Blue wave in Saskatchewan shows 'deep frustration' with Liberals: U of S professor

The Conservatives sweep of every seat in Saskatchewan in Monday's federal election shows a deep frustration with the federal government, says the University of Saskatchewan's Greg Poelzer.

Conservative Party won all 14 of province's seats on Monday night

People watch the election results Monday night at Malty National in Regina. The Conservative Party swept the province, winning all 14 of Saskatchewan's seats. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

The Conservatives' sweep of all 14 Saskatchewan seats in Monday's federal election shows a deep frustration with the federal government, says a University of Saskatchewan professor.

"Whether it's fair that that frustration is aimed at the Liberals or not, it's there and it's palpable," Greg Poelzer, a professor of political science at the School of Environment and Sustainability at the U of S, told Jennifer Quesnel on Saskatoon Morning Tuesday.

"Alberta and Saskatchewan don't feel like they're being valued or listened to."

Though the Liberals were returned to power in Monday's election with a minority government, they lost their only seat in Saskatchewan, as Michael Kram defeated incumbent Ralph Goodale in Regina-Wascana.

The Liberals were also entirely shut out in Alberta, where the Conservatives won 33 of 34 seats.

Poelzer said in Saskatchewan, this election was all about pipelines — but not just because of oil.

"When you have oil going on rail cars, you don't have agricultural product going on rail cars. And so you've got those twin things in terms of our rural economy," he said.

The Liberals' Ralph Goodale lost his Regina-Wascana seat to Conservative candidate Michael Kram. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Jim Farney, head of the political science department at the University of Regina, told The Morning Edition's Stefani Langenegger the country is basically back to the politics of the 1990s.

The Bloc Québécois — which went from winning 10 seats in 2015 to 32 on Monday — is back representing regionalism in Quebec.

And in Western Canada, Farney said, "we've got a — I don't like going as far as 'alienation,' but [a] quite upset group of folks on the Prairies."

He said this is the first time that Saskatchewan has voted as a bloc since 1965, when John Diefenbaker's Conservatives won all of the province's seats.

Jim Farney is a professor with the University of Regina's politics and international studies department. (CBC)

He feels the Conservative sweep is not just about pipelines, but also economic and cultural policies initiated by the federal Liberals.

"I don't think they're kind of the abortion and same sex marriage type of social issues, but national identity stuff," Farney said. "Trudeau is not in alignment with people on the Prairies … and he's trying to move the country in a direction they don't like."

Farney said once the province's fight against the federal carbon tax is settled by the Supreme Court, all levels of government will be able to turn their attention elsewhere.

"At some point, the provincial government has to find something to be for, and not just opposing pipelines."

Federal-provincial relations

Charles Smith, a political science professor at St. Thomas More College at the U of S, thinks Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are probably happy to have a foil in Ottawa, at least in the short term. Smith donated to Ryan Meili's campaign during the 2017 Saskatoon Meewasin byelection.

Had the Conservatives won this election, they would have still faced the same obstacles in trying to build pipelines, Smith said, including environmental concerns and resistance from Indigenous communities.

This is the nastiest election I think I've seen in in my lifetime, [in] a very petty, undercutting, passive-aggressive way.- Greg Poelzer, U of S professor

With 121 seats in Parliament — up from the 99 they won in 2015 — the Conservatives still have a significant voice in Ottawa.

"It's just not going to be a voice in the Trudeau cabinet," Smith said. "And I think that that's not necessarily a bad narrative for Conservatives … if the Conservative goal is to paint Trudeau as anti-West, anti-resource."

Charles Smith is a political science professor at St. Thomas More College. (CBC)

But Poelzer said while that may be true in the short term, that sort of polarization will hurt Saskatchewan in the long run.

"We have no voice in Ottawa," he said, adding the federal government is unlikely to forget how personal the attacks were against Goodale, a longtime Liberal MP and cabinet minister.

"Independent of where your party allegiance is, I think Ralph Goodale has been one of the most respected members of Parliament for generations, quite frankly, in a similar way that [Ontario's] Lisa Raitt is for the Conservatives," Poelzer said.

Raitt, the deputy Conservative Party leader, also lost her seat on Monday night.

"We lost two grown-ups in the election last night," Poelzer said.

"If you're the prime minister and you're answering phone calls from premiers, I would expect Saskatchewan to be close to the bottom of the list."

Nasty election

Poelzer said the country needs to come together or everyone will suffer.

"This is the nastiest election I think I've seen in in my lifetime, [in] a very petty, undercutting, passive-aggressive way," he said. "So the big question is, will the politicians rise above that?"

Greg Poelzer, a professor of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan, says the 2019 election was particularly nasty. (CBC)

Poelzer said while the NDP resonated in rural areas 30 or 40 years ago, the party is now seen as one catering to urban areas and the "latte crowd."

"There is that disconnect and that's growing, I think, in the Prairie region," said Poelzer, adding it didn't help that the NDP voiced opposition to pipeline projects.

Continuing friction

Farney said federal-provincial relations will continue to be strained not only in the West, but across the country.

"I think given that Quebec sent a pretty clear message with the [Bloc Québécois] it'll kind of get ramped up," he said.

"Premier [Doug] Ford and Ontario is going to come back into the media again."

The Conservative Party won 47 of the 48 seats in Saskatchewan and Alberta in Monday's election. (CBC News)

If the Conservatives are to make inroads elsewhere, leader Andrew Scheer must have a message that isn't just about pipelines, Farney said.

"They need to reach into parts of Ontario and parts of Quebec that look very different than the Prairies, and find a message that will resonate with someone who's not upset about pipelines and not upset about Trudeau."

With files from Saskatoon Morning and The Morning Edition


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