The Next Tommy Douglas? Why I'm Supporting Ryan Meili For Leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party

As you may know, former Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert is retiring from politics and a race for the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP
is currently underway. When the first few candidates declared, I didn’t
see anything that seemed different than what you’d expect – a former
Deputy Premier, a current MLA, a young man involved in the behind-the-scenes of the party.  As usual, I'd pay attention, maybe even pick a personal favourite.  But that's as far as my involvement would go once again. 

Except this time, I didn't feel apathy, I felt disappointed.  After
seeing the excitement generated in people of all ages, races, geographic locations and political persuasions
by the Obama campaign in the US, I wondered why we couldn’t have a
young, dynamic, post-partisan candidate here?

Then I heard that Dr.
Ryan Meili had entered the race. Although he’d be the first to deny it,
I think the parallels between his campaign and Obama’s are obvious – a
young outsider with a background as a community organizer goes up
against the establishment candidate (who, in this case, is former Saskatchewan Deputy Premier, Dwain Lingenfelter.)

doing some research on Ryan, I decided to do something I’d never done
before – I went to an event in Regina to hear a leadership candidate
speak. And I was so impressed, I called my wife and we both went to
hear him speak at another event later the same day. We’ve both become
members of the NDP so that we can vote for Ryan during the NDP’s convention in June.

I know that for many of us, talking about politics is often like talking about sex or religion – something we don't do in polite company.  And admitting that you're excited about politics, that you've taken out an actual party membership and that you're planning to get involved and help out however you can, well, that sort of feels like telling someone what your favourite position is or what you usually only share in the confessional booth!  

I have no interest in knowing your answers to the last two questions – honest!  But I do hope that you also take the time to do some research about Ryan (I've got a couple links at the end of this post to get you started).  And if you like what you read/hear/see, I strongly encourage you to take the big scary leap to get involved yourself.

The things you can do range from really easy and really cheap (see #1 below) to things that will take a bit of your time, your money, your expertise or maybe all three:

1) join the Ryan Meili fan page on Facebook.

2) if you live in Saskatchewan, consider joining the NDP.
It only costs $10 (and just $7 if you’re between 13 and 25). This will
allow you to vote for Ryan online or by mail-in ballot during the NDP convention in early June.

3)  become one of his community organizers

4) Pass this blog post on to family, friends and acquaintances who live in Saskatchewan, even if you no longer do.

Donate to Ryan’s campaign. Neither him nor his supporters are
particularly wealthy (I speak from personal experience!) so he is relying on
many small donors to help cover the various costs associated with
running a leadership campaign.

6) You can also donate to the provincial NDP,
whether you live here or not. It’s the
best tax break in the country – for every $1 you donate, you get $0.75
back on your income taxes!

I’ve spent a
few lines this post comparing Ryan’s campaign to Barack Obama’s. But
I sincerely believe Ryan Meili has the potential to be even more than
that.  His unique combination of intelligence and compassion, life experience and willingness to dream big means he could be a Tommy Douglas for the 21st century, he could be our Tommy Douglas.

I really hope that you decide to take that leap and get involved with his campaign! 

Jason Hammond
March 21, 2009
Regina, Saskatchewan

More information:

* Ryan Meili's campaign web site
* Ryan Meili's biography
* An article Ryan wrote for Canadian Family Physician magazine

…and a YouTube clip from his campaign launch in Saskatoon:

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