NDP lays groundwork for Saskatchewan electoral success
Party looks to new urban ridings for foothold in 2015
Federal New Democrats have already begun a charm offensive to win over voters in Saskatchewan, even though the next election is still two years away.
The party held its annual caucus retreat in Saskatoon this past week.
But some MPs also held a town hall, visited the local university campus and went door knocking across parts of the city.
"The NDP's been fighting to abolish the Senate and I'm wondering if you agree with that position, if you've thought about it all," Manitoba MP Nikki Ashton asked one homeowner.
Many people seemed more interested in enjoying a warm summer evening.
But for Erica Spracklin, who organized this door knocking blitz, it's never too early to start campaigning.
"It shows people that Ottawa hasn't forgotten about Saskatchewan, and that the NDP hasn't forgotten about Saskatchewan, even though we don't have any NDP MPs here," she said.
The ridings in Saskatchewan have been redrawn, creating some urban seats in neighbourhoods seen as more friendly to the New Democrats.
Former provincial cabinet minister Pat Atkinson is considering running in one of them.
She says the province has changed a lot since the last time an NDP member was elected here, and the federal party has to recognize that.
"I think we have to have a program that has a message that speaks to Saskatchewan, which has changed. In the last decade, Saskatchewan is a much more multicultural province than it was in the last federal election, and Saskatchewan has a younger population," Atkinson said.
University of Saskatchewan political scientist Charles Smith agrees with Atkinson.
"Saskatchewan traditionally has been much more dominated by a rural society, with agricultural being a dominant economic engine of the province. Well, that's changed a little bit," Smith said.
Smith says the province's growing urban character is reflected in the new ridings.
But he says it's not guaranteed the NDP will win them.
"You know, if you look at the Saskatchewan Party, the conservative party of Saskatchewan, it's done very well in urban Saskatoon and Regina. They've won seats in the suburbs, stole voters from the provincial NDP, in a way that you can't automatically say those voters are going to go back to the federal NDP," Smith said.
But he added the Conservatives will have to work harder, too, to get re-elected.
"One of the things they've done very well is play to their base. And I think that's meant that often urban voters in Saskatoon and Regina feel alienated from their representatives.
"They can't do that anymore. So I think the Conservatives will have to work hard to win that support," Smith said.