Saskatchewan

Sask. NDP want urban-only ridings

Saskatchewan's federal ridings need a revamp, members of the NDP say following the results of the national election which saw a healthy vote count for the party, but no wins in the province.
Noah Evanchuck was the NDP candidate in the mixed urban and rural riding of Palliser. (CBC)

Saskatchewan's federal ridings need a revamp, members of the NDP say following the results of the national election which saw a healthy vote count for the party, but no wins in the province.

Thirteen of Saskatchewan's 14 seats went to Conservative Party incumbents. Liberal Ralph Goodale was also re-elected Monday night.

NDP candidates placed second in the 13 races that went to the Conservatives. In three of those, the vote margin was less than 800.

"I actually thought I was going to win when I saw these numbers coming up here," Noah Evanchuk the defeated NDP candidate in the riding of Palliser said, scanning a map of the riding on Tuesday. "But it was not to be."

Evanchuk's early optimism may have been drawn from vote counts being reported from urban polling stations.

Poll by poll results have not yet been released to confirm suspicions, but many in the NDP say the configuration of Saskatchewan's ridings played a role in the election outcome.

In Saskatoon and Regina, voters share their members of Parliament with their rural cousins. The Palliser riding, for example, includes a chunk of Regina, the city of Moose Jaw and all the rural areas in between.

Saskatchewan is unique in Canada in that no ridings in the province have urban-only boundaries.

Evanchuk lost by 766 votes to Conservative incumbent Ray Boughen.

"I've heard a lot of concern from voters in Regina, in areas like Cathedral, who are concerned their interests aren't being represented in the existing boundaries," Evanchuk said.

Conservatives benefit

Denis Pilon, a political science professor at the University of Victoria, says the urban-rural split favours Conservatives.

"It just so happens," Pilon said in an interview with CBC News prior to the election, "that most of the Liberal and NDP votes are concentrated in that urban area whereas the Conservatives are much stronger in the rural areas."

"It allows the Conservatives to maximize their representation," he said.

Conservative Kelly Block, who was re-elected in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, said she was counting on rural voters to propel her to victory in a close race against the NDP's Nettie Wiebe.

"We knew that we were still needing to hear from some of our rural polls," Block said, following a bit of a nail-biter night. "That's when we knew for sure that we were going to win."

Ultimately Block prevailed with a margin of 538 votes.

The Conservatives popular vote in the province came in at 56.3 per cent and delivered 13 of 14 seats.

The Liberals garnered an overall popular vote in Saskatchewan of 8.6 per cent and managed to win one seat.

Those figures contrast with the NDP, which had overall support of 32.3 per cent of voters — and no seats.

"I just feel there's something a little bit wrong with the way the boundaries are distributed in the province," provincial NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter said Tuesday.

As it turns out, May 2 was also census day in Canada. As soon as the population is counted, a process will begin for a potential redistribution of federal seats.

An independent boundaries commission will also be created to determine the best way to draw the electoral map.

The last commission's report  considered urban-only ridings for Saskatchewan, but rejected the notion.