Regina University candidate Aleana Young of the NDP looked to upset Sask Party incumbent Tina Beaudry-Mellor in a rematch of their 2016 Saskatchewan election showdown.
Four hours after the polls closed Monday, Beaudry-Mellor held a narrow lead in the vote counts, but a winner had not been declared.
Update: On Thursday October 29, Beaudry-Mellor conceded the race to Young.
Young received 3255 votes to Beaudry-Mellor’s 3029 pending a final vote count on November 7.
Young is a 33-year-old small business owner who has served as a Regina Public School Board Trustee for Subdivision 2. She was also pregnant during the closing months of her campaign which some might imagine was quite a unique challenge.
“ I have been really lucky, in the sense that I have felt really good throughout the duration of my pregnancy, not everyone does,” said Young, who gave birth to a daughter the day before the election.
“However, and I should say I also have a fantastic team of people around me, which matters in every election campaign whether you’re pregnant or not, but I think it’s also really important to keep in mind that women do things and go to work while very pregnant every day. There are women who are lawyers who are going to court nine months pregnant, there are servers who are working eight-, 10-hour shifts on their feet, there are nurses and doctors, contractors. The fact that it is so unusual for me to be a candidate in a political contest while nine months pregnant I think speaks to the fact that we need more women running, more young people running, more people with young families and that our current legislature isn’t representative of the people who it seeks to serve.”
Young is currently on leave as a trustee. She has served as a trustee for eight years. Young was also elected to two two-year terms as vice-president for the Saskatchewan School Boards’ Association.
“It’s been a remarkable opportunity to serve both locally and at the provincial level,” Young said.
She believes that her experience working on school boards would allow her to succeed as an elected representative.
“ I passionately think that school board trustees make some of the best representatives,” Young said. “And this isn’t a partisan answer, if you look at folks sitting in government, whether in opposition or with the Sask Party, there are a number of former school board trustees. It’s a wonderful opportunity to start a local community. School boards here are thankfully non-partisan boards, they work cooperatively and collaboratively and if at all possible, are governed by consensus. I think it’s a fantastic way for people to serve their communities.”
Young has been a strong advocate for an increase in Saskatchewan’s minimum wage. She cites her own store, Takeaway Gourmet, as a success story of a business that prospers while paying its employees a living wage.
“One of the things that’s really important to me locally is that I own a small business.” Young said. “And we pay our staff a living wage, $15 an hour. It has done wonders for my business and has not impacted us negatively at all. I don’t know how we can have a government that can proudly stand up and say people who work 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
“We are, I think, Saskatchewan’s best gourmet food and cheese store. We carry local products, imported products, we pay our staff a living wage. We are very fun, very friendly, when there’s not a global pandemic, you can come and sample all the cheese which is pretty fun. We try to be fancy and fun but accessible as well.”
Young’s campaign strategy didn’t shift significantly this time around. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic there’s been a greater emphasis on phone calling and online voter outreach. The pandemic has made it difficult to contact older voters.
“There’s definitely been more phoning and there’s been some challenges around things like being able to engage with senior citizens.” Young said. “Obviously candidates aren’t allowed into senior’s residences or complexes which makes sense for public health and for protecting vulnerable populations but does make it a challenge to connect with a really important voter base.”
Young’s daughter Hara Louise Astarte Roadhouse was born the day before the election. After Young announced the baby’s birth on Twitter, Beaudry-Mellor responded with well wishes: “I hope both you and she are doing well. Hara will be a strong woman.”