Parties 'have to speak to our realities' in Sask., analyst says after campaign stops by 3 leaders

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Jim Farney, the director and an associate professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, said there's a chance Saskatchewan could see another campaign stop from at least one of the federal party leaders ahead of the Sept. 20 election. (Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit)
Jim Farney, the director and an associate professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, said there's a chance Saskatchewan could see another campaign stop from at least one of the federal party leaders ahead of the Sept. 20 election. (Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit)

While all 14 of Saskatchewan's federal ridings went Conservative blue in the last federal election, one local political scientist says there's a chance that could change in the upcoming race.

"The calculus is different for each of the parties, but they do have to speak to our realities [in Saskatchewan] — just as they have to speak to the whole country," said Jim Farney, the director and an associate professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

Regardless of the 2019 "blue wall" of Conservative votes, he said there are two urban ridings to watch that have been consistently competitive under different New Democratic Party candidates: Saskatoon West and Regina–Lewvan.

"I think you'd have to be pretty optimistic, but there are a lot of NDP supporters here — it's an important base of the party," he said, adding both ridings have wings of provincial NDP support.

"It's people voting for the party, not the person."

Farney also noted there's a group of Saskatchewan "swing voters" to keep in mind.

"Right now, we understand them as Conservative, but they're really voting against Ottawa. Every once in a while, the NDP can pick those folks up," he said.

However, Farney added, it could be harder for the Liberals in Saskatchewan.

With the exception of former Regina–Wascana Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, who held that seat for more than 20 years before losing it to the Conservatives in 2019, Farney said the province hasn't seen a vibrant federal Liberal presence in decades.

"A really good constituency campaign could move five per cent of the vote, so if you take the Saskatchewan baseline — or even the Regina baseline — for that Conservative-Liberal split, that five per cent for a good constituency campaign is hard to imagine" leading to a win, Farney explained.

"Goodale was a real outlier on that … but it's hard to see that magic being recreated."

Farney did say, though, the Liberals have a "decent chance" in some parts of northern Saskatchewan — especially in the Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River riding, where former provincial NDP MLA Buckley Belanger is now running as a federal Liberal candidate.

Takeaways from campaign stops in Sask.

All three major federal party leaders made campaign stops in Saskatchewan on Friday.

Farney said it's likely they wanted to check off the province before zeroing in on ridings in larger provinces.

Regardless of whether a party picks up votes where its leader tours, he said the act in itself helps ramp up the election campaign across the country.

"So much of contemporary politics is about getting people excited to come out to work for you and to come out to the polls," he said.

"The presence of a leader coming and saying, 'Hey, I'm in your community and I'm excited about you' — that has an affect on people."

Olivia Stefanovich/CBC
Olivia Stefanovich/CBC

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spent Friday morning on Cowessess First Nation, paying his respects in the wake of the discovery of what are believed to be hundreds of unmarked graves at the site of the former residential school there, before visiting a Regina coffee shop in the afternoon.

"Reconciliation is part of [Singh's] platform, so that's why he was there," Farney said. "It's not that people expect him to tip the Regina–Qu'Appelle riding — it's saying, nationally, 'Listen, I'm at Cowessess and I'm learning.'"

David Cochrane/CBC
David Cochrane/CBC

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who is hoping to turn his party's minority government into a majority in Sept. 20 election, made a brief stop at the Regina airport on Friday, where he offered a quick campaign speech before hopping on a flight back to Ottawa.

CBC
CBC

Later Friday night, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole was at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon to meet with supporters.

Farney said whether leaders return to Saskatchewan will likely depend on campaign dynamics.

"It depends how close their other draws are," he said, noting it's unlikely the province will see any leader in the final week of the campaign.

Farney predicted O'Toole could make another appearance in Saskatchewan "simply because he will get an enthusiastic crowd."

There's also potential for a Trudeau stop in northern parts of the province to support Belanger in his new Liberal candidacy, Farney said.

With many NDP strongholds in British Columbia and Ontario, Farney said it's not likely Saskatchewan will see another appearance from Singh.

He also doesn't expect a stop in the province from Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, who is likely focused instead on winning her riding of Toronto Centre.

Election day in Canada is Sept. 20.

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