'A classic suburban riding': Regina-Wascana riding a Canadian microcosm

·3 min read

You may think you've never been to Regina-Wascana. But in a way, you probably have.

"It's a classic suburban riding," said Jim Farney, a University of Regina political scientist who lives in the area.

"Some parts are pretty low-income and some parts are pretty affluent. There's a mix of students and academics. There's a classic blue-collar neighbourhood."

It spreads from the main drag of Albert Street out to the eastern fringes of the city, bordered on the north by the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks and the south by tabletop flatlands.

Regina-Wascana's $56,000 average income is almost exactly the same as the Canadian average.

It has the shady elms and the cosy 1960s-era neighbourhoods familiar from any Prairie town, as well as some grand residences along the pricier postal codes.

Most homes are single-family, said Regina city Coun. Cheryl Stadnichuk. Most residents are long-standing.

"There are some people who have lived in their homes for 30-40 years," she said.

It has plenty of green space — Wascana Centre is one of the largest urban parks in North America — fiercely protected by its residents.

"If anything happens in the park, I hear about it," Stadnichuk said.

And like the rest of Canada, Regina-Wascana is growing more diverse.

"When we moved onto our little crescent 10 years ago, there were no visible minorities," said Farney. "Now, there would be four houses (where people of colour live)."

Its concerns aren't that different from other places in the country — government handling of the pandemic and the place of resources in Canada's future economy.

"How are we going to get out of this pandemic?" asked Coun. Lori Bresciani. "People are still stressed about it."

Many want to see oil pipelines built, if only to open up railway space for the area's grain exports, she said.

"Farmers are even frustrated an election would even be called."

Regina-Wascana has been around mostly in its present form since 1988. For most of its history, it was held by Liberal Ralph Goodale, now high commissioner to the United Kingdom.

That changed in 2019, when Conservative Michael Kram took the riding with almost 50 per cent of the vote. It was the end of decades of Liberal collapse in Saskatchewan that only took so long because of Goodale's unique personality and devotion to constituency work, Farney said.

"Goodale was an amazing constituency MP. If you went to an event, Ralph was going to be there."

Things may be changing. Farney said the Conservative grip on Regina-Wascana will be tough to break. But he likens the city to the Edmonton of 20 years ago — a city where increasing economic and ethnic diversity are starting to change its politics.

"Compared to the rest of Saskatchewan, there's a Liberal tilt because of that diversity."

Kram is running for re-election against Liberal Sean McEachern, a former Goodale assistant, and New Democrat Erin Hidlebaugh, a community worker. The People's Party of Canada has nominated Mario Milanovski, who works in information technology.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2021.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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