Nicole Sarauer ended the year in a position she didn’t expect to be at the beginning of 2017.
“I had no idea really what I was getting myself into until I got into it,” Sarauer joked in her year-end interview with 980 CJME reporter Sarah Mills.
The Regina MLA is the interim New Democratic Party leader and will remain as such until the NDP convention in March 2018.
“Taking on the challenge has been such a rewarding experience. It’s been a very steep learning curve, very challenging, somewhat stressful at times. But I felt so honoured to have the support from our strong team of MLAs as well,” Sarauer said.
“I have appreciated the support from folks in the province. I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience.”
The year has brought transition for both the NDP and Saskatchewan Party as leadership campaigns got underway.
Premier Brad Wall announced his retirement from politics in August and there was a byelection in Saskatoon, neither of which were anticipated when Sarauer took on the role of interim leader in June 2017.
Sarauer also came to the position as a female at a time when women’s voices have never been louder.
2017 saw sexual harassment allegations made from Hollywood down, the #metoo social media campaign and an accusation of sexual assault against a former Saskatchewan NDP member.
Sarauer said the party has done some important work over the last several months to hold the provincial government to account for Saskatchewan’s high rate of domestic violence and proposing solutions.
“While at the same time addressing as an organization what we can be doing to ensure that we are a safe place or as safe a place as we can be for everybody in our party,” she said.
“Especially right now, that’s something every organization should be looking at and we should all be pushing forward for that work.”
She hopes her time as NDP interim leader, however short, will inspire others.
“Those who maybe don’t traditionally see themselves in these types of leadership positions can see that frankly if I can do it, they can do it too,” Sarauer said.
“I recognize the uniqueness of me being in this position and how important that can be to open doors in the future. I hope that what I’m doing is opening a door wider for those who come after me.”
The NDP appeared to gain momentum in 2017. From a low last year of another election defeat and the loss of its leader to polls this year suggesting the NDP could win the next election — not to mention the opposition gaining back the urban vote.
The polls were conducted soon after the Saskatchewan government’s unpopular budget.
“We share the frustration of people. What we are hearing loud and clear are people who are frankly frustrated of a tired and arrogant government that have stopped listening to the people that elected them,” Sarauer said.
“I am proud of the work we have done reaching out and listening. We have so much work to do, but what has flowed out of that work is our ability to enact positive change, particularly rolling back some of the heartless cuts we saw in the last budget.”
Sarauer contends there is more work to do and more people to meet and learn from. She added she’s excited about what can still be built upon as they work toward the next provincial election in 2020.