Saskatchewan·Opinion

Leaders must 'act to heal the deep divisions' revealed by election results in Sask.

The solid blue painted over Saskatchewan after Monday’s election reveals — and will contribute to — the challenges that lie ahead for the province.

All-Conservative representation will bring challenges

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speak after the results of Monday's election. This election showed "the worst in our political parties maybe, perhaps even our leaders, but not in Canadians themselves." (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press; Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press; Ben Nelms/CBC)

The solid blue painted over Saskatchewan after Monday's election reveals — and will contribute to — the challenges that lie ahead for the province.

Premier Scott Moe's barely concealed efforts to boost the political fortunes of the federal Conservatives and their leader Andrew Scheer delivered his desired result in Saskatchewan.

While the 14-seat sweep might be a political success for the Conservatives, the result isn't exactly likely to deliver the economic policies that are best for Saskatchewan. 

With his hopes for a Conservative federal government led by Scheer dashed, Moe has two choices: He can join Alberta's Jason Kenney et al by further fuelling the corrosive politics of division and alienation that threaten to tear apart Canada, or he can take a lesson from former Alberta statesman Peter Lougheed and strive to work with the federal government for the good of all Canada.

Saskatchewan and Alberta went Conservative in 47 of 48 ridings in Monday's election. (CBC News)

Moe and other leaders need to be mindful as they go forward. Canada not only needs to get its house in order to succeed, but also to take a leadership role in an increasingly troubled and divided world.

The departure of the influential Liberal Ralph Goodale leaves Saskatchewan with no representation within Justin Trudeau's caucus in a minority government where the Liberal leader will need support from other parties on confidence votes to remain in power. 

The lack of Saskatchewan NDP MPs in Parliament will have an impact on the decisions of leader Jagmeet Singh on issues, such as energy policy, that are highly important to the West, particularly when it comes to proceeding with the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which is integral to the short-term economic future of Alberta and Saskatchewan. While Canada needs to accelerate the transition and use proven mechanisms such as carbon taxes to reduce consumption, banning a pipeline that moves oil to tidewater isn't the answer.

(CBC News)

Despite the political hot air on both sides of the pipeline debate, the reality is that oil and gas will continue to be part of the world's energy mix for years ahead. The full transition to renewables cannot happen at the turn of a switch.

Trudeau on Monday night acknowledged the economic hardship facing Saskatchewan and Alberta, and promised to work with them. It's a good start.

Canada cannot continue along this path for long without irreparable harm.- Sarath Peiris

The loss of Saskatchewan New Democrats is also a further sign of the erosion of the party, both federally and provincially, and of policies that fail to address issues of regional interest. For the Saskatchewan NDP, born of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the immediate future looks bleak as it heads into a provincial election in 2020.

Even the splits evident elsewhere in Canada — urban versus rural, north versus south — didn't materialize in Saskatchewan.

With a solid slate of 14 Conservative MPs, whose party was clear that its primary interest was to advance economic growth through developing the oil and gas industry and paying lip service to concerns about climate change and the environment, young voters in the province, who may have pushed the results left, were sidelined. 

While rural farming communities might get some solace in having MPs in opposition, the issues facing Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan will have to be delegated to a senator, or done off the side of a desk of an MP or two from another province.

The challenges that permeate the lives of Indigenous people — reconciliation, poverty, poor housing, unsafe water and diminished economic prospects — barely drew mention during the election campaign, but will be need to be addressed if Saskatchewan is to tap the talents and strengths of this mostly young population that can contribute much to our future.

How the 338-seat House of Commons breaks down, by party, after the 2019 election. (CBC News)

Despite Scheer's bravado about his party's readiness to take over the moment Trudeau's minority government falls, the Liberals' 156 seats place them in a fairly stable position, especially with the NDP lacking the financial resources to fight another election in short order.

Let's hope that all leaders act to heal the deep divisions that were exacerbated with Monday's vote. Canada cannot continue along this path for long without irreparable harm.


This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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About the Author

Sarath Peiris was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1955 and spent his career at the Moose Jaw Times Herald and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He was the StarPhoenix’s opinions editor and editorial writer.

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