REGINA — Carla Beck has won the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP.
Results were announced this afternoon at the NDP leadership convention in Regina. According to the final results, Beck won with 3,244 votes to 1,492 for Kaitlyn Harvey.
Beck becomes the first female leader of the provincial NDP, replacing Ryan Meili. In speaking to reporters afterwards, Beck was excited about taking over the top job in the party.
"It's exciting, I'm not sure it's fully sunk in yet. I'm not someone who takes anything for granted, so I was doing the math pretty carefully when the results came up. But mostly I'm excited and very eager to do the work that's in front of us and thankful, so thankful for the team that we've got around us."
The plan for Beck was to celebrate with the party tonight, and then "tomorrow we go back to work." Beck indicated there will be a caucus meeting Monday, and "a lot of out reach ahead of us."
As for her reaction as first female leader of the NDP, Beck thought of her grandmother. "When I look at my grandma, who is here today, (it's) not something I'm sure she would have thought she would see in her lifetime. When I look at my daughters, when I look at the messages that have come in from young women, and women who have been around politics for a long time ... it's special, it's an honour and I can't wait to do the work with that whole team of fantastic MLAs and female leaders that we have."
Beck is a social worker by profession and a former Regina school trustee who has been MLA for Regina Lakeview since 2016.
She had campaigned using the theme "Stronger Together," and had the backing of much of the caucus and party establishment in the race. Her opponent, Kaitlyn Harvey, ran on a strong progressive platform emphasizing issues such as concern over climate change.
In speaking to reporters Harvey had no regrets about her campaign and the message it put out about the need to do better and to hold politicians to a higher standard.
"We gave everything we could to make sure that that message is carried forward, and I'm so proud of everything we accomplished in a short period of time," said Harvey.
There were some tensions during the final stretch of the campaign with Harvey at one point accusing the party establishment of wanting Beck in and Meili out. In the end, both the Beck and Harvey campaigns called on the result to be unanimous, and Harvey indicated she had spoken to Beck and was planning further discussions. Harvey also plans to run in the Saskatoon Meewasin byelection.
Beck said she had spoken to Harvey the previous day prior to the results and felt the healing in the party was already happening.
"I've said this many times. Our opponents are not in this room, and our opponents are not the hardworking people of Saskatchewan. The only way we have a path to be able to deliver a better government, an NDP government in 2024, is by working together. That's my strength, it will continue happening but it's already happening."
Beck said the message to the Harvey supporters was "there's space for you here." She said her promise to them is "if you share our values and you want to see solutions to the things we are talking about, I will take your call, I will come have a coffee, we will look for that common ground. I am confident in almost all cases we'll be able to find it."
On Twitter, Premier Scott Moe gave his congratulations to the province's new leader of the Opposition. "Congratulations to @CarlaBeckSK for earning the support of membership and being elected the next leader of the Saskatchewan NDP and the leader of the official Opposition."
While some leadership conventions have been known for long delays and counting into the wee hours of the night, it was a relatively short afternoon for the Saskatchewan NDP in the convention hall at the Delta Regina.
Party members paid tribute to the outgoing leader Ryan Meili earlier during the convention, followed by the final candidate speeches and showcases. Those all ran longer than expected and the voting deadline was pushed back a half hour to 3:30 p.m., but vote results were announced not long after that. In the end, Beck took 68 per cent of the vote.
In speaking to reporters after the result, Meili said the clear result should help the party going forward.
"I'm really pleased to see a positive leadership race ... and members made a really clear choice. And sometimes that really helps, because it allows our membership to say 'this is our leader, and we're able to now move forward with the most important things.'"
Meili said Beck is "a pretty special person. You might not necessarily think of social worker and politician as being a natural fit. But what she's got a real ability to do because of that background and of course her time an MLA and a school board trustee, is to connect with people. She really has that emotional intelligence. And what my hope is for the party is that we are able to get as many people to have exposure to an experience with Carla. Because when you have a conversation with her, you always go away feeling heard, understood and she has that integrity where that's not just the way she makes you feel, it's what she's really done."
The outgoing leader also expressed his desire to see the party united, and to address what has been seen as an issue for the party in recent years — a revolving door at the top, with party leaders continually departing following bad election losses.
"We're a party that has gone through multiple leadership races in a short period of time, and we've had a hard time coming out of those leadership races,” Meili told reporters.
"I think we've had troubles. When you have troubles as a party, it’s easier sometimes to say it’s this group’s fault, it’s that person’s fault, than it is to say, ‘oh, we have work to do. Let’s focus on the things that will be effective.’ And that’s my real message, and my call to members today is there's work we can do that will get us somewhere, there's work that we can do that will have us spinning our wheels, let's do the former ... We cannot be starting over and over again, every time."