Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

 Ryan's AMA: LINK

An analysis of the Swift Current debate will be coming in the next few days, now that the video has been posted online, but for now we'll focus on what we have information for already.

Ryan Meili took to Reddit today (which is, for those who don't know, a popular 'social news' site spurred on by user generated content and links) to take part in an Ask Me Anything session. The AMA has become a tool that some politicians have started to embrace, most notably American President Barack Obama. Ryan's campaign has billed him as the 'first Saskatchewan politician to do an AMA'; which, I do believe to true in terms of formatting.

One can make the case that Erin Weir's digital town hall produced the same kind of result; a forum where people could ask whatever they wanted directly to the candidate, though some detractors will say that since it was done through Twitter and Facebook it wasn't a proper AMA...Though, I suppose that might be splitting hairs.

In any case, it doesn't matter which candidate was the first to lay claim to any of these new mediums; rather, it's much more important that candidates are using them at all. While there is still a lot to be said for getting out and meeting with members face-to-face (and this will always be one of the most important parts of politics), online forums are definitely allowing candidates to reach people who might not necessarily go to one of the debates or to a campaign event.

It's a step in the right direction, I suppose is how we can slim down that. Now, I've included the link at the top of the page that can take you directly to Reddit to read the questions and answers. However, I'll also post them here, since I'm sure we'll call back to them at some point in the future.

As always, questions are BOLDED while answers remain in normal type. Also, I posed one question during the AMA and have since forwarded that question to every candidate; rather than leave Ryan's response to that question out, I will include it both here and when we talk about the responses from the other candidates as well. My question will be ITALICIZED.

Two last things; questions and answers have not been edited other than for formatting. I am only including Ryan's responses to the questions posed, and not including any responses that came from any of the other participants UNLESS the response was a follow-up question or rebuttal; general statements and so forth are excluded here, but can be found at the link provided.


Thanks for doing this. Going from being a family physician to a politician is a pretty significant shift. How do you think your experience as a physician will help you in your role as a politician?

I’ve had the good fortune to work as a physician in rural Mozambique, the Philippines, all over rural Saskatchewan, including in Northern communities, and most recently in the inner city at West Side Community Clinic.

Working as a physician gives me insight into the health and social challenges faced by individuals in the communities I serve. I’ve tended to work more with people who face challenges related to poverty and other elements of social exclusion. This gives me some unique insight into the way that political decisions play out in the lives of individuals.

I enjoy working as a physician a great deal. However, it’s also quite frustrating, as the work I can do is often treating the symptoms, not the causes. Recognizing that health care is quite far down the list of determinants of health is what has driven me to become involved in politics to try to make more meaningful, upstream change.

Hi, and thanks for doing this for us today Ryan. I'm not terribly informed on a lot of Saskatchewan issues, but I did follow and was extremely disappointed by Premier Wall on the Potash Corp. sale issue. What did you think of the federal government's decision to block the sale of Potash Corp?

In the October 22nd edition of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix it was reported that "Premier Brad Wall urged the federal government Thursday to reject BHP Billiton Ltd.'s $38.6-billion US hostile takeover attempt of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. to protect Canada's strategic concerns." This takeover has been estimated to lose Saskatchewan anywhere from 2 to 5.7 billion dollars in resource revenues over the next 10 years.

As a New Democrat it always pains me a little to praise the actions of a conservative politician. But to not do so is to miss an important opportunity because this represents a significant departure.

For the first time in a very long time we see a conservative party appearing to act as though government matters. The mantra has long been that governments must be run like businesses. While that may not be the most appropriate model (citizens are not customers after all), neither has it been followed. Conservative governments, including that of Mr Wall, have tended to indiscriminately decrease revenue and increase spending. What business would intentionally decrease its income while increasing its costs?
For the government to finally recognize that it needs to make money, that the needs of the citizens of Saskatchewan cannot be met by handing over all control of and profit from public resources to private interests, is a rare but important decision..

The natural reaction for the opposition when the government makes a wise choice is to cry "Too Little! Too Late. While these criticisms are fair, this is not the time for them. This is the time to take careful note of the meaning of this departure, say "Good job Brad", then use this example to pester him incessantly to do the right thing in other areas. We face serious challenges in this province: economic, environmental, and social. They can only be met by a government willing to take the necessary actions to secure and manage the resources necessary to do so. Until we have a new premier, which of course will be in the next general election, we have to recognize when this one does the right thing and use those examples to push him to do it more often.

