New NDP leader Beck says party needs to rebuild at the constituency level to regain seats in the north

Carla Beck/Herald File Photo

New NDP leader Carla Beck said winning back seats in Prince Albert and the north will be key to the party’s fortunes going forward, and she’s confident they have the ability to do it.

Beck won the NDP leadership vote on Sunday, defeating Saskatoon lawyer Kaitlyn Harvey by a 3,244 to 1,492 margin. On Monday, Beck announced plans to travel the province as part of their Building to Win Tour.

The Regina Lakeview MLA said the NDP needs to rebuild at the constituency level, and that means recruiting, even when there’s no election.

“Doing outreach—not just campaigning or being out there during the writ period, but all four years leading up to an election—that’s something that we’ve focused on here, and I think you’ll see that in the next three weeks,” Beck said during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “We plan to be in all corners of the province, and that will continue right up until 2024.”

The NDP suffered an unexpected defeat in Athabasca during the province’s most recent byelection. The party had held that seat since 1999. In 2020, the NDP lost Prince Albert Northcote, a seat they gained during the 2016 election.

Despite the setbacks, Beck is confident the party can reassert itself in the north. She said many residents are growing sick of a Saskatchewan Party government they feel is out of touch with the average person. However, she also said the NDP needs to connect with those people before the next election, which is why the cross-province tour is so important.

“There are a lot of concerns, certainly, for healthcare, education, (and) seniors care, right across the province,” she said. “We wanted to go out and meet with people and hear their stories, hear the things that they’re concerned about, and work with them to find solutions, to have them see themselves in our party again.”

Beck said she’s already had meetings with groups in Prince Albert. The meetings cover several topics, but crime is one issue that keeps popping up.

In late May, Prince Albert Police Chief Jon Bergen told reporters violent crime has been growing since 2019. There were six people murdered in Prince Albert that year. In 2022, Prince Albert saw its sixth homicide by the end of May.

In early June, the province rolled out more resources from the Crime Reduction Team to help the City deal with the rise in violent crime. However, Beck said the province isn’t giving Prince Albert the support it needs.

“What we need to do is be open to looking at all the ways that we can address this very real problem,” Beck said. “(It) certainly is a problem that stems from addictions, mental health, (and) homelessness, in many instances, while also impacting businesses and safety for the people of Prince Albert. This is something that requires attention.”

Outgoing NDP leader Ryan Meili declined to endorse a leadership candidate during the race. The former NDP leader will leave politics for good on July 1 when he officially resigns his seat.

When he announced his resignation, Meili said it wasn’t ideal for a leader to be always on the attack, something the NDP did frequently after the province was hit by COVID-19. When asked about the direction the NDP needed to take in the future, Beck said their role as provincial opposition is very important, but they planned to focus on outreach to build “a viable and exciting alternative to the Sask. Party government.”