Brad Wall poised for another majority victory in Saskatchewan
But will the New Democrats rebound from a disastrous 2011 result?
The Saskatchewan provincial election campaign ends just as it began, with the incumbent Saskatchewan Party under Brad Wall enjoying a commanding lead in the polls.
The CBC Saskatchewan Poll Tracker, including all polls published to Saturday, gives the Saskatchewan Party the support of 59.9 per cent of voters, with the New Democrats trailing at 30.7 per cent. The Liberals and Greens are projected to have 4.3 per cent support each.
- Saskatchewan Poll Tracker: Check out the latest numbers
- The Pollcast: Election night and beyond in Saskatchewan
- Saskatchewan Live Results Dashboard
That is only marginally different from where the numbers stood when the legislature was dissolved on March 8. At the time, the Poll Tracker pegged the Saskatchewan Party to be ahead with 53.5 to 34.5 per cent support.
(The Poll Tracker will be updated with any new polls published on Sunday. Check here for the latest updates.)
Instead of tightening up, as campaigns often do as election day approaches, the margin between the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP has increased, from about 19 points to just over 29. That is not the kind of trend line that should give the New Democrats hope for a reversal of fortunes on Monday.
With these levels of support, the Saskatchewan Party is in a very strong position to win its third consecutive majority government. Taking into account 95 per cent of potential outcomes (which includes the kind of polling lapses that have occurred in other provinces in the past), the Saskatchewan Party is still projected to win between 39 and 58 seats.
In even the worst case scenario for Brad Wall, then, his party is still projected to land well over the minimum threshold of 31 seats required to form a majority government.
That leaves three to 22 seats for the New Democrats, running the gamut from a significant improvement over 2011's results to the worst result in the party's history.
The most likely estimates, however, see the Saskatchewan Party capturing 46 to 52 seats, with the New Democrats taking between nine and 15. That means the parties appear to be on track for the status quo.
And that has been the story of this campaign from start to finish. The shifts that have been recorded in public opinion were marginal. In fact, the current polling averages differ little from the polls that have been published over the last four years: the Saskatchewan Party has averaged 58 per cent in surveys conducted between the 2011 vote and the start of this campaign, with the NDP averaging 30 per cent.
Urban vs. rural
In the 2011 election, the New Democrats did much better in the two cities of Regina and Saskatoon than they did in the rest of the province. The rural parts of Saskatchewan, apart from the north, went en masse to Brad Wall's party.
The support margins between the Saskatchewan Party and the New Democrats remain virtually unchanged in Saskatoon and the rural parts of the province, according to the polls. The NDP trails by about 19 points in Saskatoon and 40 points outside of the urban centres. In 2011, that gap was 20 and 43 points, respectively.
But the race has gotten tighter in Regina. The polls suggest that the Saskatchewan Party is sitting on about 49 per cent of the vote in Regina, with the New Democrats at 42 per cent. That represents a drop of seven points for the Saskatchewan Party and a gain of one point for the NDP.
That opens up a number of constituencies to the New Democrats, if their vote totals match the polls — seats like Regina Coronation Park, Regina Douglas Park, and Regina Walsh Acres.
A handful of NDP gains in the provincial capital, however, won't put much of a dent in the Saskatchewan Party's towering lead elsewhere in the province. Local issues in the smaller cities of Moose Jaw and Prince Albert could see some seats flip, and higher profile candidates elsewhere in Regina and Saskatoon could have an impact as well, to the benefit or detriment of both parties.
But there is little indication from the polls that anything aside from a few local upsets should be in store for Monday night.
If the polls are right.
Wall re-election, or biggest upset in electoral history?
Pre-election polling can lead to the risk of an over-confident prediction. Steady leads in the polls for the Wildrose in Alberta in 2012 and the NDP in British Columbia in 2013 did not prevent both of these parties from coming up short on election day.
But this campaign is different.
In both those cases, opposition parties were poised to unseat incumbent governments. Incumbency can be a powerful force. But in Saskatchewan, the incumbent is the party already leading in the polls.
And that lead is enormous. In B.C., the NDP was ahead by seven points, on average, in the last week of the campaign. In Alberta, Wildrose was up by eight points.
The lead the Saskatchewan Party currently enjoys is three to four times that size. Brad Wall routinely polls as the most popular premier in the country, and his party has led in Saskatchewan voting intentions since before the 2007 provincial election.
A Saskatchewan Party defeat at the ballot box on Monday would not only be a big upset by Canadian standards, it would be one of the biggest polling blunders in the history of modern elections — anywhere.
But that doesn't mean questions don't remain. Will the Saskatchewan Party improve upon its historic 2011 results or will the baggage of nine years in office weigh it down? Will the New Democrats rebound with a more robust opposition, or will they take another step backwards?
We'll get answers to these questions on Monday night. And, who knows, perhaps a few surprises, too.