Belanger named NDP deputy leader

By Mac Christie

Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger has been named the deputy leader of the NDP, following November’s election that saw the party win only nine seats in the province.

Belanger, who has been Athabasca’s MLA since 1995, will also be the party’s critic for environment, forestry, highways and infrastructure and the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.

He noted that while being named to several portfolios will cause a strain, he’s familiar with the subjects.

“I was Minister of Highways and Minister of Environment, so I know a lot of the files quite well,” he explained. “Having that background experience is going to be of assistance, there’s no question about that.”

He also said it’s an honour to be named deputy leader of the party where his focus will be on rebuilding support.

“There’s a lot of work we need to do to rebuild the party,” he said. “You want to be the deputy leader when the party has 30 seats, that’s the objective.”

NDP caucus chair David Forbes, MLA for Saskatoon Centre, said naming Belanger deputy leader shows the importance of the North to the NDP.

“We wanted to make sure that all regions are well represented,” Forbes noted. “Buckley brings a lot of experience and a lot of issues to the table that many of us don’t often think of.”

Forbes added Belanger’s experience as MLA should serve the party well.

“He’s seen a lot of things in the house and the different processes,” he explained. “He’s going to bring a wealth of knowledge, that’s for sure.”

For his part, Belanger said although being deputy leader will mean more travel, the North is still his home.

“It’ll require a bit more time away from my constituency,” he said of his new responsibilities, “but home is home and that’s where I plan to be for as many free hours as possible.”

Belanger added he thinks his position sends a message to the aboriginal community, but stressed the party is focused on rebuilding.

“We’ve got 15 percentage points to make up over the next four years, which we intend to do,” he said.

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