In the recent Saskatoon-Meewasin by-election, the provincial NDP did something they have not been able to manage in a long time, they took a seat from the Saskatchewan Party. Ryan Meili is the freshly minted new MLA, after years of being in and around the provincial party for a few years, including a couple runs at the leadership, he now has a seat in the legislature.
The more important part of his win is that he won at the expense of the Saskatchewan Party, who held the seat until the death of previous MLA, Roger Parent. Given years of middling performance by the official opposition, they had a rare victory.
It is difficult to tell if this victory actually means anything. Like any by-election, the number of voters is very low, with only 41 per cent of voters actually casting a ballot. Everyone who stayed home was apparently a Saskatchewan Party supporter, given that they lost this time. The seat going NDP is not a huge surprise however, historically it has been orange, outside of a pair of Progressive Conservatives in the 1980s and Parent in the past two elections.
It does remain an NDP victory, however, and as elections are decided by who gets voters to show up, it’s clear that Meili can get people to the polls. It didn’t take long for leadership buzz to surround the Saskatoon physician, since he appears to be the first person in a long time to actually energize NDP supporters.
I do hope that, at a minimum, it does put a bit of wind in the sails of the province’s opposition, because the province needs a stronger opposition than it has. The lack of a strong opposition allows the sitting government to do very stupid things, such as musing about selling crown corporations.
Which is not backing the NDP as a potential new government, I just want a strong opposition, and I don’t particularly care who it winds up being. Without a strong opposition, governments start to believe their own hype and make poor decisions in the belief that they can do no wrong – or, more accurately, they can do nothing that will get them replaced after their term is up. A strong opposition, no matter who it is, exists to keep the actual government honest. Quite frankly, the NDP has not been doing its job for a couple terms, spending more time in the corner licking its wounds than it has actually being an opposition party. Their half-hearted and lazy campaign in Yorkton during the most recent provincial election would be an embarrassment for any party, let alone one that is supposed to be the official opposition. Their half-hearted campaign province-wide presented the Saskatchewan Party their latest mandate on a silver platter.
Whatever your political position, this province needs an opposition party, and the NDP has been so humbled by a couple of bad election showings that they dare not do their job. If Meili’s win puts a bit of fight back into them, that could be the exact thing the party needs. If it puts fear in the hearts of the provincial government, that also can’t hurt. The NDP needs to stop feeling sorry for itself, and Meili’s win might be the morale boost it desperately needs.