In 2009, when I did a list of the 10 Reasons I was supporting Ryan Meili, my #1 was “His Potential as a Transformative Leader for the Province“.
I briefly considered making that my #1 choice again as I still firmly believe that Ryan, not only has that potential but is three years further along in realising that potential.
Beyond gaining more experience within the NDP and continuing do all the things he was already doing (practicing medicine around the province, lecturing at the University, doing international development work, etc. etc. etc.), he’s also now a bestselling author who has run the most successful leadership campaign (backed up by the release of today’s financial figures showing Ryan’s had another record-setting month in January!)
So with that in mind and taking what we know about the race, the state of the NDP, and what’s happening in the province right now, I encourage you to try a thought experiment.
Think about what you would want in the perfect Leader for the Saskatchewan NDP right now, at the current moment in in time. Because this is a thought experiment, for the moment, think only about the positive attributes you’d want, not the negatives that might come along with an otherwise perfect candidate (I know we’re dealing with humans so there’s a mix of good and bad in everyone but I’ll get to that in a moment.)
Given that, I think you’d be hard pressed to come up with someone who’s a better fit than Ryan for what the Sask NDP needs right now.
- His proven ability to fundraise, often in very innovative ways as well as reaching people who are not traditional political donors.
- His success in selling memberships to new and renewing party members
- His broad appeal to the general public and those across the political spectrum from former Sask Green Party Leader, Larissa Shasko to right-wing talk radio host, John Gormley.
- His in-depth knowledge of our health care system, which, no matter what’s going on, is consistently a top-ranked issue for voters
- What he would add to the NDP’s small, stretched caucus
- His successful integration of technology and social media into his campaign
- His roots and work in rural Saskatchewan
- His strong connection to northern Saskatchewan as well as his development work overseas
- His respect for (and from) Saskatchewan’s First Nations
- The (unexpected?) support he’s received from unions
- I’m biased but I think he’s drawn a pretty amazing team to his campaign!
- Pretty much everything Ryan wrote in his “12 Days, 12 Stories, 12 Ways to Help” series of Facebook posts before Christmas (hey, trademark infringement!) including stories about how he’s remained a “nice guy” while overcoming many obstacles and his willingness to speak candidly (and humourously) about things others might choose to hide or ignore.
That’s really the tip of the iceberg for Ryan’s appeal (but I really hope I’m not forced to do a “100 Reasons I’m Supporting Ryan Meili” the next time the NDP has a Leadership race if he doesn’t win this one!)
Honestly, at this point in the race, I can’t think of a good reason why someone who’s supporting a different candidate wouldn’t at least put Ryan second on their ballot.
I’ve heard lots of the reasons why people aren’t picking Ryan #1 throughout the campaign but I’d say Ryan, his campaign or his words and actions have answered all of them.
He’s not experienced.
Experience takes many forms, not just in terms of length of time involved in a party or winning elections or speaking in the Legislature. I remember someone in 2009 observing “Ryan’s probably done more in his life already than most politicians achieve in a 30-year career.” Beyond that, I think Ryan has handled himself extremely well on a wide variety of topics through 13 (and after tomorrow, 14) debates, often giving more thorough, more nuanced answers than his “experienced” opponents.
He’s never been elected.
Well, he’s in the process of running a more successful campaign than the two candidates who *have* been elected so what does that say? Beyond that, true leadership is about so much more than whether you’ve won an election or not, yes, even in the world of politics.
He quit Sutherland/He’s a quitter.
I think the fact Ryan chose to run against Dwain Lingenfelter in what was all but a sure loss indicates he’s not a quitter and he probably had actual, decent reasons for his decision not to pursue the nomination in Saskatoon-Sutherland.
The Sask Party would rip him apart.
Guess what? They’re going to rip all the candidates apart, based on weaknesses, real or perceived. If you’re making your selection based on what your opponent will do, that’s already giving them the victory.
He’s a one-issue candidate.
Ryan does talk a lot about health but that’s because he recognizes that our health (not just “health care” which is what people often think he’s talking about) is informed by everything else – economics, education, etc. He’s no more a one-issue candidate than Erin Weir or Trent Wotherspoon are.
He’s too left wing
Well, Tommy Douglas was pretty left-wing and people seemed to like him well enough. But honestly, I think most people aren’t as right wing or centrist as is assumed and if you have someone like Ryan who is skilled at presenting the benefits of an inclusive, “help your neighbour” approach which is the foundation of much of how progressives view the world (compared to the “I’ve got mine/You’re on your own” approach of conservatives”), you could get a lot of people to support your vision.
Ryan has addressed this very well saying his personal beliefs will not influence his political role (just as they haven’t influenced his medical role) and at least one commentator thinks Ryan’s considered decision on this issue could actually help the NDP as it shows he’s not 100% in line with NDP stereotypes and orthodoxy. The fact that he’s supported by some of the most well-known feminists and pro-choice advocates in the province also speaks volumes.
He seems arrogant.
His accomplishments should make him arrogant but he remains one of the most humble, down-to-earth people I’ve met in my life. (It’s supporters who call him things like “Gandhi-esque” that fuel this perception as much as anything Ryan’s done!)
On that last note, it’s obvious that, gushing supporters notwithstanding, Ryan’s not perfect. Like anyone, he has his faults and his weaknesses (I just don’t tend to blog about those things!)
But from what I’ve seen, Ryan’s also got a high level of self-awareness about what those weaknesses are, a willingness to let people around him point them out without needing to “get back” at people, and an amazing ability to draw people to him that can compensate for any of those gaps.
There’s an old saying that sometimes you win the battle but you lose the war.
I’ve kind of reached a point in this race where I feel that’s what it would be like if one of the other candidates were to win this leadership race.
They’re all excellent candidates but if Cam or Trent or Erin win on March 9, they’ll have won the battle but they may end up losing the war as I can’t see how any of them have nearly the same upside, the same proven qualities of leadership that Ryan has demonstrated in this race and which the Saskatchewan NDP desperately needs at this vital moment in its history.
If you haven’t filled out your ballot yet, I’d strongly encourage you to put Ryan as your first choice. Or if you’re committed to another candidate, please consider Ryan as your second choice.
Ryan’s said it from the day he announced and has embodied it as the race has gone on – we’re all Better Together.