Local riding NDP party members were excited at the opportunity to have an intimate meeting with NDP federal party leadership hopefuls who visited North Battleford this week and last.
Niki Ashton (NDP MP for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, MB.) visited July 9, while Guy Caron (NDP MP for Rimouski-Neigette, Que.) stopped by July 14 for supper gatherings hosted by the federal New Democratic Party constituency association for the Battlefords-Lloydminster riding, held at local NDP member Rob Feist’s home in N.B.
Ashton and Caron had been taking part in the NDP federal party leadership candidates' debate in Saskatoon July 6, with fellow candidates Charlie Angus and Jagmeet Singh. The invitation to visit N.B. was sent to all candidates but Angus and Singh couldn’t attend.
"Certainly, it’s really exciting to have people of the calibre of Guy Caron and Niki Ashton come to our community and take our concerns back to Ottawa,” said Feist. “A lot of people came out and wanted to meet federal members of Parliament, to get local issues on the radar, and make sure that our voice was heard in Ottawa."
Feist is a member of the local Battlefords NDP provincial riding association, as well as the Battlefords-Lloydminster federal riding association. He is also the former local riding NDP provincial candidate, and ran in the 2016 provincial election.
He said there were “big crowds” for both Ashton’s and Caron’s visits.
Feist said people attending the get-togethers came from “just about every neighbouring community,” including Cut Knife, Lloydminster, the Battlefords, and surrounding rural areas.
He added he is seeing much more local interest in individuals wanting to join the NDP party for the riding, in general.
"Both provincially and federally, people are coming to the party in our area in droves," said Feist. "I think a lot of them as being driven by the provincial cuts that we are seeing ... People are flocking to us now, saying: ‘We don’t want the tax increases. We don’t want the service cuts. We don’t want to see privatization.’"
He said the NDP have been getting out and knocking on people’s doors, asking them to sign petitions opposing government cuts, and garnering more interest.
Feist credited the federal party NDP candidates for spending so much time during their visit to Saskatchewan, in part due to the long history of the party in this province, adding that “Saskatchewan is the birth-place of the NDP.”
Avery Beaudin is the provincial-level local riding president for the Battlefords NDP, and federal-level local riding vice-president for the Battlefords-Lloydminster NDP riding association.
She said Ashton spoke about the need to “get back to our grass-roots movements” as a party, and make sure people who live in smaller communities have a voice too, including North Battleford.
“I think Niki and Guy are from smaller cities that don’t get a lot of attention,” said Beaudin. “They get that idea that every member counts, every vote counts ... Even if they don’t manage to get to every little city and every province over the course of this campaign, this stop will speak volumes for other small cities.”
Beaudin said local area residents attending the events in N.B. raised several issues of concern.
Some farmers were still disappointed with the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board, saying it offered better protection for their product.
“There was some discussion about how can we mend that bridge and what can we do now that it is gone,” said Beaudin.
She added the local area is part of a larger farming community in the Battlefords-Lloydminster constituency on the federal level.
Local people also talked about the impact of the austerity provincial budget, and the loss of the STC (Saskatchewan Transportation Company).
Beaudin said there was talk of what kind of protections a federal government could put in place, to prevent these types of cut-backs that can hurt the community.
NDP party members have until August 17 to pay their party membership fee to be eligible to vote for candidates in the NDP federal party leadership race, online or by mail. The new federal NDP party leader will be decided by the end of October.
On Twitter: @battlefordsNOW
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