Meet the Leaders: Ryan Meili, Saskatchewan New Democratic Party
SASKATOON -- NDP leader Ryan Meili stopped on a snowy Saskatoon street on Tuesday for an interview with CTV Saskatoon anchor Sean Leslie. Meili explained why the NDP would bring back the STC and how he would balance COVID-19 restrictions with allowing the economy to operate.
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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Let’s start off with STC. The bus has been getting a little bit of attention around the province. The Saskatchewan Party says there’s no economical way to bring back the STC, that it doesn’t make sense to do so. What’s your response?
The bus is back. We were touring around with an STC bus to underline our commitment to bring it back. It was a terrible idea - in 2016 they promised not to get rid of it, a year later they did. That’s essential economic and social infrastructure. We’ve got to make sure we bring STC back, support seniors to get to their appointments, support farmers, small businesses. It’s part of the province that we need back.
And it’s worth the extra cost, if there is any, to the government?
It’s worth the investment and it would have been worth the Sask. Party running it properly in the first place.
I think we should talk about COVID-19 because we’re in a time where it seems to be on the rise again in terms of cases. Knowing what we know, starting from here, what should we be doing to slow the virus down?
We really need to be taking those personal measures. Using our masks, keeping physical distance like we are. We also need to see alongside the people stepping up, which we’ve seen in Saskatchewan, a government that’s going to step up and make the right investments. One of the key ones - we saw the Sask. Party bring in the worst back-to-school plan in Canada and still refuses to address class sizes.
The government recommends to reduce our gatherings from 30 to 15 but we’re still sending kids into classes of 30, 40 kids - that’s not the right way to do things. So let’s make the investments in education and in health right now to help keep people safe.
How do you balance things you might have to do in terms of restrictions with making sure the economy and small businesses continue to be able to operate in some type of capacity?
That’s why it’s so key that we not go down the road that Mr. Moe has talked about; that road of austerity. Cuts right now would be the worst possible thing. Cuts to health and education aren’t a good idea anytime, but now that makes things even more dangerous, makes it harder for us to keep our communities safe. And we need to invest to get our economy moving as well. We know that austerity, those cuts, slow down the economy and hurt people. We need to get it moving and help people out in this difficult time.
Is there a specific issue the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP approach differently that points to the overall differences between the parties?
I think it is that larger question of cuts versus investment. You look at the Sask. Party’s record on schools where we’ve seen classes get more and more crowded and have fewer supports. Or health care, where we’ve seen wait times growing and growing instead of making the investments to make sure people can get surgeries, emergency care, mental health care when they need it. We’re going to invest and make sure people do get that care instead of going down their road of more cuts.
We’ve heard Scott Moe say that the number one issue is the economic recovery, and who is the best party to lead the economic recovery. What do you think the number one issue is?
That choice that’s there between cuts and investment. And that is an economic choice. That’s something I keep trying to make Mr. Moe understand and make clear to folks. If we continue down the road of this Sask. Party, of cuts, but also of failing to choose Saskatchewan when it comes to investment. Every time Scott Moe manages to send projects to companies from the States, or from France, or from China, instead of having our companies and our workers on the job, we’ll put Saskatchewan first as we make those investments, make sure that money stays here and we get our people back to work.
What’s your final pitch to Saskatchewan voters?
I looked around today, it snowed early - people should vote early. Advance polls open today. This is our chance. This our home and it's our chance to make it even better. I encourage people to get out there, cast their vote for a change.