After criss crossing the province during the Saskatchewan NDP Leadership Race, Dr. Ryan Meili said the campaign has been important in starting to re-energize the party.
Meili, one of the four candidates running for the vacant Saskatchewan NDP leadership, was in the city this past weekend to attend the Swift Current NDP Constituency Annual General Meeting on Feb. 2.
"We're getting more interest from the public, and I think that's been useful for the party going forward, whoever wins, that we're starting to gain some more of that excitement," he said during an interview before a luncheon meet and greet.
"Overall I just think it's been a really positive process. The candidates have been bringing forth quality ideas, and we've had good questions coming forth from the different audiences that we've had a chance to speak to. I learn a lot in this process. And I'm hopeful that we can win this race, but if I don't I'm very committed to continuing to work for social justice - continue to work towards a healthy society."
Meili was a candidate during the 2009 race won by Dwain Lingenfelter and admits that the second time running for the leadership has also been a rewarding experience.
"It's fun to see all the towns and re-connect with people I've met either in my travels as a doctor or in the last campaign," he said.
In the past few months his view of the province has not drastically changed, but admittedly he is learning a lot about the culture of the province and what really is top of mind for people.
"Having done this, and having done the work as a family doctor, working in the small towns and up north, it hasn't necessarily introduced me to a lot of new places. But the more you go back somewhere the more of a relationship you develop, the more you start to understand actually the commonalities in terms of the challenges that are faced across the province, as well as the uniqueness of each town."
Meili explained that during the course of the campaign and the NDP Leadership debates across the province, he has been able to distinguish himself from the other candidates.
"I think our core message has stayed consistent. What I'm really trying to do is propose a different way of looking at politics."
Meili wrote the book A Healthy Society on how government would benefit from the idea of basing policy decisions on human health, and the understanding of the things that make the biggest difference in those health outcomes. Government must be aware of social determinants of health, income, education, employment, housing, nutrition, plus the wider environment, and use that understanding to direct how we make political decisions.
"It's going towards something that is of more value in our real lives than simply economic measures. Economics are extremely important, but as a tool to reach our goals, not as a goal in itself."
"Throughout the race I suppose we've seen just an opportunity to, I suppose, develop that idea within this context and make distinctions between myself and the other candidates, versus where you've see a more traditional approach to thinking about democracy, a more traditional approach to how things are done, versus something that is quite new."
He explained that this focus on decision making would be a grassroots effort to personalize a government's direction, instead of government solely taking their lead from business or based on bottom line GDP data.
"It brings it back to how does this actually make our lives better. Government is the extension of us. What should (government's) job be except to make our lives better."
Meili feels his campaign has significant traction heading towards the NDP final All-Candidates' forum on Feb. 16 and into the NDP leadership convention on March 9. His campaign was able to sign up the most new members and also renew the most memberships.
"That gives me some pretty good hope that we're in the running for first place," he said.
"Now that we've passed that membership deadline, we know everyone who is a member, the work is doing things like this coming to towns where there is a significant membership and talking to people directly, as well as being on the phone and e-mail, and all of those things to just try and make sure that those who are leaning towards us get the vote out and those who aren't yet maybe consider us a little bit more."