REGINA — Saskatchewan's NDP has chosen Carla Beck to be its new leader, making her the first woman to lead the party in 90 years.
Beck, the member of the legislative assembly for Regina Lakeview, defeated Kaitlyn Harvey, a Métis lawyer from Saskatoon, at a leadership convention in Regina.
"When I really feel it is when I look at my grandmother, who is here today. I'm not sure this is something she (thought) she would have seen in her lifetime," Beck said Sunday.
Beck received 3,244 votes to Harvey's 1,492. The party said about 65 per cent of its membership cast a ballot, which is a decline from the 81 per cent of the membership who voted for the party's last leader in 2018.
At that time the party had 13,414 members. Today there are 7,294 members.
While the next provincial election is still more than two years away, Beck expressed hope to become Saskatchewan's first female premier by growing her party.
In her acceptance speech she vowed to take back Saskatchewan, but fell short of proposing any new policies.
"We're not going to start with a list of policies, we're going to start with that connection (with people)," Beck said.
"Too many people in the province know about us from what the Saskatchewan Party told them."
Lorne Calvert, who was at Sunday's convention, was the last NDP premier, losing power to the Saskatchewan Party under the leadership of Brad Wall in 2007, and was replaced by Scott Moe in 2018.
Former NDP leader Ryan Meili announced his resignation in February to allow the party to rebrand as it works to shift away from critiquing the government on its COVID-19 response.
Beck acknowledged the topic of rebranding often comes up, but ruled it out.
She said any rebranding can't be done with new fonts and colours, but by changing how the party does things.
In his final speech to his party, Meili alluded to bitter party divisions and infighting within their caucus.
He left a parting message to the Saskatchewan NDP saying no one is going to want to join a party that doesn't get along.
"This is something that's been a problem for the Saskatchewan NDP ... but it's really something we cannot continue to deal with."
He said his party has gone through several leadership races, and members often have a hard time coming out of them. He said they don't leave past conflicts and competitions behind.
"When the watering hole gets smaller, the animals get more fierce," said Meili, who is resigning his seat in Saskatoon Meewasin on Canada Day, which will trigger a byelection before the year ends.
Meili said the Saskatchewan NDP will be in trouble if his seat flips to the governing Saskatchewan Party.
The NDP most recently lost its stronghold northing riding of Athabasca to the Saskatchewan Party in February, and Beck doesn't want to see another seat lost. She said the byelection will be her first test as leader.
"It's a tough seat. Nothing is a given especially in byelections when turnout can be so small and bad weather on a single day can change the whole thing," Meili said.
The Saskatchewan Party currently holds 48 seats in the legislature and the NDP 12. There is also one independent MLA.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2022.
Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press