Saskatoon

Good news story, bad news story: the NDP in Saskatchewan

As several high-profile NDP candidates were losing their seats on election night, the NDP picked up three seats in Saskatchewan.

Despite a lower per cent of the popular vote, the NDP picked up 3 seats

NDP supporters attend rally for leader Thomas Mulcair on Monday. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

As several high-profile NDP candidates were losing their seats on election night from Manitoba and eastward, the NDP picked up three seats in Saskatchewan — Regina-Lewvan, Saskatoon West and Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. 

It was a bright spot for the NDP on an otherwise bleak night. But the win in Saskatchewan wasn't as big as some had predicted, especially in urban ridings.

David McGrane, a political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, said the new riding distributions made a difference for at least two seats in Saskatoon and Regina, and one in the north.

Overwhelmingly Saskatchewan is still a Conservative province.- David McGrane, political scientist

"The Liberal vote rising it actually ended up taking votes away from the Conservatives, which some people thought would take votes away from the NDP, and it didn't seem to as much," McGrane said.

"So Liberals taking votes away, that allowed the NDP to go up the middle, at least in three of the ridings."

But he noted, "Overwhelmingly Saskatchewan is still a Conservative province."

Even though the NDP picked up three seats, it has a smaller percentage of the vote this time around than 2011.

Other observers were surprised the NDP didn't fare better in some of the urban ridings, such as Saskatoon West.

"That's a riding that should have been a cakewalk for the NDP, and it was a much closer race," political scientist Greg Poelzer said.

NDP unable to take all the urban ridings from the Tories

Political scientist Charles Smith said support for the NDP and the Liberals seemed to be evenly split because of a strong national Liberal campaign.

"I think the Liberal vote in Saskatoon rose because the campaign nationally was going well," he said. "That, to me, makes all the difference ... It was a national phenomenon. If that hadn't have happened, the NDP easily could have come up with a plurality."

The Conservative voter in the suburbs was not going to vote NDP.- Greg Poelzer, political scientist

However, Poelzer said many 'soft' Conservative supporters could have thrown their support behind the Liberals, but didn't, because they were afraid of electing the NDP.

"Strategic voting, I think, backfired locally, because the Conservative voter in the suburbs was not going to vote NDP," he said. "They would consider a centrist Liberal, and I think that's part of the story."

'It is bittersweet'

A victorious Sheri Benson smiles for the camera after winning in her riding. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

NDP MP Erin Weir won Regina-Lewvan by just 143 votes over the Conservative candidate. 

And in the north, the riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River went to the NDP's Georgina Jolibois, beating the Liberal candidate by just 70 votes.

Sheri Benson, who won the riding of Saskatoon West for the NDP, was cleaning up her campaign office as she prepares to start her term as a Member of Parliament.

Benson said she doesn't believe her party's fortunes will hinder her. 

From now until the next election, I plan to be the best MP, regardless of who people voted for.- Sheri Benson

"It is bittersweet, it wasn't the outcome for the country that we would've liked to have. But I'm really excited to work in Saskatchewan, with two other MPs." 

Benson said she also wants to work with all parties. 

"From now until the next election, I plan to be the best MP, regardless of who people voted for."

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