Saskatchewan electors have not changed their voting habits: The Conservatives won 13 seats in Tuesday night's federal election, the same number they had going into the campaign.
The only non-Conservative to win a seat in the province was Ralph Goodale, the incumbent Liberal in the riding of Wascana. Goodale secured 46.1 per cent of the vote in the riding, which covers a part of Regina and some adjacent rural areas. His closest challenger was Michelle Hunter, from the Conservatives, who garnered 34.4 per cent of the vote.
For part of the evening there was an exciting see-saw battle in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, where the NDP and Conservatives faced off after incumbent Conservative Carol Skelton announced she would not be running again.
The new candidate for the Conservatives, Kelly Block, the former mayor of Waldheim, and Nettie Wiebe of the New Democrats traded the lead a few times as the night wore on. When all the polls were counted, Block prevailed by 253 votes.
The vast northern riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River stayed Conservative. Rob Clarke was in his second election campaign this year, having won the riding for the Conservatives in a byelection in the spring.
David Orchard, who won the nomination for the Liberals, placed second in the riding. Orchard is a former candidate for leadership of the old national Progressive Conservative Party.
In Palliser, an urban-rural riding that covers Moose Jaw, portions of Regina and rural areas in between, voters had three relatively well-known names running for the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats.
Ray Boughen, the Tory candidate, was declared elected ahead of Liberal Cal Johnston and the NDP's Don Mitchell. Boughen and Mitchell are former mayors of Moose Jaw. Johnston is the former police chief in Regina.
Johnston, who retired in spring 2008, was a last-minute entry to the field. He replaced Garry Oledzki, who stepped down as the Liberal candidate for what he described as personal and professional reasons. Oledzki has since been temporarily suspended by the Law Society of Saskatchewan. The society is investigating a complaint relating to how Oledzki handled a will.
Boughen managed to increase — by just under one per cent — the Conservative share of the vote in the riding, while Liberal support there, in the name of Johnston, dropped by three per cent.
Conservatives increase vote take
The best showing for the Conservatives was posted by Ed Komarnicki, in Souris-Moose Mountain, who beat his closest competitor by a 4-1 margin. Komarnicki secured 70.5 per cent of the vote in the primarily rural riding in Saskatchewan's southeast corner, which includes the communities of Weyburn and Estevan.
Overall in Saskatchewan, the Conservative vote increased to 53.7 per cent of the popular vote, from 49.4 per cent in the 2006 campaign. The Liberals suffered an overall loss in support, down 6.7 per cent to 14.9 per cent. The NDP, which was shut out of Saskatchewan seats for the third straight federal election, increased its share of the popular vote by 1.2 per cent to 25.6 per cent.
Two Conservative candidates had a spotlight on them as pundits watched to see if mistakes and missteps would influence voters. Gerry Ritz, the agriculture minister, was criticized for making light of an outbreak of the food-borne illness listeriosis. He won handily in his riding of Battlefords-Lloydminster.
Tom Lukiwski similarly coasted to victory in Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, unaffected by the negative publicity generated when his anti-gay slurs, recorded on amateur video in 1991, surfaced in the spring. Lukiwski apologized for what he said and acknowledged during the campaign that his political career would long be associated with the video.
The Green party — which fielded a full slate of candidates in the province — saw an improvement in its share of the Saskatchewan popular vote compared with 2006, collecting 5.6 per cent of ballots Tuesday night. The party also placed third in one riding, Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, pushing the Liberal candidate there into fourth position.
In the last election, in 2006, Saskatchewan voters sent 12 Conservative and two Liberal representatives to Ottawa. Those standings changed when a 13th Conservative was added in the 2008 byelection win. Before Tuesday's vote, Goodale was the only Liberal incumbent from Saskatchewan.