John Nilson, veteran MLA, chosen interim Sask. NDP leader

The provincial council of the Saskatchewan NDP picks John Nilson to serve as acting leader of the party until a leadership convention.
Linda and John Nilson at a Saskatchewan Roughriders football game. (Facebook)
The provincial council of the Saskatchewan NDP elected John Nilson on Saturday to serve as acting leader of the party until a leadership convention is held sometime in the future.

Nilson, who won his Regina seat in the provincial election Nov. 7, replaces Dwain Lingenfelter who resigned on election night.

The election saw the NDP reduced to a nine-member opposition caucus in the provincial legislature, up against the governing Saskatchewan Party caucus of 49 MLAs.

"I am honoured to be selected to serve the NDP as acting leader," Nilson said. "Our first task is to prepare for the upcoming fall session."

Nilson was the unanimous choice of the party's provincial council, which is made up of representatives from 58 constituency associations, executive officials and elected MLAs.

Nilson told CBC News his goal, as interim leader, is to develop the caucus in the legislature, while preparing the party for a new leader to take over sometime in 2012.

"It's going to be lots of work," Nilson said. "But I have lots of willing hands to help with that work. And there's a positive sense of what kinds of things we can do even as a small caucus, so I'm actually looking forward to a very exciting time."

Nilson was first elected to the legislature in the general election of June, 1995. He has represented the Regina Lakeview constituency since then, winning re-election in 1999, 2003, 2007 and in November.

In the legislature, Nilson said the opposition will focus on economic issues.

"We'll be looking at the affordability issue, making sure that many people who are not participating in the boom economy are getting the help that they need," he said.

Nilson was a provincial cabinet minister in the NDP governments of Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert.

Before entering politics, Nilson practised law with the firm MacPherson, Leslie and Tyerman.

The party said the timing and rules for a leadership convention would be set at a meeting of the provincial council expected in February or March.

Lingenfelter was leader of the party for just under 2½ years. He won the position in June, 2007.

Nilson was born in Saskatoon. He lives in Regina in a house just a few steps from the provincial legislature. He is married to Linda and they have two daughters.