Another Conservative sweep in Sask. possible, says polls analyst
Éric Grenier says Saskatchewan could surpass Alberta as most Conservative
Saskatchewan's federal electoral map was painted royal blue less than two years ago. Polls analyst Éric Grenier says history could repeat itself this September when voters head to the polls again.
Following a meeting with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Sunday morning, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon approved his request to dissolve Parliament, triggering the issuing of the election writs and formally beginning Canada's 44th federal election. Canadians head to the polls on Sept. 20.
On Oct. 21, 2019, the Conservative Party of Canada swept all 14 seats in Saskatchewan. The Tories also won 33 of 34 seats in Alberta and the most seats in British Columbia and Manitoba.
The CPC garnered 64 per cent of the vote in Saskatchewan and 69 per cent in Alberta.
Grenier, a polls analyst and the creator of thewrit.ca, said Saskatchewan could surpass Alberta in terms of conservative support.
"There's the potential that at the end of the election, Saskatchewan could be the most conservative province in the country."
Grenier said declining support for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, coupled with a strong base of support for Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, could push Saskatchewan further right than its western neighbours.
"Scott Moe is probably the only relatively popular conservative premier right now outside of Atlantic Canada. So it does make things different for the federal conservatives than in Manitoba or Alberta, where Kenney and Pallister are in trouble."
Grenier said a repeat of 2019 could mean Alberta and Saskatchewan "going further to the right further in terms of support for the conservatives as the rest of the country kind of moves in a different direction."
Dwindling support for Liberals
Four years made a big difference, as support for the three major parties shifted dramatically from the 2015 federal election to 2019.
The Conservative's percentage of the vote in Saskatchewan jumped from 48 to 64 from 2015 to 2019. Conversely, the NDP dropped from 25 to 17 per cent, and the Liberals dropped from 24 per cent to 11.
The Liberal Party's 11 per cent in Saskatchewan was the lowest mark for the party in Canada. Its failure in the province was highlighted by the defeat of longtime Regina MP and former deputy prime minister Ralph Goodale.
The Conservative Party could not break through in Eastern Canada and the Liberals were able to win another minority. The election result led to Regina-Qu'Appelle MP Andrew Scheer's exit as the leader.
Thirteen of the 14 Conservative incumbents in Saskatchewan will be running again. Only Tom Lukiwski, who was the MP for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan, decided not to seek re-election. Former Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie has been nominated for the Conservatives in the riding.
Grenier said that while the campaign can change things, at the moment he would not be surprised by the status quo.
"I'm not really seeing a lot of opportunities for the other parties to win seats. The polls are still very good for the conservatives in Saskatchewan."
Grenier said the Conservative brand is "quite a bit healthier and the NDP is not nearly as strong."
"In Saskatchewan, Scott Moe is still pretty popular. [Provincial NDP Leader] Ryan Meili never really broke through. I think that is helping for the federal Conservatives."
The three closest Saskatchewan races in 2019 were:
Saskatoon West - Brad Redekopp of the CPC defeated NDP incumbent Sherri Benson by 2,900 votes.
Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River - CPC Gary Vidal took 42 per cent of the vote beating NDP incumbent Georgina Jolibois (28%) and Liberal candidate Tammy Cook-Searson (26%).
Regina Wascana - Michael Kram of the CPC knocked off veteran Liberal MP Ralph Goodale by 7,000 votes.
Western alienation and the Maverick Party
Grenier said western alienation was one of the biggest stories to come out of the 2019 election.
Following the blue wave that swept through Western Canada, Wexit — a Western independence movement — sprung up. It led to the creation of the Maverick Party, which will run candidates in the election under the leadership of former CPC House Leader Jay Hill.
In the 2020 Saskatchewan election the Buffalo Party, formerly Wexit Saskatchewan, ran a slate of candidates garnering 2.5 per cent of the vote. It finished second in four ridings in Saskatchewan's southwest and southeast.
Grenier said a recent Angus Reid poll had the Maverick Party at 10 per cent support in Saskatchewan and seven per cent in Alberta.
"It's not impossible that the Maverick Party in Saskatchewan finishes ahead of one of the major parties, which would be kind of interesting."
In 2019, the Green Party received 2.6 per cent in Saskatchewan, while the People's Party of Canada grabbed 1.8 per cent.
Grenier pondered if, should the Conservatives again sweep Saskatchewan, Alberta, the rural parts of Manitoba and the B.C. interior, "will we be talking about that western alienation, especially if you see the Maverick Party and People's Party take a big chunk of the vote?"
Federal election lacks big names, storylines in Sask.
Grenier said there will likely be fewer standout storylines in Saskatchewan for this federal election.
Compared to 2019, the campaign in Saskatchewan will not have Ralph Goodale trying to hold on to his seat, Regina Qu'Appelle CPC MP Andrew Scheer is no longer party leader and the NDP has no seat to try to defend.
When it comes to issues, the carbon tax has dominated political discourse in Saskatchewan the last several years, but it may not be a top issue on the campaign trail outside the province.
"The carbon tax is probably not going to get nearly as much national attention as it did just two years ago," Grenier said.
He said he expect the leaders may stop in Saskatchewan, but that they won't be spending much of their time here.
"[Visiting] doesn't help the Conservatives if they win Saskatchewan with 75 per cent of the vote. But I think that for a Conservative leader, you have to at least make a stop in your heartland."
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Grenier said the NDP will concentrate its time on B.C.'s Lower Mainland and parts of Ontario.
"If the NDP decides to make a stop in Saskatchewan, they might feel that they have a shot at one of those seats."
Grenier said recent provincial elections have seen voter turnout stagnate or drop and more people are casting their ballot by mail. He said to expect those trends to continue in the federal election.