Sask. NDP leadership candidates pitch their visions for party

·4 min read
On Sunday, either Kaitlyn Harvey, left, or Carla Beck, right, will be the new Saskatchewan NDP leader. (Adam Hunter/CBC - image credit)
On Sunday, either Kaitlyn Harvey, left, or Carla Beck, right, will be the new Saskatchewan NDP leader. (Adam Hunter/CBC - image credit)

For the first time in party history, the Saskatchewan NDP will elect a woman to be its leader.

Either Carla Beck or Kaitlyn Harvey will be named party leader on Sunday afternoon in Regina.

The leadership campaign has been much shorter than the contests in 2017 and 2018. Ryan Meili announced his decision to step down on Feb. 18 and 10 days later the party called for a contest. Beck entered the race on March 3.

Beck, a registered social worker, was first elected in the constituency of Regina Lakeview in 2016. She has received endorsements from six of 11 current NDP MLAs, most recently garnering the support of two Saskatoon MLAs Matt Love and Betty Nippi-Albright. She has also received endorsements from 10 former NDP MLAs.

Harvey announced her candidacy on April 5, describing herself as a "Métis lawyer, researcher community organizer and climate justice activist."

Harvey has received the endorsement of NDP MLA Jennifer Bowes and former NDP MLA Cathy Sproule.

She recently announced plans to seek the NDP nomination for Meili's seat of Saskatoon Meewasin.

CBC/Radio-Canada recently conducted interviews with both candidates.

Beck focused on party 'rebuild'

Beck said her initial focus on politics was not provincial but local. She twice ran successfully for a position on the Regina Public School Board.

She said she was not satisfied with the provincial government's commitment to education and eventually decided to pursue the NDP nomination for Regina Lakeview.

In her leadership campaign, Beck said she wants to "find common ground" with voters and avoid participating in "polarization" on issues.

"We're going to start from the middle where we agree."

Beck said during the campaign she has been "exhilarated" by hearing from people who want to help grow the NDP, but admitted the party has quite a way to go, with only 12 MLAs in the 61-seat assembly.

"We have work to do to build trust and to build the party so people see us as that alternative right now."

Beck said outreach with voters and building trust have been the "main focus of the campaign."

"What is also very clear to me through six years in Opposition is in order to make real and lasting change we have to be able to form government. I'm increasingly hearing from people across the province that they are looking for change."

Rob Kruk/Radio-Canada
Rob Kruk/Radio-Canada

Beck said seeing frustration from voters motivated her to run.

"I want to see this province thrive. There's an opportunity being left on the table. We're seeing young people leave our province. I want this to be a place where my kids build their future," Beck said.

She said people are concerned about affordability, education and health care.

Harvey campaign looks to 'sustainable Saskatchewan'

Harvey moved to Saskatoon from Prince Albert as a university student. She said an exchange program with Canada World Youth early in her post-secondary school years led her to Nova Scotia and then Cuba.

She said learning about climate change in university helped shape her.

"That really just was a life-changing moment to see how bad things are getting and not seeing solutions being proposed."

Harvey's pitch to NDP members focuses on Saskatchewan's future in a changing climate.

"People want a government to do something about climate change. They see the risk to our oil and gas sector, to our economy, to our farmers, to our communities that rely on resource development."

Harvey said the provincial government is ignoring the issue.

"We've got a lot of people whose jobs and futures are on the line and the government is pretending like this doesn't exist, that this isn't an issue we need to address right now."

Rob Kruk/Radio-Canada
Rob Kruk/Radio-Canada

Harvey said some in the party wanted a candidate that does not want to "prop up the oil and gas industry."

She also said Beck and her supporters in the caucus have not done enough to address climate change.

Harvey said there was a candidate the people were hoping would run but decided not to, and the same day she found out her cousin had died of a drug overdose inside the Prince Albert penitentiary. These things prompted her to run.

Her platform — which she called the Sustainable Saskatchewan strategy — took inspiration from the Green New Deal.

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