Saskatchewan

'Momentous' leadership win was highlight of Ryan Meili's year

Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili’s biggest moment of 2018 was one that eluded him twice.

NDP leader sits down with CBC for a look back at 2018

Ryan Meili said his win was a "turning point" for the NDP. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili's biggest moment of 2018 was one that eluded him twice.

On a cold and windy Saturday in March, Meili beat out his caucus colleague Regina Rosemont MLA Trent Wotherspoon for leadership of the party with 55 per cent of the vote.

He had unsuccessfully run for leader in 2009 and in 2013.

"Being selected as leader of the party was a pretty momentous occasion for me, for us as a family," Meili said to CBC in his year-end sit down interview.

"To be able to focus on the next couple of years, get ready for 2020, and really come together as a team. That was a big turning point for us."

Meili had party support, but caucus support was a different story. Wotherspoon received endorsements from five other caucus members. Cathy Sproule publicly backed Meili's run, while the three remaining MLAs did not take a side.

"It's a bit of a challenge and leadership races can be really dividing. That would have been my biggest fear this year - we would be pulling in different directions. The opposite has happened," Meili said.

Meili said Wotherspoon deserves the credit for getting his supporters in and out of caucus on board.

"A lot of credit goes to Trent, he's been an absolute star," Meili said.

Trent Wotherspoon shakes hands with Ryan Meili after Meili's leadership win. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

NDP focuses on addictions issues

The NDP spent the fall sitting focused on a few issues: education, the addition of the PST to construction labour and, most notably, the overwhelming issue of opioid and crystal meth addiction.

Meili praised people who came forward willing to share their stories of how addictions have affected their lives.

"When you've got that kind of an outcry among people who are directly affected we felt it was really important to be part of sharing that voice," he said.

"There's a lot of serious stuff going on in terms of what's happening with drugs in the province, which are I would say, a symptom of larger problems. The degree of inequality, the growth in poverty and how that shows up in addictions."

Dr. Wendy Gore-Hickman, a retired anaesthesiologist and addictions advocate, was one of the many people who came forward to share addictions concerns at the legislature this fall. (CBC News)

Meili said dealing with the root causes of illness and mental illness "that's the whole reason I'm here."

On Moe vs. Trudeau

Premier Scott Moe has voiced opposition to the federal government's carbon tax and its handling of pipeline projects. The two topics are not broached as often by the NDP leader.

Meili said Moe has to fight the federal government on issues that affect Saskatchewan but he said the premier needs to offer solutions more often.

"It's not enough to talk. We need to take action and put forth the ideas of things that could be done here."

Meili pointed to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's decision to buy rail cars to help move oil in order to ease the effect of the oil price differential.

What to expect in 2019

Meili said with a provincial elections less than two years away, people can expect more details on the NDP's 2020 platform.

He announced his Renew Saskatchewan plan at a recent party convention. Renew Saskatchewan would offer loans spaced out to pay for some or all of the cost of the installing renewable infrastructure for people to make their homes more efficient.

Customers would pay the loans back through their power or energy bills, based on the value of the power generated or the fossil fuel energy saved by the installation.

Another NDP pledge is to reach a $15 an hour minimum wage in Saskatchewan.

Meili said more of those ideas are on the way in 2019.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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