Saskatchewan votes: 5 things to watch for today

Here are five things to watch for as Saskatchewan voters head to the polls today for the provincial election.

Watch live coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. CT on CBC Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Party won a landslide in 2011, with a historic high of 64.3 per cent of the popular vote. Can Premier Brad Wall exceed that result this time around? 1:32

Here are five things to watch as Saskatchewan voters head to the polls today for the provincial election.

1. How big is the win?

The Saskatchewan Party won in a landslide in 2011, with a historic high of 64.3 per cent of the popular vote. Can the party hold or even exceed that result this time around?

Leader Brad Wall and his party have held a strong lead in the polls, but the past four years have brought their share of controversy, from exploding smart meters to dubious carbon capture claims at the government-owned power company, issues with the expensive and controversially located Regina bypass and mounting government debt and projected deficits.

Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall kicks off his party's campaign in Saskatoon on March 8. (CBC)

If the Saskatchewan Party does win on Monday, it will be the first party besides the Liberals (in the 1920s) and the CCF/NDP to win a third successive term in the province. It will also prolong Wall's outsized role on the national stage as one of the leading voices of Canadian conservatism — and one of the biggest thorns in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's side.

2. How strong is the opposition?

It has been a two-party legislative assembly since 2003, in the wake of a controversial 1999 coalition agreement between the minority NDP government of then premier Roy Romanow and the Liberal Party.

During that time, the number of NDP seats in the legislature has declined from 30 in government (to the opposition Saskatchewan Party's 28), to 20 seats when it moved across the aisle to opposition in 2007, to the disastrous results in 2011 when the party lost more than half of its seats and was left with just nine.

This is the first election for Cam Broten as leader of the NDP. (CBC)

This is the first election for the party's new leader Cam Broten. Will he rebuild the party enough to stave off leadership questions, after narrowly beating Ryan Meili for the job in 2013?

From a national perspective, could disappointing results in Saskatchewan mark the first in a series of unfortunate events for the New Democrats in April? After the Saskatchewan vote, federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair will face a leadership review at the party's national convention in Edmonton from April 8-10.

Then on April 19, the country's longest serving government could be in danger. After almost 17 years in power, the Manitoba New Democrats could be on track for a crushing defeat.

3. Who will be the 3rd party?

Speaking of that controversial coalition between the minority NDP government of 1999 and a handful of Liberals, the Liberal Party has not won a seat in the legislative assembly since that deal. 

The Green Party of Saskatchewan overtook the Liberal Party for third place in the 2011 election. (William Burr/CBC)

In fact, its percentage of the popular vote has been dropping with each election — from 20.1 per cent in 1999, to 14.2 per cent in 2003, 9.4 per cent in 2007 and a mere 0.56 per cent in 2011.

It even lost its third-party status in 2011 to the Green Party, which garnered 2.87 per cent of the vote.

Will a federal win for the Liberals in last fall's election boost the fortunes of its provincial cousins?

4. What is the voter turnout?

We already know we may see voter turnout drop in 2016, even if the same number of voters go to the polls.

For the first time, the province has a permanent voters list, which means many more people will be registered to vote than ever before.

Michael Boda is chief electoral officer for Elections Saskatchewan. (CBC)

An increase in the denominator means that even if everyone who votes in 2011 votes again in 2016 — the percentage will be seen to drop.

The chief electoral officer wrote about the issue in advance of the vote.

5. What role will the indigenous vote play in provincial politics?

As there was during last fall's federal election, there has been a push to get more indigenous voters to take part in the provincial election. But will it resonate in the same way that the messages during the federal campaign did?

Both the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP have made promises — from more money for education to more economic opportunities for First Nations people. 

With files from Éric Grenier


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