I've heard a lot about the social determinants of health in relation to your campaign. Can you explain how you think the SDOH relate to politics in general, and why it is important?

Re-organzing our political system to focus on health, and using the understanding that the SDOH are the primary factors that influence health, gives us a way to move closer to (to steal from Canadian Doctors for Medicare) a politics that is "evidence-based, values-driven". It also offers us a means to measure whether we're being successful in reaching our political goals. This TEDx video will give you some deeper content on that answer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c78GnlSHKvM as, of course, would A Healthy Society.

Hey Ryan, I really enjoyed your blog post today. As someone who's also from a small town, I was wondering if you could elaborate on how, as leader, you would reverse the NDP's fortunes in rural Saskatchewan? 

Thanks. The blog post talked about a visit to my home town of Coderre, one of many communities that has shrunk considerably in recent decades. It was great to get out and listen to my neighbours, and I think that's at the root of what we need to do do revive the NDP in rural Saskatchewan. That means going beyond one-off tours to developing a strategy for outreach that includes 1) field agents - based on the model used by the Wheat Pool - that are supported by 3 or 4 rural constituencies to do outreach through staff rooms at schools, on coffee row, anywhere people gather where politics can be discussed and 2) developing policies, and a vehicle for those policies (eg a Rural Issues Caucus within the party) that will allow us to reflect what we hear in rural Saskatchewan and send a clear message that we actually care and want to take action to improve life everywhere in the province, not just in the cities.

I'm looking forward to this; something I've been kicking around in my mind for awhile (and I will be posing this to the other candidates when I get chance) is the new low we seem to be reaching within the political sphere. You've talked a lot about 'changing the conversation' as part of your political mantra, and I'm curious as to how you would achieve that.

Would you support legislation that would prevent 'negative' ads from being ran by either party? Would you support legislation, that applied heavy consequences, that would make lying to or misleading the public more costly than it currently is to politicians? 

Is there a legislative method that we can use to not only keep politics more honest, but also ensure that politicians who do mislead the public face real consequences for their actions? Or, do you favour a non-legislative approach, and if so, what would that be?

Scott, this is very close to my heart. I really feel that changing the conversation means not only redirecting our political decision-making toward the goal of greater wellbeing, but also changing how we treat each other (within our own party and those across the floor). I haven't thought deeply about legislation as a barrier to negative politics, but it's an idea worth considering. The trick would be to set up (or tap into the existing) the arms length body that could make a clear judgment on whether the advertising was truthful, and establish clear criteria for what is considered too negative. Before we get to legislation, the first step is modelling better behaviour. I'm trying to do that in this race, keeping on the best of possible terms w my fellow candidates. I'm also committed to leading an NDP that leads by example, demonstrating first and foremost our commitment to decency and respect. I think that is what people want to see – thus there's some strategic merit – but more so, it's the right way to go.

*This add-on was added later, by Ryan, and its due time I put it here as well.

In follow-up, and after careful consideration and some discussion with friends in the legal profession, I edited my above response. While the need for a more positive politics is clear, and the temptation to use legislation to get there a real one, the risk of crossing the line into censorship is too great. The existing laws around defamatory libel should be enough to limit actual falsehoods. The onus for positive politics should rest first with those who practice the art, and legal recourse reserved for extreme circumstances.
Thanks again for the question, and I hope you understand the sober second thought on this one.

Ryan, Saskatchewan is scarred by racism. It is a problem the pervades much of the discourse in this province. How do you propose we work to heal the wounds of aboriginal people? What can you do as leader to help bring people (aboriginal, new immigrants, settler descendents) to understand and appreciate each other?

Thank you for this question. I work and live in an inner-city community. Most of my neighbours and patients are First Nations. Their current experiences of racism, combined with generations of marginalization and abuse (residential schools, reserve system, 60s scoop etc.), contribute greatly to worse health outcomes and worse life experiences.

As a province we need to recognize that as long as we're divided we can't truly progress. I would look to include, in all policy considerations, ways in which we can promote unity, heal existing racial divides, and generally work to address existing and potential inequities.

Glad to see you on here. You've been a vocal critic of the recent cuts to refugee health services. Why do you think this is such an important issue? Is there something that could be done at the provincial level to help fill in the gap for SK refugees?

