NDP leadership hopeful Ryan Meili clarified a statement he made during the first leadership debate.
The debate was held in Regina Oct. 28.
The two candidates, Meili and Trent Wotherspoon, were asked what policies they would put in place to put unemployed people back to work.
“We have Indigenous communities where we have 80 plus per cent of the population not working. That needs to be a top priority,” Meili answered. “We cannot close the gap, we cannot talk about reconciliation if we are not also talking about giving people who are Metis and First Nations the first shot at the best jobs.”
Two weeks after the debate, Meili was asked to clarify his remarks.
“I don’t know if you have ever been in one of these debates, but when the time clock runs out and you’re trying to get your points out and I think that was a bit of a rhetorical flourish,” Meili explained.
Meili insisted that doesn’t mean he wants everyone else to get to the back of the line.
“I think that would be a pretty extreme position but I do think we need to be taking some serious measures to make sure there are employment opportunities and good employment opportunities for First Nations and Metis people,” Meili said.
Those measures include ensuring that both the educational and entrepreneurial opportunities exist, particularly in remote locations.
Meili cited La Loche, which doesn’t even have a coffee shop, as somewhere that could benefit from such a policy.
“How do we help local communities to seek out those, where it is the social entrepreneurship, co-op type model or help people who want to take a risk and start their own business,” Meili added.
Meili said too often companies say they hire indigenous workers but don’t follow-up with that commitment.
“Maybe we should be requiring some evidence that that’s done especially before we see companies seeking out workers from out of province,” Meili said.
The NDP will pick a new leader in March 2018.