Saskatchewan Party, NDP aim to make the provincial legislature more diverse

Even though the legislature just started sitting this week, the main provincial parties have one eye on the upcoming election.

The Saskatchewan Party and NDP have named 84 candidates between them and hope to buck the trend of what past governments have looked like.

The New Democrat leader said the sitting government isn’t a reflection of what Saskatchewan looks like.

“It doesn’t when it comes to gender. It doesn’t when it comes to sexual orientation, when it comes to disabilities and certainly not when it comes to visible minorities or Indigenous people,” NDP leader Ryan Meili said.

Of the 59 current MLAs, 16 are women, four are Indigenous and one is a visible minority.

That breaks down to about a quarter of representatives being women and fewer than 10 per cent being people of colour.

Saskatchewan has 61 seats, but Sask. Party MLAs Corey Tocher and Warren Steinley stepped down to run in the federal election.

Statistics Canada numbers from 2016 show more than half of the province’s approximate 1.1 million people are women and more than a quarter of them are either Indigenous or a visible minority.

The Saskatchewan Party said it has seen more women put their name forward in contested nominations, but they don’t always win the candidacy.

“I always think that I’m a politician first who happens to be a woman. I think the other important diversity we need to have — and I’m glad to see it in our caucus — is diversity of life skills and experiences and careers. All of that needs to be taken into consideration,” Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said.

The Saskatchewan Party has named 55 candidates for the 2020 election.

Of those, 10 are women, four are visible minorities and two are Indigenous.

“At one time, you wouldn’t have seen a Muslim or a Sikh or a minority even try to be elected and not only are they putting their name forward, they’re winning those nominations,” Harpauer added.

The NDP has 29 candidates gearing up for the election, 14 of whom are women, four are visible minorities and three are Indigenous.

Meili said the party has played a more active role in encouraging these voices to come forward.

He thinks it could help further debate in the legislature.

“I think having more of those voices in there will just obviously elevate the necessary conversation there,” Meili said.

Premier Scott Moe has said he is reserving the decision to call the election before the October deadline.

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