Ryan Meili during the 2020 provincial election, Photo by Brian Zinchuk, at the time Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.

SASKATOON – Ryan Meili announced on Feb. 18 he is stepping down as leader of the New Democratic Party. The 46-year-old Saskatoon Meewasin MLA was initially elected in a byelection in March, 2017. He had sought the leadership in 2009 and 2012, ultimately gaining success in his third attempt in 2017.

In announcing his resignation in Saskatoon, Meili spoke of “taking a walk in the snow,” a clear reference to former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who famously decided to resign after taking his own walk in the snow, in February 1984.

He made the announcement just days after a byelection loss to the Saskatchewan Party in the Athabasca riding in the extreme northwest corner of the province. That riding had been an NDP stronghold under Buckley Belanger for over two decades.

“I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done as a team over the years but it would be foolish to not mention what we’ve been through,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has had so much impact on all of our lives. And I think about what we’ve seen from that first wave, when the Sask Party had instead planned to have a snap election and pretended the pandemic wasn’t coming. And we stood up and spoke up boldly and clearly that we needed to act and protect Saskatchewan. In the second wave when we were hit so hard when seniors homes, that we’ve been raising the alarm about for years, saw dozens and dozens of people lose their lives preventable deaths. The third wave, when Regina was shut down, after Scott Moe saw the modeling that showed the cases were on the rise and still chose to relax restrictions. The fourth wave, when again he ignored the evidence, and we ended up seeing people have to be shipped halfway across the country to get care, thousands losing access to essential cancer care, surgery, and more. And today, here we are in the fifth wave. We don’t even know what’s truly going on.” Meili said.

Indeed, nearly every communication from the New Democratic Party since the onset of the pandemic has been focused almost exclusively on said pandemic. Nearly every question in question period raised by Meili focused on the pandemic, invariably calling for more restrictive measures. In recent weeks, Pipeline Online had three times requested comment from the party on energy issues, but did not receive a response on the questions posed.

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Meili continued to accuse Premier Scott Moe of “hiding the numbers.”

He said, “I have no regrets about speaking up for public health actions. And no regrets about saying we have to be courageous and tell the truth, and not simply pander. The only regret I have is that we weren’t able to force this government to take COVID more seriously, to act to protect people’s lives, to protect our health system, to protect people’s jobs. Scott Moe has failed us, and I’m sorry we weren’t able to force him to do better.

“But as I’ve been thinking about this, because I know that this pandemic is going to end, and no one can say exactly how or when. But I feel with the widespread availability of vaccines and therapeutics, we are on the brink of a new phase. I’m excited about that new phase.

“But I really did take that walk in the snow the other day, and no joking, I really was thinking about Peloton, and how, at the beginning of the pandemic, everybody wanted the indoor exercise bike. That was the thing. And now, nobody wants one. And you know, I get it. People want to move on from this time. And as someone who’s become so associated with masks, with mandates, with calling for the tough things that needed to be done, I know it’s going to be very difficult to no longer be associated with that. At a time when people are looking for something, I believe that we need a new voice.”

Ryan Meili during the 2020 provincial election, Photo by Brian Zinchuk, at the time Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.

Meili said he would stay on as leader until a new one is chosen. “I hope that it will happen soon,” he said of the leadership race.

“When there’s a new leader selected, I will move on,” Meili said. Whether he sticks around after that is yet to be decided, as he noted, “A former leader can be a help, and can be a hinderance.”

Meili downplayed the significance of the byelection loss, saying “It’s really that larger question about what kind of voice we need going forward.”

He’s been thinking about this change “most seriously in these last couple of months.”

Meili said he would tell the next leader to “Tell the truth, keeping honest with Saskatchewan people. Be direct. It may not seem like the right thing. It may not seem like the most successful thing to do, politically. But people respect integrity. They respect when you’re genuine and sincere. And I believe that’s at the heart of New Democrats.

Meili is the fourth NDP leader to fall since the initial election of the Saskatchewan Party in 2007 under former Premier Brad Wall. Former Premier Lorne Calvert, who lost to Wall, was succeeded by Duane Lingenfelter, Cam Broten, and now Ryan Meili.

Meili said, “You don’t become the Leader of the Opposition to stay Leader of Opposition. You do it to become premier, that’s not going to happen.”

“And that there were people who had a lot of hope in me. People who put a lot of effort and support behind the campaigns that I’ve been part of, and I’m really grateful for that support and, and sorry for those who I’m disappointing today. But I do feel that this is the right choice,” he said.

“This is an opportunity for Saskatchewan New Democrats to have a new voice, and for people that Saskatchewan. It’s not like people are impressed by Scott Moe, by the Saskatchewan Party, but they’re looking for a real alternative. I believe this is the opportunity for the NDP in that real alternative.”

 

  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0020 Sk Oil Show PO Ad 02 speakers with voiceover
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0017 eventworx
  • 0016 Estevan Meter Services
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0015 Latus Viro PO Ad 01
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0009
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
  • 9001
  • 0002
  • 0001

 

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