The decision to cut refugee health care was very short-sighted. It's less fair and more expensive, and one can only think it was designed to flare up division among Canadians. I would far rather see us clamouring for greater coverage for all, rather than less coverage for the most vulnerable. Below are a couple of relevant blog posts that go into more detail.
http://www.ryanmei.li/media_release_meili_calls_for_saskatchewan_government_to_stand_up_for_refugee_health_care http://www.ryanmei.li/shift_on_refugee_health_care_an_encouraging_development

Hi Ryan. I have a few questions, some, all, or none of which you may choose to address. Thanks.

New Democrats are sometimes stereotyped as starry-eyed idealists with no appreciation for the practical. The historical evidence is to the contrary. In Saskatchewan, it was CCF/NDP governments that created the first civilian air ambulance service in the world; brought electricity to farms that, as late as 1950, were lit by coal oil lamp; built a road system that, at the time, was studied as a model by engineers from around the world; etc. These are things you can see, touch, and use. Why don't New Democrats talk more about our practical accomplishments?

Dwain Lingenfelter was the first NDP leader who did not become premier. Why? What lessons do you take from this failure?

You've spoken and written about the need for government to embrace 'evidence-based policy.' Setting aside the fact that evidence is often ambiguous, contested, and contradictory, even the best/clearest evidence is descriptive not prescriptive. I prefer to think of evidence like a GPS: it can provide you with a route and keep you on track, but it can't tell you where you want to go. In politics, only values can provide a destination. What are your values? How do they differ from Brad Wall's?

The Wall government has undertaken to review and 'reform' Saskatchewan labour legislation. It has been suggested that the government may abandon the Rand formula and the roughly 60 years of relatively peaceful, predictable labour relations built upon it. What is your position on the issue? What are your larger views regarding the role of unions in society?

You've worked as a rural relief physician. Given your experiences in smaller communities, how would you balance the desire of rural residents to maintain their way of life against the increasing cost of providing services and maintaining infrastructure in sparsely populated areas.

Broadway Cafe or Park Cafe?
6 Qs = short answers 1. I classify myself as a practical idealist. We need to have a vision of the ideal, we need to be able to plan the steps to get there. Highlighting the practical successes of the past, and being clear about both the what and the why of future successes is key. 
2. There are a # of reasons. One clear one is the party chose, under Mr L's leadership, to go personally negative against a popular premier. This backfired badly. New Democrats are better served by an approach that is consistent with the values we represent. 
3. See prev answer. Evidence-based, values driven. Hence the mix of re-framing the db8 toward greater wellbeing, then using the best evidence available to guide our decisions. 
4. I'll direct you to the website for a longer answer and video on my thoughts on labour policy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMiMHRQdNns Simply put, the worker's movement is key not only for our political success or the well-being of unionized workers, but for greater equality and better health outcomes for all. 
5. Tough challenge, using modern technology, greater sope-of-practice for non-physician providers, and over the long-term training more physicians from (and in ) rural areas are key elements. 
6.Park Café, no Q. It's a block away, the owners are good friends and supporters, and the food is great. I do enjoy a semi-regular breakfast with Roy Romanow at the Bway café, however, so it has a place in my heart as well.
You are back at your practice and off to go get a flu-shot for your patient when you hear a loud bang in the lobby. Once you investigate, you discover that a man with outdated fashion sense has appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Upon closer inspection, you recognize him as Tommy Douglas! He unknowingly opened a time vortex as he was writing his mouseland speech and has begun freaking out at all the advanced technology in your lab like computers and the internet. Once he calms down, you realize you only have a short period of time before Mr. Douglas has to return to his own time period to avoid a paradox.
You are given the opportunity to give Mr. Douglas three pieces of advice regarding healthcare so that he may have that knowledge when he returns to parliament. What advice do you give him?

Love it! 1) Don't let this unexpected interaction with the future disrupt the mouseland speech, it's gold. 2) Don't cave on fee-for-service, salaried or mixed payment is essential to allow docs to move beyond assembly line care to real patient-centred practice. 3) Don't, by any means, lose track of the fact that our goal is greater health, not better health care. Get to Phase II of Medicare as quickly as you can!

The film tax credit program was recently gutted under the Brad Wall government and SCN was sold off. What plans would you have for the movie and TV industry if you were to become leader?

I think this was a decision that really reflected the SK Party's excess reliance on resources as the sole opportunities for economic development. I see arts and culture, including the film industry, as key elements of a more diversified, boom-and-bust resistant economy and work work with film, TV, and other cultural industries to develop a new approach that would help these industries, and the talented people working in them, to thrive.

