03/09/2012 04:30 EST | Updated 05/08/2012 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan NDP Leadership Race: Five MLAs Mulling Bid


REGINA - Saskatchewan's New Democrats will begin the rebuilding process this weekend after a crushing election defeat.

The party will decide the rules and timing for choosing a new leader at its provincial council meeting Saturday in Saskatoon.

Five of the nine New Democrats who were elected last November say they're thinking about a leadership bid.

Veteran MLA Buckley Belanger said Thursday that he hasn't made up his mind, but he thinks it's important to have aboriginal involvement.

"If one of us aspires to be a leader then I think that'll prompt a lot of discussion, it'll prompt a lot of thought and I think in the long way it'll empower a lot of aboriginal people to think about politics and to think about the possibilities," said Belanger, who was first elected in 1995.

"And that's one of the things that's in the back of my mind."

Other MLAs who are weighing their options include: Cam Broten, Danielle Chartier and Cathy Sproule -- all from Saskatoon -- along with Trent Wotherspoon from Regina.

Broten and Wotherspoon said they're giving a leadership bid serious consideration.

Chartier said there are a lot of things to think about.

"We'll see with the timing of the election, I think, will play a part in that. But I just have many people to talk to and I think the biggest pressing thing for me is family. I've got a young family and I'm not quite sure if that is conducive to leadership," she said.

Interim leader John Nilson, veteran MLAs Warren McCall and David Forbes, along with Doyle Vermette, said they won't seek the top job.

McCall said he knows what he'd like to see in a new leader.

"Some dynamism, some integrity, some ability to connect with all kinds of different people across this province and some knowledge of the democratic process and how to make that work for people," McCall said Thursday on his way into the assembly.

The NDP was in tatters after the provincial election last fall.

It was left with just nine of the 58 seats in the legislature and captured 32 per cent of the popular vote _ the lowest the party has ever received in Saskatchewan under the NDP banner.

Leader Dwain Lingenfelter lost his own seat and resigned.

Political observers said after the election that it could take the party years to recover.

Ken Rasmussen, associate director of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina, said at the time that leadership will be a big issue.

The party needs someone who can challenge Brad Wall, a popular premier whose Saskatchewan Party won a record 64 per cent of the popular vote along with 49 of 58 seats. The largest popular vote in the province before that was 57 per cent by the Liberals in 1912.

The provincial council can choose from three options for a leadership race: by election at the next regular provincial convention with each riding choosing delegates who vote for leader, by election at a special provincial convention where there would be twice as many delegates from each riding as a regular convention or by a vote of all party members in a one member, one vote system.

The previous two leadership votes were conducted using one member, one vote.

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