Canada Mandryk: Mail-ins win Meili his seat, but now he really has to deliver
Mandryk: Meili's last week scramble underscores uphill battle
Where New Democrat Party Leader Ryan Meili is spending the final days of this 2020 election campaign is telling, but so is the group he seems to be addressing. Meili’s last-days messages have been squarely aimed at larger voting blocs that NDP strategists hope will boost popular votes on Oct. 26. That certainly could help in relatively close seats where those extra votes might make a difference. But any leader’s focus at this point of the campaign should be less about broad-based messaging than simply being in those close seats the party needs to win.
The “Meili-in” ballots have been counted. The Saskatchewan NDP leader appears headed back to the legislature.
Mail-in ballots insparing the Saskatchewan NDP the dubious distinction of becoming the first Official Opposition party in Canada to lose its leader in three consecutive general elections. This is what’s cause for celebration in New Democrat ranks these days. Wither, the once-mighty NDP machine?
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Alas, one party’s minor victory is about to become another party’s punchline.
One can already hear the Saskatchewan Party heckles in the chamber of the Saskatchewan Legislature next month: “Hey Meili! Did you check your mail this morning to see if you’re still here?” “Hey, Meili! What’s your campaign song next time? Please, Mr. Postman?” “What do we now call the rest of your caucus? The Marvelettes?”
It is a cruel place.
And it might be about to get a little crueler for the NDP and Meili if he doesn’t break the current cycle by rebranding himself and his party.
After being 86 votes behind Sask. Party candidate Ryland Hunter on election night, the first 1,065 of a potential 1,656 mail-in votes counted in Meewasin showed Meili pulling 206 votes ahead. It appears the NDP, at least in Meewasin, won the campaign to get the mail-in vote — perhaps unsurprising, since New Democrats seemed more concerned about voting in person during COVID-19.
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Some found it a bit presumptuous for Meili to declare victory after Wednesday’s first round of mail-in ballot count voting with a potential 591 mail-in votes yet to come. But it was surely enough to demonstrate a trend in the remaining mail-ins to be counted that provided valid. Hunter conceded late Thursday afternoon.
And let’s face it: The NDP badly need a win of some sort right now.
They lost fortress-like Saskatoon Riversdale and their 2016 gain in Prince Albert Northcote. They lost ground in Regina north of Dewdney Avenue with the defeat of Northeast incumbent Yens Pedersen. Mail-ins allowed Aleana Young — who had a baby the day before election day — to overcome a 178-vote election night deficit and takeMohammad Fiaz appears to have held on to Regina Pasqua.
But even with Young’s win over the one-time Sask. Party leadership hopeful and even with modest Saskatoon gains in Eastview and University, the NDP are still only at 13 seats — exactly what they had when the 28th Saskatchewan legislature was dissolved.
Mandryk: Short campaign leaves far too many questions unanswered
Every campaign goes out of its way to prove right former prime minister Kim Campbell’s half-fictitious notion that “an election is no time to discuss serious issues”. But it seems Saskatchewan’s 2020 election campaign tried especially hard to duck key questions. If anything, more questions were raised than answered. So before Monday’s vote, let’s consider what wasn’t answered: How do we pay for it all? With $849 million in proposed new But it seems Saskatchewan’s 2020 election campaign tried especially hard to duck key questions. If anything, more questions were raised than answered.
However,. Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor a disjointed platform shall keep Ryan Meili from his deliveries in the legislature. Having him there is better than not.
As my colleague and Vanier Scholar Merelda Fiddler observed on our CBC election night panel, having to restart the cycle of picking a new leader after the election, introducing him or her to the voting public and getting behind that new leader’s direction and policy shift has been a destructive cycle for the NDP.
Far better would be for all New Democrats — old guard and new — to sheath their swords and get it together.
The 2020 election results can be directly tied to dissension between old and new and left and right since Meili’s selection as leader as 2018 — no place more so than in Regina Walsh Acres, where booting incumbent Sandra Morin stands as a reason why the NDP caucus has one less badly needed seat.
But it’s mostly up to Meili to fix things.
That the Sask. Party probably isn’t all that broken up to see Meili back might have something to do with the fact they already defined him this campaign as too left-wing to be trusted by mainstream Saskatchewan.
If Meili wants to hang around, he is going to have to work on that image; that begins with new approaches and policies that address a broader band of voters and their concerns.
His future and that of the party now depend on it. If he doesn’t, Meili may soon be marked “return to sender.”
Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
Mandryk: Lack of diversity looming problem for Sask. Party government .
Between Monday night and the last time Saskatchewan voters went to the polls on April 4, 2016, there has been an worldwide awakening. There’s more being done to point out racial and gender inequality. There’s the youthful environmental protests spurred by Greta Thunberg; the growing importance of LGBTQ+ pride parades that politicians can no longer duck. You would have had to be living in complete isolation long before March to not notice a changing world. It would be impossible because even in a place like Saskatchewan — a place one wouldn’t expect to see hundreds showing up for Black Lives Matter rallies — we’ve seen these movements on our front lawns.