I have several questions:
1)You've been tossing around ideas like a Bank of Sask and SaskPharma. How do you plan to implement,pay and run them?
2) Yes or No, will you run in next general election, if you do win?
3)You seem to be spending most your time promoting your book. Shouldn't you be concentrating on promoting the NDP?
4) How does the social determinants of health meme differ from NDP core values held for decades?
5) Positive politics can also be used to limit and suppress debate by making criticism and differences taboo. Do you think that your campaign has,or will, reach this extreme end in order to promote your candidacy?

Hi there,

1) There are many sources of provincial revenue, from fine-tuning our progressive taxation system, to retooling royalty structures in key resource industries, to working to expand economic growth in key sectors outside these: eg co-ops, Community Economic Development, the film industry, renewable energy. The great thing about SKPharm and the Bank of SK is that they have the potential to increase provincial revenues substantially once established.

2) Yes, i'll run if i win. Funny question that.

3) The book highlights my political philosophy and the ideas of the SDOH, it also gives insight into my reasons for running and gives deeper perspective into the shift in political discourse that the idea of a healthy society offers. In that (as you say in Q 4) this is consistent w the values of the NDP, that shouldn't be seen as in competition. The book is a key element of my campaign, a great way to share ideas more deeply. It also will be, I hope, a part of a greater shift in political discourse not just here in SK or for the provincial NDP, but across the country and beyond. The response so far suggests that will be the case. In any case, I see it as deeply complimentary to the goals of this campaign and our party, not a source of competition.

4) It more clearly expresses these values in a way that is accessible, and connects with a drive (better health for themselves, their family, their neighbours) that extends across political lines and can increase our electoral success.

 5) I've never shied away from arguing about ideas. It is important to highlight differences and to let the best ideas emerge through that process. Nit-picking small details on policies during a leadership gets away from the point of a broader exchange of ideas. Trolling, personal attacks, or other forms of online or in-person goonery add nothing whatsoever to the political discourse.

I liked your comments in this video about how labor rights are being slowly rolled back.
The Sask Party seems to be taking a slow and steady approach to reducing worker rights. How will you counter this strategy of patiently chipping away at unions, and more importantly, how will you make this resonate with Saskatchewan voters - many of whom are not union members?

Thanks. I like the analogy to the fight for Medicare. The more we focus on defending what we have, the more it will be eroded. We need to expand and improve our universal coverage, getting people excited about the next steps rather than concentrating on the past. The same is true for the worker's movement. We need to propose the next wins that will excite people in and outside of the labour movement. These include ideas like pay equity, access to quality, affordable child care, a minimum wage that's indexed to be a living wage, or the expansion of occupational health and safety and labour standards to better cover non-union workers. I'm sure there are other win we could come up with together, and that's why I feel we need real consultation with the workers and public about current struggles and the available opportunities. 

We have four strong candidates, why are you the best one of the job?

I agree we have 4 great candidates, and each will have an argument (experience in the leg, experience outside the leg, professional experience, personal strengths) for why they should be chosen.

Ultimately members will have to choose, and I really hope they do so based on who they feel would best represent the party and its vision, that they go with their hearts on who they would trust the most, on who appeals to them the most. I hope that because it means our party will stay more true to its values, but also because voters outside the party will be looking for the same thing.

I do think there is a distinct difference in my approach, that with the other three you will get good politics, but politics that aren't much different than what we've seen before. With my candidacy there is a chance for a fundamental shift in approach (again see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c78GnlSHKvM ). Again, of course, it will be the wisdom of the members that decides who will best represent the party in this rebuilding and growing phase.

I noticed in your Wikipedia article that you advocate that health care focuses too much on the current problem and too little on the issues that lead to the problem. 

Would you have any plans that you'd like to put in place to help inform the populace on what can be done to avoid issues in the future, such as school programs?

Do you think that living an active/healthy lifestyle could be a big money saver for hospitals and government healthcare, or could it lead to just as many issues but of a different variety such as bone fractures/injured muscles?

Thanks for this question. What I'm proposing is that we go beyond health care, or even what we tend to think of as prevention, to address the real determinants of health: income and its distribution, education, employment, housing, nutrition, the wider environment etc. Elements of that would involve school programs, but we're really talking about policies that seek to enhance equality and provide greater opportunity for people to thrive. As for exercise, it's an important element of good health, and while there are certainly health problems related to overuse or over-activity, they certainly don't pose nearly the threat to wellbeing or to health costs as sedentary lifestyles and poor diets.

