© Justin Crann
Saskatchewan NDP leadership candidate Ryan Meili said income inequality is a major cause of declining health and is promoting measures to reduce it.
Ryan Meili, a physician and Saskatchewan NDP leadership candidate, visited the Times-Herald Wednesday to share his ideas for the party and the province.
“I use the focus of human health, and better health outcomes for people, as a way to put our minds toward something that is a common value, important across political lines,” said Meili.
Meili, who works “on the front lines” of medicine as a doctor in Saskatoon, has also worked throughout other urban and rural centres in the province and in Africa.
He identified socioeconomic inequality as the key issue that ails Saskatchewan.
“Saskatchewan has one of the fastest rates of growth of income inequality in the country. The country, now, has inequality that’s growing faster even than in the United States,” he said.
“We have to look at different ways of increasing equality and stemming that growth of the gap between the rich and the poor.”
Meili’s strategy for addressing the rift takes a two-pronged approach, addressing issues both pre- and post-tax, he said.
“Before taxation, we’re talking about making sure minimum wage is a living wage, that there are good jobs... all of those things that increase the size of the working class,” said Meili.
A Ryan Meili NDP, he said, would increase and index the minimum wage and would work to bring in more progressive labour legislation, he said.
“And we have to help those that can’t transition into working class jobs to have enough to get by and not be stuck in a poverty cycle... to actually have decent lives.”
“It’s important for those individuals, but also for the health of the economy as a whole. The more people you have that are marginalized and pushed aside by the system, the greater the drain on social services, the fewer people contributing to a productive economy, and the fewer people contributing to the tax base,” he said.
Meili also said he wants to introduce a progressive tax system modeled after Newfoundland and Labrador.
“What we’ve seen over the last decades is a big decrease in the amount of taxes that are paid by the upper echelons of society, and sort of a flattening of the rates between that, and the increase in consumption taxes,” he said.
“The result of this is that we are expanding inequality by failing to have a progressive taxation system.”
Under the current system, Meili said, the first $10,000 to $12,000 is deducted from the tax-deductible earnings of every person.
Under his system, that base income would be ignored for those that are in the upper echelon of earnings, making their full earnings taxable, Meili said.
Meili said he was considering other measures to improve socioeconomic equity, including expanded health and safety coverage “to make sure every worker is safe,” and a two-pronged approach to child and elderly care that would factor in a modified Quebec model of publicly-funded child care.
But, Meili said, his policies are still flexible and will be impacted by the discussions he has while on the campaign.
“My approach to every community is to show up and listen, and hear from them about the issues that really concern them,” he said.
“We have to look at the ideas that can excite and inspire people once again, get people to say, ‘that’s something good not just for a certain segment of society, but for everyone.’”