As the federal election is in full swing, Saskatchewan politics are gearing up for their impending election in just over a year.
The November 2020 election holds anxiety for both parties as this will be the first time in 13 years that former premier Brad Wall is not leading the Saskatchewan Party to the polls. Saskatchewan New Democratic Party leader Ryan Meili says this is the moment his party has been anticipating.
When Wall stepped down in 2017, a party leadership race was called for February 2018. Saskatchewan Party members cast a ballot to determine which Members of the Legislative Assembly in the running would earn the title of premier, with current premier Scott Moe coming out victorious.
The criticism against Moe has been that he lacks charisma, especially compared to Meili. But what might benefit the NDP more is Meili’s work on the ground to meet with voters to hear their concerns.
“As we travel around the province, there’s a lot of people sharing their struggles. Lots of people are finding that with slowdown in the economy, with decades of de-investment in public services like healthcare and education, they’re hurting a lot more,” Meili said. “There’s a real sense that the Sask Party let them down.”
Currently, two ridings are without elected officials after two Saskatchewan Party MLAs stepped down to run in the upcoming federal election. Saskatoon Eastview MLA Corey Tochor resigned from provincial government to run a federal campaign for the Conservatives, leaving his constituents without representation, some of which are university students.
On Sept. 11, Meili called on Moe in a tweet to “do the right thing” and call a byelection, yet Moe said he will not go ahead a year before the general election due to it bearing a cost of over $700,000.
The same week, Meili spent time at the University of Saskatchewan campus meeting with students. He says that the youth are going to be key to the next election.
Priorities for the NDP include reinvesting in postsecondary institutions and students. Meili points out that with increased enrolment and provincial funding staying at the same amounts as before, funding for advanced education has been reduced by four per cent compared to in 2016.
The NDP is positioning themselves as a provincial government that would increase funding to public services. Although it might not be a popular decision with taxpayers, he says it is an investment that will see benefits in the long run.
“The dollars we put into this university come back to us multiple folds in increased economic activity but also decreased cost in healthcare, justice and social services… Those are upfront dollars but they save you a lot down the road,” Meili said.
Upfront barriers to advanced education can limit students from lower socio-economic households but should be approached from an “equity lens,” he says. Tuition forecasting is another method he sees to help alleviate students’ financial stress.
“Really, what we need is a government who is willing to look beyond the next election to the next generation,” Meili said.
Nykole King/ Editor-in-Chief
Photo: Saskatchewan NDP/ Supplied