New polling numbers released in Saskatchewan suggest the Saskatchewan Party would mostly likely be defeated if an election was held today, says the executive vice-president of the polling firm.
The poll from Mainstreet/Postmedia suggests decided and leaning support for the NDP is at 49 per cent — an increase of seven points — compared to the Saskatchewan Party's 40 per cent, a drop of seven points.
"Those are numbers that should worry the government," David Valentin, Mainstreet Research's executive vice-president, told CBC Radio's Morning Edition.
What should particularly worry the Saskatchewan Party is its weakening support in what are normally rural strongholds for the party, said Valentin. Outside urban centres, the NDP is tied with the Saskatchewan Party, the poll showed.
"It's the first time the two parties have been anywhere close in our polling in that particular area of the province," said Valentin.
"That's really the warning sign here because different seats outside of Regina and Saskatoon are suddenly in play, and these are seats that haven't been seen or discussed for some time."
Valentin said, overall, the poll reflects people's reaction to the contentious 2017-18 provincial budget.
"Now the question is, is this going to be defining? Is this going to be what brands the government?" he said.
"The numbers tell us the Saskatchewan Party would most likely be defeated if an election were held today."
Premier reacts to numbers
Reacting to the poll, Premier Brad Wall said his party knew budget decisions meant the party would "likely see a decline in popularity with Saskatchewan voters."
"The Mainstreet poll out today, though not entirely consistent with our own research, certainly points to such a decline for our party," Wall said in a Facebook post.
The poll suggests Liberal and Green support is unchanged at six per cent and five per cent respectively.
Mainstreet surveyed a random sample of 2,000 Saskatchewan residents May 15-16. Responses were weighted using demographic and geographic information to targets based on the 2016 Census.
Respondents were asked what party they would support if a provincial election were held today. A random sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.19%, 19 times out of 20.
A poll in April by another polling firm found support for the Saskatchewan Party had dropped sharply following its unpopular budget, but that poll had the party still maintaining a four-point lead over the NDP.
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The poll released Thursday suggests support for the NDP was most pronounced in Regina, with 58 per cent of decided and leaning voters choosing the NDP under interim leader Trent Wotherspoon, versus 29 per cent choosing the Saskatchewan Party led by Brad Wall.
It suggests Saskatoon was slightly in favour of the NDP, at 46 per cent, with 42 per cent supporting the Saskatchewan Party.
In the rest of the province, support for the two parties was tied at 46 per cent.
The margin of error for Regina is +/- four percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error for Saskatoon is +/- 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error for the rest of Saskatchewan is +/- 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Valentin mentioned some caveats about the poll, including the fact that the Saskatchewan Party still has two more budgets to help sway public opinion back to its favour.
The future of the province's NDP party — which will choose a new leader in May 2018 — makes it tough to predict whether the party will take advantage of the bump it enjoyed in the latest poll.
"How do the NDP build on this? And the new leader, once they choose him or her, what will they put forward as their priorities?" said Valentin.
The poll also asked people in Saskatoon and Regina for their opinions on the performance of their mayors.
In Saskatoon, 67 per cent of respondents approved of Mayor Charlie Clark's performance, with 14 per cent disapproving and 20 per cent not sure.
Regina Mayor Michael Fougere had a 48 per cent approval rate, with 38 per cent disapproving with 14 per cent not sure.