Despite Ryan Meili leadership speculation, Sask. NDP says no decision until 2018

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Sask. NDP to elect a new leader on March 3, 2018

While the election of Ryan Meili prompted leadership speculation on Friday, the Saskatchewan NDP says it won't decide who will be its new leader until 2018.

Meili became the MLA-elect for Saskatoon Meewasin Thursday night, defeating the Saskatchewan Party's Brent Penner and three other candidates in a byelection.

The seat had been empty since the death of Saskatchewan Party MLA Roger Parent on Nov. 30, 2016.

Speaking after Penner's loss, Premier Brad Wall said repeatedly that Meili would probably be the NDP's next leader.

"Considering the tightness in this particular constituency, and the fact that they were running their next leader, likely, this was a very successful campaign, not in the way as we would want it," said Wall.

No new leader until next year

Interim NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon told reporters on Friday that the party has decided not to elect its new leader until May 2018.

"We're still more than a year away from that actual day so there's a fair amount of time," he said.

"So what I think you're going to see is a very active time within our party on many fronts, and certainly the leadership process will be an important part of that."

Former NDP leader Cam Broten stepped down last April after losing his seat in the 2016 provincial election.

Wotherspoon said Meili's victory was a big win for his party, which will now hold 11 seats to the Saskatchewan Party's 49. Don McMorris sits as an independent.  

Wotherspoon would not say what role Meili will take in the shadow cabinet, adding that he planned to make a decision by Monday.

He said Thursday's win signalled a shift for the party, but did not go as far as describing it as a turning point.

"History will record it for what it will be," the interim leader said.

"Right now, they've elected an MLA, a very strong MLA, and sent a very strong message. We're not going to take anything for granted."

Meili yet to decide on leadership bid

Unofficial results from Elections Saskatchewan show Meili won the byelection with 54.2 per cent of the vote, compared to 39.9 per cent for Penner.

Meili said it was "flattering" that Wall had suggested he would likely be the next leader of the NDP.

"That's nice to hear that he sees me bringing leadership," he said.

"And I certainly do intend in the Legislature to be part of that team with Trent and the rest of the caucus in bringing some leadership to the discussions that are important to Saskatchewan people."

He said he has yet to decide whether to run for the leadership, saying he is more focused on learning how to work in the Legislature.

"There will be lots of time to reflect on whether leadership is the right choice." 

Meili expected the first issue he would tackle as a new member of the NDP caucus would be Bill 40, the government's new law to define the word "privatize" with respect to Crown corporations.

Meili will be sworn in before the spring sitting gets underway at the Legislature on Monday.