NDP leadership hopeful Ryan Meili. Photo courtesy saskndp.ca

NDP leadership hopeful Ryan Meili says he would reinstate the NORTEP teacher education program if eventually elected as Premier.

On Friday, Meili rolled out his platform for post-secondary education policy if selected as the party’s leader.

His plan includes lower tuition rates in the province and goals to make education more available for remote and rural communities. Among his promises was one to reinstate the NORTEP/NORPAC program.

The program was cut and consolidated with Northlands College by the Sask. Party government last year. A decision that has been questioned numerous times by the NDP opposition over the past year.

Sask. Party representatives say teacher education in the north is important. They say the consolidation allows that to happen, but with a smaller burden on Saskatchewan taxpayers.

Meili says in his point of view, NORTEP was a successful program that was not a burden.

“It was a very successful program, and the decision to cancel it, is what I describe as a solution in search of a problem,” he said. “There was nothing wrong with NORTEP, and the decision to get rid of it didn’t make any sense.”

NORTEP did boast a retention rate of over 90 per cent of graduates who stayed in the north to teach. Only time will tell if the consolidation would change that, but this year did see lower numbers enroll in the revamped program.

Meili admits, it would be quite the process to reinstate the program at this point. He doesn’t have a specific plan, but believes the logistical details can be worked out if there is a focus on the right goal.

“One of the best things about NORTEP was the degree to which leadership across the north were involved,” he said. “We need to sit back at that table again and figure out what’s the step forward for something that does reflect the needs of the north.”

Also included in Meili’s post-secondary policy was a desire to adopt the Indigenization initiative currently underway at the University of Saskatchewan into other post-secondary institutions.

“I think it is a great model for educational institutions and actually for the Government of Saskatchewan,” he said.

Meili will be travelling through La Ronge and Stanley Mission early next week for his campaign.

The NDP are expected to select their new leader in March.