Brad Wall wins another majority in Saskatchewan's electoral déjà-vu

What's old is new again as Saskatchewan's voters do a virtual repeat of 2011's provincial election results.

Only three seats change hands in last night's status quo election

Brad Wall and his wife Tami arrive at the Saskatchewan Party victory celebration at Palliser Pavilion in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, on Monday, April 4, 2016. (Michael Bell/Canadian Press)

Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party was re-elected to a majority government last night, taking over 60 per cent of the vote and sending the NDP leader to defeat in his own constituency.

Apparently, Groundhog Day in Saskatchewan has moved to April.

The results of Monday's provincial election in Saskatchewan were very much like the results of the election that came before it. Strikingly so, in fact.

The Saskatchewan Party captured just under 63 per cent of the vote and prevailed in 51 of the province's 61 constituencies. The New Democrats took just over 30 per cent of the vote and won 10 seats.

Those tallies in 2011 were barely different: 64 per cent and 52 seats for the Saskatchewan Party (on the expanded electoral map) against 32 per cent and nine seats for the NDP.

Only three seats changed hands. The New Democrats picked up Prince Albert Northcote and Regina Douglas Park — both of them targeted ridings — but lost Saskatoon Westview. That just happened to be NDP leader Cam Broten's constituency.

At the provincial level, then, the analysis of the results is a simple one: with only a few exceptions, it appears that the people who voted for the Saskatchewan Party in 2011 did so again in 2016, and those who voted for the New Democrats in 2011 did so again in 2016.

For Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party, that is a remarkable feat for a government seeking a third term in office. They only just failed to better their popular vote result of the previous election, which was the best that any party has ever done in the province's history. Wall will have to comfort himself with posting just the second-highest vote share in Saskatchewan's electoral history last night.

Pollsters will also find comfort in the results. From the start of the campaign, the polls had indicated that the Saskatchewan Party was on track for a big majority victory. The last set of polls done in the final days were no different, pegging the party's support at either 60 or 61 per cent. The New Democrats were estimated to have 29 to 31 per cent support.

Urban/rural divide intensifies, a little

While the provincewide numbers were very similar to 2011's results, there were some notable variations at the regional level.

The Saskatchewan Party did take a small step backwards in Saskatchewan's two largest cities, dropping about three points in Saskatoon and more than six points in Regina. The Saskatchewan Party still won these cities with about 56 and 49 per cent, respectively, but its margin of victory was reduced.

It was not reduced as much as it might have been, however. The New Democrats only made small gains in the two cities, up one point in Saskatoon to 38 per cent and two points in Regina to 43 per cent.

The problem for the New Democrats was that they were unable to take advantage of the Saskatchewan Party's small slide in the cities. Instead, the Liberals were up to 4 per cent in Saskatoon and 5 per cent in Regina. Those were ballots the New Democrats would have desperately wanted to win. Had they gone their way, Broten would have held his seat.

But while the Saskatchewan Party's overall support in the urban parts of the province took a downturn (they were down one seat overall in the province's urban areas, thanks to the loss in Prince Albert), the party increased its advantage over the New Democrats elsewhere.

Brad Wall's party took 72 per cent of the vote in Saskatchewan's rural constituencies, up about a point from its performance in 2011. The New Democrats, however, slid five points to only 20 per cent in this part of the province.

So while the margin between the Saskatchewan Party and New Democrats tightened by about five points in the urban parts of the province, it widened by the same amount in the rural parts.

Historic showings

It wasn't enough to change the overall outcome of the race, however. And that outcome was historic.

For the New Democrats, it was the lowest share of the popular vote they have ever taken in an election. It is the third consecutive election in which the New Democrats have seen their support slide, something that has not happened since the party's birth.

For the Saskatchewan Party, this third consecutive majority mandate is the first to have been given to a party that isn't the NDP or the CCF since the Second World War.

Since 1938, only two other parties have won more than 50 seats: Roy Romanow's NDP in 1991 and Grant Devine's Progressive Conservatives in 1982. But both of those were first-term victories — not ones that came after almost nine years in office.

That is what makes Monday's status quo results so remarkable. Only very rarely have governments retained such high levels of support after two terms in power.

And that means Brad Wall's reign as the country's most popular premier may yet continue for some time.


Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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