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Cam Broten Voted New Saskatchewan NDP Leader

03/09/2013 04:00 EST | Updated 05/08/2013 05:12 EDT
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SASKATOON - Saskatchewan New Democrats chose MLA Cam Broten as their next leader, but the results released on Saturday showed a division within the party.

Broten captured 4,164 of 8,284 votes cast on the second ballot at a leadership convention held Saturday in Saskatoon _ just 44 votes more than Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili.

It was a close race that tested nerves.

"I think I drank three litres of water while I was upstairs waiting for the last hour to pass," Broten joked with reporters after the win.

"(I'm) thrilled to be given this honour and really looking forward to the future...but we know we have a lot of work to do as a party and as a caucus."

For Meili, it's the second time he has lost "by a hair" in a bid to become NDP leader. Meili came in second to Dwain Lingenfelter in 2009.

"It was bloody close," Meili said after the results were announced Saturday.

"Who would expect that I could get closer to winning this time than last time and that means there was, I think, an appetite for the vision that I had, but obviously what Cam brought forward also appealed very much to the party members."

MLA Trent Wotherspoon was also in the race, but withdrew after getting the fewest votes on the first ballot. He did not back another candidate, but promised to work with the new leader no matter who it was.

"Any time there's a competitive race, there's some division through that process," Wotherspoon said after his concession speech.

"But...that's not a palpable division at all, in fact I feel that the spirit of the New Democratic Party is strong right now. They're excited about tomorrow, they're excited about where we're going to be going next year."

Political watchers have said the selection of a new leader would signal a generational shift.

All the candidates were under the age of 40 _ Broten is 34, Meili is 37 and Wotherspoon is 33 _ and more than two decades younger than Lingenfelter, who was 60 when he took the helm of the party.

Broten was born in Regina and raised in northern Saskatchewan and Saskatoon.

The married father of two young girls was first elected in Saskatoon Massey Place in 2007 and re-elected in 2011. He currently serves as the Opposition critic for health, seniors, advanced education, employment and immigration. Broten's political roots run deep _ his grandfather, Hans Broten, also served in the legislative assembly.

His biggest task will be rebuilding the NDP, which holds just nine of 58 seats in the Saskatchewan legislature after being all but decimated in the 2011 provincial election. Lingenfelter even lost his own seat.

Broten was quick to talk Saturday about taking steps to unite the party, whose members appeared divided after the vote.

"We need everyone involved. I fully recognize that and that's the way that I want to go," he said.

"To the supporters in the other camps, I want you involved. I want those individuals participating in the party, rolling from what they're doing now into the activity of the NDP. Please stay involved, stay engaged. We've got a lot of work to do and we need all hands on deck."

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