NDP launch local campaign with mini-rally in Prince Albert

Ryan Meili arrives for a local campaign kickoff event in Prince Albert on Sept. 22, 2020 along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Local NDP candidates officially kicked off their 2020 election campaigns with a socially-distant mini-rally and visit from party leader Ryan Meili Tuesday.

Meili spoke to the candidates and supporters at a socially-distanced event along the riverbank Thursday evening. He used the event to tout the local candidates and contrast his vision for the province’s future with that of Premier Scott Moe.

“I love this city. It’s great to be here in P.A. with my colleagues,” Meili said with the North Saskatchewan River in the background.

He kicked off his remarks promising support for public health care and education, for teachers in classrooms, parents looking for child care and grandparents looking for support and residents looking for work.

He said he’s running for all of those people — and running to win.

He referenced his days as a family doctor in Saskatoon.

“One of the things I liked most about working in Saskatchewan, the birthplace of medicare, is that when people came to see me, I got to ask them how they were feeling, not how they were paying.”

He contrasted that with the experience of someone with a chronic injury in Regina who has been waiting to see a specialist and waiting for an MRI. She’s been told that she can pay and use the province’s one-for-one program, where people can jump the queue and buy an MRI for themselves and private operators will then provide a free scan to someone on the public waitlist. The free scan must be done by the private operator within 14 days oof completing the privately paid scan.

She can’t afford to pay, Meili said, and even if she could, thinks it’s “un-Canadian.”

The Sask. Party says the program has made a big difference, and that without it, already rising wait times would balloon even more.

Meili doesn’t see it that way.

“That’s what health care has come down to in Saskatchewan,” he said.

“The wealthy and those that can pay can get care right away while those who can’t have to wait.”

He then turned to the message delivered so far by the Saskatchewan Party, including attack ads saying the province can’t afford the promises made by the NDP.

“What is Scott Moe really telling us when he says that?” Meili asked.

“He’s telling us we’re not worth it. He’s saying we can’t afford accessible child care, that we can’t afford to invest in our classrooms, that we can’t afford good health care, that we don’t deserve to take care of our seniors, that it’s not worth it to keep jobs here and pay workers a decent wage. He’s telling us we’re not worth it. He’s wrong. We are worth it and we can and we must invest in Saskatchewan people right now.”

He turned the Sask. Party’s claims back on them.

“What we can’t afford — we absolutely can’t afford four more years of Scott Moe and the Sask. Party. Four more years of cuts and privatization. Four more years of our public dollars finding their ways into the pockets of the old buoys club while ordinary families struggle to make ends meet.”

Meili said his party’s plan will ensure strong public services, a minimum wage better than the lowest in the country and that big infrastructure projects built in the province are built by workers in the province.

He pointed to the Diefenbaker Bridge, and indicated his government will fund a second crossing in Prince Albert.

“When we build that bridge we build it with our dollars, and our workers and our companies, so that it’s our folks that are back on the job and that they’re getting paid a decent wage, not the lowest minimum wage in the entire country,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after his speech, Meili reiterated comments he made during previous visits to the city — that while the party is looking to win seats across Saskatchewan, it’s got its eye on Prince Albert the region.

“This is an area of focus. We’ve seen this area abandoned by the Sask. Party in so many ways, neglected by the Sask. Party,” he said.

“There is an opportunity for people to take that experience and push back and elect New Democrats who will work for them instead of Sask. Party candidates who are working for … their friends and donors and not the ordinary people of this province. We think Prince Albert is ready for a change. They’ve not been well represented by Joe Hargrave and there’s a real chance for us to have Prince Albert as a key part of a government that will put people first.”

Meili praised the diversity of the four candidates in key ridings his party is targeting — Lon Borgerson in Batoche (south of Prince Albert); Métis man Troy Parenteau in Hargrave’s riding of Prince Albert Carlton, Nicole Rancourt, the incumbent in Prince Albert Northcote and First Nations man Lyle Whitefish in Saskatchewan Rivers (north of the city).

It’s a point of pride for Meili across his party that candidates come from diverse backgrounds.

Nicole Rancourt kicks off her local campaign along the riverbank in Prince Albert on Sept. 22, 2020. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

And while the Sask. Party boasted that it became the first to nominate an entire slate of 61 candidates this weekend, Meili said his party’s not far off and only had a few more jurisdictions to go.

“We’ve got far more women, more Indigenous people than previous campaigns. We’ve got incredible diversity,” he said.

“You really see in our party and in our candidates more reflection of what Saskatchewan really looks like.”

Meili isn’t’ the only one excited about the party’s prospects in Prince Albert.

Rancourt was pleased to have her party leader in town to help kick off the local election campaign, which will be fought on the doorsteps of local ridings.

“We know that Ryan has always shown his support in Prince Albert,” she said.

“He’s come out here multiple times, especially since becoming the leader, and has been meeting with community leaders and groups and really wants to understand the issues and needs in Prince Albert,” she said.

“It has been wonderful and really encouraging for us to get our there and make sure we do the work that we need to so we can form government.”

Rancourt said she has been honoured to serve Northcote for the past four years and would be honoured to serve for another term.

She’s not taking it for granted.

“We always have to do the work,” she said.

“You have to go out and do the work and work as if you’re five points behind.”