With the (not so new) news that Canada is one of the world’s worst polluters—what is your plan for Saskatchewan that doesn’t involve green-washing?

And Saskatchewan w the highest GHG output per capita. While we have challenges related to our climate that make us use more energy, we could do so much better. I would focus on
1) moving away from coal, and not toward nuclear generation of power.
2) moving to renewable sources of energy: solar, wind, biomass, run-of-the-river hydro. We have among the best resources available to do this in the country, we should be early adopters and leaders, not laggards.
3) government – as representatives of the people and stewards of the land – playing a central role in setting and enforcing environmental standards.

Given an ultimatum, would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

It's about time I got asked this question of immense importance to SK politics. I'd go w horse-sized duck. I hope to win this leadership race, and then work closely with my fellow candidates as a team. The same goes for horse-sized duck. How useful would it be, once beaten and tamed, as an ally in the fight for social justice!!!

1) How does it feel being the oldest this time around? But, seemingly most in touch with the youth?..
2) How will you effectively communicate evidence based politics, something seriously lacking at all levels of government, once becoming leader? 

1) It is funny to be the old guy this time (I'm 37). Last time i was 34 and the frequent comment was that i was too young, now all the other candidates are as young or younger than i was then. I don't think chronological age matters too much, there are differing levels of youthfulness and maturity in each of us. I do think, however, that it's a great thing that we're guaranteed a generational change in this race.

2) The analogy of evidence-based medicine is a helpful starting point, and one people seem to relate to. see http://ahealthysociety.tumblr.com/tagged/EBM for more
Using examples of evidence-based policy development (such as the health disparity report work referenced in this article http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/in-sickness-and-in-wealth/ will also help.

And, like any new concept that needs time to work it's way into the public discourse, rinse and repeat. The more we talk about this, the more people will come to expect it. I do believe this is an idea whose time has come, the appetite is there for a more rational approach, but it needs champions.

I connect deeply with the land and natural ecosystems within SK. Duck Mountain Provincial Park is one of my favorite places. Where do you like to go to connect to the land and forget human stress?

Lots of places.
1) The farm, 45 mi SW of MJ, wide open spaces, rolling hills.
2) Ile a-la-Crosse, about 5h N of Saskatoon. Huge beautiful lakes to paddle in the summer, several km of ski trails in the winter.
 3) Saskatoon, holiday park in the winter for skiing – it's amazing to see deer and feel far from the city so close to home – and swimming at Beaver Creek Boat Launch in the summer. There's nothing like swimming in a lake or a river to make you feel alive.

Favourite Book of All-Time?
Book You're Reading Right Now?
Favourite Book To Read To Your Son?
I'm nearly done, have to go at 4:30, so i'll end w a fun one. 
1) I read Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger every year or two. The writing is whipsmart and funny and the story quite profound. 
2) I just bought A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, but am only a few pages in. He's also very clever and a captivating writer. I spend a lot more of my time reading (and writing) policy these days, but fiction is a huge part of how I learn about the world and enjoy it too 
3) Abe's 15 months now. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb - he loves this one, especially where it says "hand picks an apple, hand picks a plum" and he picks the apple of the page and pretends to feed it to me. We both find this hilarious.


Jason Hammond said...

Hey Scott,

Thanks as always for providing such thorough coverage of the various #skndpldr events including Ryan's Reddit AMA.

It's an interesting observation that the Twitter Town Hall and Reddit AMA have some superficial similarities in terms of how they engage people via an open online forum.

But I think there are two very important differences.

Reddit allows participants to provide much more in-depth, thoughtful questions and answers than if they're trying to do so within 140 characters.

(Case in point, the preceding paragraph was 147 characters alone! But this entire comment would easily have worked if I was posting it to Reddit.)

The other huge difference was in regards to the ability to moderat the discussion. As you mentioned in your coverage of it, the Twitter Town Hall got somewhat highjacked by both pro-life commentors and also Green Party members. In the Reddit AMA, the presence of neutral moderators, meant that the one troll we did have who appeared and was somewhat belligerent was quickly rebuked by a moderator and could've been banned had they persisted.

Twitter town halls simply don't allow for this level of control which is why I see the two options as quite different, even if they have superficial similarities.

As has been mentioned, Ryan's team is very proud to be part of the very first Reddit AMA by a Saskatchewan-based politician.

Anonymous said...

Please note that Ryan returned to the AMA after reflecting on your question Scott.

Scott said...

^ The post has been amended to include both the original response and the follow up.