MOOSE JAW — The two candidates hoping to become the first woman to be permanent leader of the Saskatchewan NDP took part in the first official candidates forum in Moose Jaw Thursday.
The Timothy Eaton Centre was the venue where Carla Beck, MLA for Regina Lakeview, and Kaitlyn Harvey, a Métis lawyer from Saskatoon, made their pitch to leadership voters in the race to succeed Ryan Meili as party leader.
This was their first live in-person forum. The candidates had previously faced off at an online forum organized by Saskatoon Metro NDP.
The Moose Jaw forum was low in fireworks and lacked the vitriol seen between candidates in other leadership races, most notoriously from the federal Conservatives this year. Both Beck and Harvey were respectful as they staked out their positions in the race.
Beck offered a unifying message, making a case that she was the one who could move the province away from the politics of division.
“When we are connecting with people, and bringing them in and building with them, we’re winning. It’s the only way I’ve ever known to build lasting solutions, and it’s what we’re already starting doing in this campaign. I’ve been approached by people who haven’t seen themselves in our party for a very long time, maybe even ever, and they are excited by what we are building here. I’m hearing it every day. They’re excited by the idea that they can be part of building the better future that we all want, we all want for our province and for our kids, with good jobs, clean air and water, strong communities where people can afford to live, with more equity and justice for everyone.”
Harvey, meanwhile, pushed her issues of sustainability, climate change, addressing the crushing debt students face and addressing the suffering faced by Indigenous people in the province.
“We are at a critical juncture in our province’s history and we can choose to face these challenges head-on, together with heads held high, and hope in our hearts, or we can choose to keep our heads buried in the sand pretending like the status quo is the best we can do and all we deserve. Well, friends, I am here today because I choose to fight, because I have people I need to fight for and I know I’m not the only one ready to do battle with the real enemy here. This colonial, neo-liberal, unsustainable and destructive approach to governance and policymaking in this province needs to stop, and we have the power to stop it.”
The forum featured questions on a wide range of familiar topics to New Democrats, including education, health care and the departure of professionals from the province, reconciliation, the climate change issue and other topics. The format featured a number of predetermined questions to the candidates, as well as questions submitted from the audience.
From here, Beck and Harvey will be participating in more leadership forums. Next on the schedule is a forum organized by MBC Radio for June 10 at 1 p.m. The next official leadership forum is scheduled for June 13 at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina. Also on the schedule is a southwest regional forum June 20.
The party will announce results of its leadership vote June 26 at the Delta Regina. Membership renewals closed May 6, and ballots are being sent out to party members during the first week of June.
Among those at the event in Moose Jaw were a number of local party luminaries, including former Moose Jaw MLAs Deb Higgins and Glenn Hagel, as well as former premier Lorne Calvert who is from Moose Jaw.
In speaking to reporters following the forum, Calvert was enthusiastic and optimistic about the choice on the ballot.
“I know tonight we have been a witness to some history in the making. The next leader of the New Democratic Party will be a woman. And that will be the first time in the history of the CCF and the New Democratic Party — not the first time a Saskatchewan woman has led a political party but the first time in the annals of the New Democratic Party …
“With work, with creative policy, with good sensitivity for the needs and the wants and the desire for a great future of the people of Saskatchewan, we have every opportunity tonight to have seen the next premier of Saskatchewan. So, I just had a sense tonight we’re seeing a bit of history, and in that history is exactly what the people of Saskatchewan will be looking for when they go to the polls next time.”