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Archive for the ‘Saskatchewan’ Category

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks in Canadian politics, with elections taking place in Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland & Labrador, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Results are now in, with Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and NDP supporters all having at least something to smile about. The two major trends were reduced turnout and continuity – in each election the incumbent party was returned to office.

Last Monday, Robert Ghiz’s PEI Liberals won a resounding 22-5 majority – although, given pre-election speculation they might be wiped out, the provincial Progressive Conservatives have some reason for encouragement.  They did better than expected, are within 12 points of the Liberals, and will be particularly pleased to have picked up seats like Tignish-Palmer Road in the west of the island. The PEI NDP and Green parties failed to make an impact, each polling under 5%:

On Tuesday, Greg Selinger’s Manitoba NDP won a record fourth consecutive term in office. The NDP won 37 seats (+1 from 2007), the Progressive Conservatives 19, with Manitoba Liberal leader Dr Jon Gerrard retaining his seat in Winnipeg’s River Heights division (the Liberals lost their only other seat). The PCs closed the gap in terms of votes, but their leader Hugh McFadyen fell on his sword on election night after anticipated seat gains failed to materialise:

Only in Ontario was the incumbent party reduced from majority to minority status, and Dalton McGuinty didn’t sound too displeased on election night – he was within a single seat of a majority and neither the PCs nor the NDP seem keen on another election any time soon:

In Newfoundland & Labrador Kathy Dunderdale’s PCs won an expected third consecutive term, with the Liberals just about edging out the NDP in seats to retain official opposition status. The NDP will however take consolation from the impressive tripling of their vote – from 8.2% in 2007 to 24.6% this year:

Last but not least, two of Canada’s three arctic territories also went to the polls. The Northwest Territories uses a non-party system for it’s territorial government. In the Yukon, the incumbent centre-right Yukon Party was returned to office with 11 seats (up 1 seat from 2006) – the territorial NDP will be pleased to have overtaken the Liberals, doubling their previous number of seats to become the official opposition:

Election season isn’t over yet – Saskatchewan votes on November 7, with most polling evidence still pointing towards a victory for Brad Wall’s incumbent Saskatchewan Party. If Wall does retain office, that’ll make a remarkable 6 out of 6 sweep for provincial and territorial incumbents this year.

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In 1944 a 40 year old former Baptist preacher named Tommy Douglas shocked the Canadian political establishment by leading the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) to victory in the 1944 Saskatchewan provincial election – and forming the very first socialist government in North America.

Tommy Douglas went on to be voted “The Greatest Canadian” by CBC voters from coast to coast while his CCF went on to win four straight provincial elections after 1944 before later evolving into the Saskatchewan NDP – in total the CCF and NDP have governed Saskatchewan for 47 of the last 67 years, winning 12 of 17 elections.

The NDP lost power in the 2007 election after a 16 year stint under premiers Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert. The NDP achieved 37.2% of the vote in 2007 (down 7.4% from 2003) and won just 20 of the 58 seats (down 10 from 2003).

Their nemesis was the centre-right Saskatchewan Party, a centre-right grouping founded in 1997 (largely from the ashes of the provincial Tories) and led by Swift Current MLA Brad Wall. In 2007 the SKP won 50.9% (+11.6% from 2003) and 38 seats (up 10 from 2003).

Saskatchewanians go to the polls again on November 7 to pass judgement on the SKP’s first term. Polling evidence is relatively scarce (the most recent poll I could find was from Insightrix Research a month ago and showed the SKP at 58.2% to the NDPs 30.8% with Liberals on 4.2% and Greens on 5%) – numbers which are very much in line with what other polls have been saying over the past 2 years.

Numbers like these, repeated on polling day, will result in a large Sask Party victory, an increased majority and may see the NDP reduced to a hard core of urban and far north strongholds.

With opinion polling like this, the NDP may be tempted to focus on defending its existing seats, rather than spend resources on the 10 seats they’ll need to gain to take power. The NDP won 5 seats with a margin of under 10% in 2006 – these seats will be especially vulnerable to a swing to the SKP:

For the NDP to actually regain power and win an overall majority they’ll need 30 seats in the 58 seat Legislative Assembly – a gain of 10 from their current total of 20. There are 7 Sask Party seats which would be low-hanging fruit in the event of an NDP recovery – in Moose Jaw North for example the NDP lost last time by just 33 votes:

That’s where the good news for the NDP ends – after the low-hanging fruit, the going gets distinctly tougher. They’ll need to win all 7 marginals along with 3 of the following 6 of the next most vulnerable Sask Party seats:

It will also be worth watching for shifts in regional party support. As in neighbouring Manitoba, politics is quite regionally polarized in Saskatchewan, with the SKP very strong in rural areas and the NDP strong in the far north, the capital Regina (with its large public sector worker population) and, to a lesser extent, in Saskatoon and smaller urban areas like Moose Jaw.

In 2007 the Sask Party broke into the NDP urban strongholds for the first time (especially in Saskatoon) and it’ll be interesting to see whether this encroachment continues. It’s notable how many of the marginal ridings listed above are clustered around Saskatoon and Regina.

What little polling evidence there is available points unequivocally to an Saskatchewan Party victory on Nov 7. The Sask Party also have the benefit of a popular and charismatic leader in Premier Brad Wall.

The NDP on the other hand have a real mountain to climb and will need to run a hell of a campaign to win back power. It’s also worth remembering that Saskatchewanians are not in the habit of voting out provincial governments after a single term – the last time this happened was over 75 years ago in 1934.

If you’ve enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out ‘Showdown on the Prairies’ from the CBC’s Digital Archives which features some fascinating extracts from the last 50 years of CBC Saskatchewan election coverage.

As for the next chapter in Saskatchewan’s political history, after November 7 we should at least have a clearer picture of what the future has in store.



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