 3, 2018. Trent Wotherspoon is the other declared candidate.
The party has been without a permanent leader since Cam Broten stepped down following the 2016 provincial election.