People in Saskatoon-Meewasin voted for change just 11 months after sending a Sask. Party MLA to the legislature.
Ryan Meili came out on top in a five-way byelection race after ballots were counted Thursday night.
“I’ve been a family doctor for the last 10 years and while there are definitely some things that carry over, that’s a pretty one-on-one business,” Meili said about his new job.
“Now I’m needed to talk to many, many people.”
The byelection was called after Sask. Party MLA Roger Parent died in November after a battle with cancer.
Parent had served in the riding since 2011, winning re-election in 2016. The riding was represented by the NDP from 1995 until 2011.
Many thought voters might use the March 2 contest to tell the provincial government they’re concerned about a $1.2.billion deficit and talk of layoffs in health care and unpaid days off for public servants.
Meili said his victory could be a sign that the province is starting to turn on the governing Sask. Party.
“I am feeling like this is something quite big in the province. Not because I’ve been elected, but because people have chosen to send this message — a message that this government is past its best-before date and that they want to see things done better.”
Penner calls loss ‘disappointment,’ remains optimistic
Sask. Party candidate Brent Penner came in second. An hour after conceding to Meili, he said it was still too early to speculate on what led to the loss.
“Any time you put a lot of hard work and effort into something and don’t get the result you want, there’s some disappointment. I guess that’s probably the word right now.”
Penner said he raised the issue of low voter turnout during a concession phone call with Meili. While numbers are still unofficial, it appears only about 40 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.
“I think as a community, that’s something we all need to aspire to be better towards and get out and vote whether it’s a provincial, federal or municipal election,” Penner said.
Penner thanked his campaign team, crediting them with running a tight race. He said he took some heart from knowing that ultimately, the Sask. Party still holds 50 of 61 seats in the provincial legislature.
“Ultimately, it’s one seat in Meewasin. It doesn’t change things in terms of how the province is going to be governed for the next 3 years,” he said.
Meili begged to differ, saying he looked forward to getting to work as a member of the Opposition.
“We have not had transparency or accountability from this government. We need to know exactly what’s going on — find out where the spending is that has been wasteful, because there certainly is evidence of ballooning spending in certain areas,” he said.
Meili ran for the NDP leadership in 2013, losing to Cam Broten..
But Broten stepped down last year after losing his seat in the 2016 provincial election. Trent Wotherspoon, another 2013 leadership hopeful, is currently the party’s interim leader.
When asked, Meili didn’t rule out the possibility of another run when the NDP elects a new permanent leader in the spring of 2018.