Youth leader

Carla Beck talks about her approach to leadership after being elected leader of the NDP

Carla Beck, the newly elected leader of the Saskatchewan NDP, faces an uphill battle in the province after Athabasca’s disappointing loss of the seat in the February by-election, an NDP stronghold for more than 20 years.

Carla Beck, the newly elected leader of the Saskatchewan NDP, faces an uphill battle in the province after Athabasca’s disappointing loss of the seat in the February by-election, an NDP stronghold for more than 20 years.

The loss of the Athabasca seat reduced the number of NDP MPs to 12 out of 61.

Saskatchewan is the birthplace of the New Democratic Party. In 1944, Prime Minister Tommy Douglas formed the first socialist government in Canada or the United States, and the Saskatchewan NDP still holds the record for the longest period in control of the province.

Reminiscing about those glory days is a priority for Beck.

“We have planned an awareness tour that will take us to every corner of the province,” Beck told the Moose Jaw Express/ by telephone. “Over the next three weeks, we will be on the road meeting Saskatchewan people, leaders and community members from across the province.

Beck said during his leadership campaign it became clear to him that in much of the province, the message of the Sask Party is dominant.

“In a lot of places, the only thing people know about the Saskatchewan NDP is what they’ve heard from the Sask Party,” she said. “We will continue to go out and meet people where they are…to show them that we are the alternative to the Sask Party, (which is) something a lot of people are looking for right now.”

Beck said his concern as leader is to listen in a way that the current provincial government does not.

“We currently have a government that too often tells us that it is not listening. They don’t return phone calls or go out and listen. … The solutions are there to be found, but they have to be found by listening to community leaders, by listening to industry, by listening to people. … That’s the job we’re going to do.

On June 14, Beck’s co-candidate Kaitlyn Harvey gave an interview in which she accused the NDP establishment of deliberately undermining former leader Ryan Meili.

“I’ve been a target since day one,” Harvey said. “They want Carla; and they wanted Ryan gone.

Beck countered the accusation by saying “I think Ryan was very clear about why he left and his choice to leave.”

She said party unity has been central to her leadership campaign, and she believes that was demonstrated in the way her team performed.

“You saw a team of MPs (June 26) on the steps of the Legislative Assembly who are very united and very determined to do the job that we need to do.”

A central issue in the leadership race was what Harvey called a compromise on progressive action on climate change. She called the attendance of Beck and fellow MPs Aleana Young and Trent Wotherspoon at the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show a slap in the face “for anyone at disproportionate risk of negative impact from climate change.”

Beck confirmed that the Saskatchewan NDP is committed to working with all sectors to find common sense solutions to current challenges.

“Our approach to the economy…is a holistic approach that includes the province’s resource sector, mining and traditional sectors, as well as the expansion of renewable energy,” she said. “It is very clear that climate change is real and that these solutions must be pursued, but … oil and gas and these traditional industries will be there for the foreseeable future.

“I think we need to be in these rooms, listening to people, understanding the importance of these jobs for families and communities.”

People are tired of division and polarization, Beck acknowledged. She said her members were aware that the spring session of the legislature had been “very divisive and very noisy”, but that she mainly blamed the policies of the Sask party who deserve criticism.

“We’re not going to be any less tough on the government for decisions…that are not up to the people of Saskatchewan.”

The NDP plans to continue its strategy of bringing community members to the Legislative Assembly to voice their concerns directly.

In a June 28 media scrum, Premier Scott Moe said he respected Beck and “many members opposite as well.”

However, he said politically he still viewed the Saskatchewan NDP as just an arm of the Trudeau government, which he called one of the most controversial governments in recent history.

“Congratulations to (Carla Beck) on a successful run. With respect to the political point of view, it really doesn’t change anything. We still have a provincial NDP tied at the hip, beholden to the federal NDP which merged, essentially, with Justin Trudeau and the Federal Liberals.