Parties adjusting to Sask. election campaign constraints
Election call could come as early as Wednesday
Saskatchewan's two main provincial political parties are preparing for election campaigns unlike any the province has ever seen.
The Saskatchewan Party's executive director Patrick Bundrock said the campaign it had been planning since 2018 has "changed dramatically."
Face-to-face large campaign rallies and close contact door knocking will be replaced by smaller gatherings and door knocking at a two-metre distance.
"We're making sure that our candidates and our volunteers are safe, but we're also making sure that all voters are safe and respected," Bundrock said.
"To give you an example, if I were to knock on your door, I would immediately step back six feet and I would have a mask on. If there was a person with me, they would be six feet behind me on the sidewalk. We want to be respectful."
Public health guidelines allow door-to-door solicitation. They also allow gatherings of no more than 30 people, unless two metres of physical distancing can be maintained.
Bundrock said the gathering limit will change how campaign events are held.
Election call to come within the next 9 days
Premier Scott Moe can call the election anytime between Wednesday and Sept. 30. By law, Saskatchewan's electoral period is a maximum of 34 days and a minimum of 27.
Campaigning has already begun, with door-knocking, ads, mailers and social media posts.
It is the online activity that Bundrock said is most noticeable.
"I would say within the last 60 to 90 days, every political party in Saskatchewan has engaged in more social media activity than ever before. You've seen both major political parties transition to more online fundraising, the use of emails, Facebook and Twitter."
The restrictions around face-to-face events have turned parties to the phones and not only in the traditional sense.
Bundrock said the Saskatchewan Party contacted voters through a texting campaign, which he said respected voters while also respecting COVID-19 restrictions. But he said texting, tweeting and phone calls cannot replace an in-person discussion.
"I think it's the job of every political party that they should contact as many voters as possible, ideally every voter, and look them in the eye and ask them what their concerns are and what their support is," Bundrock said.
NDP adjusting to unique campaign
Saskatchewan NDP CEO John Tzupa said COVID-19 has forced changes with how the party is tackling the campaign, which he said has the potential to change from day-to-day if health guidelines are adjusted.
"We want to connect with people. We want everyone to feel safe. We want to look after our candidates, our volunteers, the public, and do our best."
Tzupa said the pandemic is not the only reason for an increase in the use of social media and digital communication.
"One of the things that we are already seeing that is causing us to adapt is fewer people have landline phones so they don't have their phone numbers listed."
He said the party is using different methods of communication for different demographics. For example, Facebook may not be the best way to reach someone in a seniors' home, or even a young voter.
Tzupa said the traditional "fun" of a campaign for volunteers is the camaraderie and teamwork that occurs, but that too will look different.
"You're not necessarily going to be able to have those high energy events where there are a whole bunch of people in a room. So we need to try and find other ways to harness energy and connect with our people."
Sask. Party running full slate, NDP still needs to choose 16 candidates
The Saskatchewan Party has nominated 61 of 61 potential candidates, filling the last spot in the constituency of Cumberland on Friday afternoon.
As of Friday, the NDP had 45 of 61 candidates selected. Tzupa said the NDP will field a full slate.
As of Sept. 12, Elections Saskatchewan records indicate the Progressive Conservative Party and the Saskatchewan Green Party have nominated 15 candidates each.