What does the federal election mean to Saskatoon?

What does a Liberal majority mean for Saskatchewan? We asked two Political Studies professors to find out.

Political panel sifts through federal election results

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau gives his victory speech after Canada's federal election in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. (Jim Young/Reuters)

What a difference a day makes.

While the New Democratic Party made gains across the province in this year's federal election, much of the province remained Conservative. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party has achieved a solid majority government nationally, despite winning only one seat in Saskatchewan.

To decode what all of this means to people here, Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski talked to political panelists Greg Poelzer and Charles Smith. Both are political studies professors at the University of Saskatchewan.

Liberal majority

While the Liberal party still only has one seat in Saskatchewan, the party now controls the levers of power in Ottawa. 

So, how will Saskatchewan fare in a Grit-dominated parliament?

"There's going to be some challenges for Mr. Trudeau right off the bat," said Professor Smith. "I think it will be tough to try and balance getting resources to market, especially oil and gas, while dealing with local environmental issues, indigenous peoples and all the issues that they've raised about the environment. So, that will be tough. I think it will put some of the prairie MPs that (Trudeau) has in his caucus will put them in a (difficult) position," he said.

However, Poelzer said he believes the Liberals are generally seen as pro-development and doesn't think there will be many issues.

"The Liberals unapologetically campaigned around things like the Keystone XL and supported energy subject to environmental assessment," said Poelzer. "Those are going to be challenges, but I think they're ones where people are going to be open and more trusting of  a new government," he said.

Poelzer also believes the Liberals' strong track record with First Nations will also help with energy projects.

"Liberals were first out of the gate on First Nations issues," he said. "It was one of their five key pillars and I think that's also going to be helpful in restructuring the relationship with them."

NDP gains

While the New Democrats managed to win three seats across the province, the panel was surprised the New Democrats didn't put in a stronger performance, especially in the historically NDP friendly area of Saskatoon West.

"That's a riding that should have been a cakewalk for the NDP, and it was a much closer race," said Poelzer. "If you think about it it, she did win the plurality of the votes, but nearly two-thirds of the voters didn't vote for (NDP candidate) Sheri Benson."

In Saskatoon, support seemed to be evenly split between the NDP and the Liberal party. Smith believes that happened 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."

However, Poelzer isn't so sure. He believes 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."

Conservative Future

As the official opposition, both professors believe the Conservative Party needs to take a close look at its future heading, and how it will look at policy.

"I think they've got to go back and listen," said Poelzer. "I think if they want to be competitive in the future, they've got to move more towards the centre and more of a Progressive Conservative type party."

Smith agrees, stating that large sections of Eastern Canada and British Columbia voted Liberal.

"I think the only way they're going to be able to rebuild, and especially in Toronto, Vancouver, Atlantic Canada, Quebec is to address that legacy, and think through some of the reasons why an overwhelming majority of Canadians were disappointed and voted against them."


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