The Saskatchewan Party’s policies are making life more difficult for people to survive every day, which has angered Ryan Meili but also driven him to work harder for Saskatchewanians.
The Saskatchewan NDP leader has been visiting communities this summer to learn how residents’ quality of life has been affected by the provincial government’s decisions. This feedback will inform the party’s work in the legislature this fall and guide its platform during the 2020 provincial election.
The NDP leader was in Moose Jaw on Aug. 2 and visited the food bank, Transition House, and a child-care program to learn about their successes and struggles.
The Moose Jaw & District Food Bank has seen an increase in demand of 18 per cent during the last two years and has been attempting to meet that need, Meili said. It’s not just people on social assistance who use the food bank; it’s also families with two incomes who are barely making ends meet.
“You feel for people in this situation,” he remarked.
Meili pointed out most people don’t want to use the food bank; they would rather provide for their family instead. While it’s positive the food bank is available, work needs to be done to ensure people don’t need to go there as their first option.
Saskatchewan has the lowest minimum wage in the country, at $11.06 per hour, continued Meili. The provincial government has deeply cut into supports for rental allowances and special dietary needs. He says the Sask. Party has also made it more difficult for people to get out of poverty.
“When I see that, I feel a little sad, but I more feel angry … (and) a little fired up,” Meili said, pointing out poverty costs the province $4 billion a year. This is what drives him to work for a “better way” in the province.
Meili was impressed with the work undertaken at the South Central Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECIP) in Moose Jaw.
He thought the staff does incredible work to help kids with learning disabilities. However, he was struck by how underfunded the program is, how underpaid staff are, and how heavy the caseload is for the employees; one full-time employee and one part-time employee have to deal with 34 kids throughout the region.
“You learn that there is an incredible community spirit in Moose Jaw — that’s reinforced … ,” Meili said.
“The Sask. Party has been letting people down, really failing to make the most of the wealth of this province to make sure that everybody has a chance to have their best life,” he continued. “And we’re seeing cities like Moose Jaw having to scramble and scrape and it’s still not enough for people to get by.”
There needs to be a renewed philosophy of investing in people, Meili remarked. Money needs to be spent where it will make the biggest difference. Instead, he is hearing almost everywhere in Saskatchewan that people are struggling with mental illness and addictions issues, while inequality is growing.
Meili pointed to cuts in education and health care that have had significant effects on people’s lives. These have also contributed to the slowdown of the economy. He believes the Sask. Party has made these decisions due to its philosophy of “every man for himself,” instead of believing “we’re all in this together.”
Meili also believes the Sask. Party has taken Moose Jaw for granted over the years, while residents have not benefited from having two Sask. Party MLAs. That is why he has visited the community several times in the last few months and why he will continue to make visits.