Sask. NDP drive-in rally brings people together despite pandemic

By in News

Many cars attended the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party drive-in rally, honking and flashing their lights to replace the usual applause, which is one of the many changes that COVID-19 has brought to this year’s provincial elections.

The rally happened at the West Parking lot of Prairieland Park Oct. 17. A stage was set up at the front, where Saskatchewan artists performed songs and dances. The event was emceed by Matt Love, a Saskatoon-Eastview candidate, and Ashlee Hicks, a Saskatoon-Riversdale candidate. The hour-long event finished off with an address from leader Ryan Meili, before welcoming back the artists for a few more songs.

During his time on stage, Meili commented on how different this year has been for the elections. 

“It’s a different kind of rally,” Meili said. “You don’t know what this is gonna be like, but what a lot of energy! What a lot of excitement.”

Additional changes to this year’s elections include no campaign rallies where physical distancing is impossible, and no close-contact discussions with people through door-to-door knocking. These common election strategies were replaced by small gatherings and distanced visits. Due to these restrictions, the parties took to social media to engage with voters.

As for the NDP rally, its rules and regulations were set out in accordance with Saskatchewan’s public health guidelines. All attendees stayed in their cars and were required to wear masks and stay two meters away from other people if they left their vehicles. Just like a drive-in theater, people had to tune in to a radio station to hear those who were on stage.

It is typical to see all the candidates on stage in a rally, but due to the restrictions Meili just announced them instead. 

“We would have all of our candidates up here, showing their faces, but we’re all being safe and being responsible and I want to thank you for coming and doing this in a new way,” Meili said.

Meili explained the different ways of door-knocking this year as candidates practiced social distancing. 

“Our candidates have been knocking doors in 61 constituencies,” Meili said. “We’ve been travelling — not shaking hands, not hugging, not getting to kiss any babies — but having so many conversations, and we have heard from you.”

Meili then presented the party’s plan, emphasizing their campaign slogan: “Putting People First.” He stated their commitment to education, healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, investing in renewable energy sectors and creating more job opportunities for Saskatchewan people.

To conclude, Meili highlighted the party’s motto and asked for people’s help in realizing their promises.

“With your help, we can talk to every person in this province and let them know they can vote for a government that will put people first,” Meili said. 

With the cacophony of honking car horns, Meili smiled at his automotive audience before leaving the stage. Shortly after, Ellen Froese and the Hot Toddies were welcomed back to play a few more songs as cars left the parking lot.

The experience of a drive-in rally and this election was new to many, but Meili says that it has been an exciting one nonetheless.

“This election has been an unusual election,” Meili said. “[It’s] unlike any one we’ve done before.”

J.C. Balicanta Narag | Editor-in-Chief

Photo: J.C. Balicanta Narag | Editor-in-Chief