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Ryan Meili wins Saskatchewan NDP leadership vote

Ryan Meili becomes Saskatchewan NDP leader
WATCH ABOVE: Regina Rosemont MLA Trent Wotherspoon was defeated in the vote by Meili, the MLA for Saskatoon Meewasin. David Baxter reports.

The Saskatchewan NDP has chosen Ryan Meili as their new leader.

The party held their leadership convention on Saturday in Regina.

Despite much of caucus endorsing Meili’s campaign rival, Regina-Rosemont MLA Trent Wotherspoon, the new leader was quickly joined on stage by the entire caucus after his victory was announced.

“I’ve got that caucus team that joined me on stage, and it’s such a great group, and I’m just looking forward to sitting down with them as soon as I can and talking about the next steps,” Meili said.

“We’ve got a week until the next session, and we’ve got to get ready quickly.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan Party retains seats in 3 byelections

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Several convention attendees told Global News that they were concerned a Meili-led NDP would be less appealing to the broader Saskatchewan electorate. The new NDP leader was undeterred.

“The electability test, we tried out a year ago in Meewasin, and that worked okay. Now I think the next test is, are we going to be able to put out a vision that separates us sufficiently from the Sask Party so that we really can be electable,” Meili said.

“I don’t think we’ll be elected by downplaying our ideas. I think we’ll be elected by putting forth a vision that really excites people.”

Central to Meili’s leadership campaign are promises of introducing universal pharamcare, a $15 minimum wage and getting corporate and union donations out of Saskatchewan politics.

The new leader said he would accept union donations, and consider corporate donations, in the next provincial election. If victorious, Meili said, getting that money out of politics would be a top priority.

As for Wotherspoon, the longtime MLA is ready to get back to work with the rest of the opposition.

“I’ve got faith in our members and they made a choice here today and we walk out united and ready to work,” Wotherspoon said. “It’s critical of course that we listen and engage our entire province and those that aren’t members as well and those that haven’t voted for us in the past.”

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READ MORE: Final financial disclosures released for Saskatchewan NDP race

During the leadership campaign, Regina-Douglas Park MLA Nicole Sarauer served as interim NDP leader. During that time, some members voiced their desire to see her seek the permanent job.

Sarauer joked she had been counting down the minutes until her term as interim leader ended. Now she’s happy to move forward with a permanent leader.

“The great thing about the race that we had is that no matter who someone chose out of the two of the candidates, or even the support that I’ve been receiving, we’re all at the caucus table and we’re all there and ready to work for the next election,” Sarauer said.

Meili won his seat in a byelection in March 2017 after two failed attempts to win the leadership. Outside of politics, Meili is a family physician. He said he may continuing practicing, albeit on reduced hours, while serving as Opposition leader.

The party said there were roughly 13,400 members eligible to vote. Eight-one per cent of those members voted in the leadership contest.