A possible Saskatchewan PM and 4 other provincial storylines about the federal election

Andrew Scheer is aiming to become only the second Conservative MP from Saskatchewan to be prime minister, one of several key provincial stories that will play out during this year's campaign.

Scheer and his fellow Conservative candidates should have little trouble maintaining the party's stronghold in the province.

The other two major parties have work to do.

"The story in Saskatchewan is one of defence by both the New Democrats and the Liberals. They want to make sure that they hold the seats that they have," said CBC polls analyst Éric Grenier.

"For the Conservatives it's a province that they do very well in, and picking up one to three seats would be important for them in order to try to get close to that majority mark, which is their goal."

Here is the Saskatchewan seat breakdown as we head into the campaign:

  • Conservative - 10.
  • NDP - 2.
  • Liberal - 1.
  • Independent - 1.

Here are five questions that will be answered on the way to election day.

1) Will we see a Saskatchewan prime minister?

Scheer has represented Regina-Qu'Appelle since 2004 when, at age 25, he beat out incumbent Lorne Nystrom. He has risen through the ranks of the party, and was elected Speaker in 2011. In 2017, he became party leader, edging out Maxime Bernier and garnering nearly 51 per cent of the vote.

Scheer, born and raised in Ottawa, has promised to eliminate the carbon tax and has spent time speaking about the anger of Westerners, specifically as it relates to energy policies of the federal government.

Chris Young and Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

"When you see the strength of the provincial, friendly parties in Western Canada that aren't officially affiliated with the federal Conservatives but certainly share a lot of the same policies, it's just the conservative brand is so strong in Western Canada," Grenier said.

In 2015, the Conservatives secured almost 50 per cent of the vote in Saskatchewan. Only Alberta had a higher percentage.

"I think it will be interesting in terms of watching a vision of Saskatchewan mirror back to ourselves on the national stage," said Jim Farney, head of politics and international studies at the University of Regina. "It's unusual to have that as a smaller province and I think Scheer [is] pretty close to the mainstream of Saskatchewan politics."

2) Can Ralph Goodale be beat?

Ralph Goodale is an anomaly in Saskatchewan. A lone blip of red on a map that has been mostly covered in Conservative blue for 15 years. 

Goodale, who will turn 70 in October, has owned the Regina-Wascana riding since 1993.

A billboard campaign was launched this spring by a Saskatchewan-based political action committee asking Regina-Wascana residents to vote him out.

"Most Canadians vote for parties first and then, you know, they'll pay attention to who their representative is after. I think with Ralph it's the other way around," Farney said.

Bill Brennan/Canadian Press

The 2015 election was only the second time Goodale outspent his Conservative counterparts. He handily defeated Michael Kram, who is back for a second shot at Goodale.

"If the election goes very badly for [the Liberals], then perhaps a seat like Goodale's could be in danger," Grenier said. "But he was able to be re-elected even in 2011.... Any Liberal who is able to survive the 2011 election is one of the safest Liberals in the country, because of just how bad that election was for them."

3) Will Erin Weir's expulsion cost the NDP?

Regina Lewvan MP Erin Weir received national attention in 2018 after his high-profile expulsion from the NDP caucus after harassment allegations.

Weir maintains he was treated improperly and should not have been dismissed.

Weir narrowly held off Conservative contender Trent Fraser in 2015. This time businessman Jigar Patel is the NDP nominee.

His main competition is Conservative candidate and Regina Walsh Acres Saskatchewan Party MLA Warren Steinley, who has held his provincial seat since receiving the nomination. Steinley has name recognition and a head start on his competition, having been selected more than a year earlier than Patel.

Tom Hanson/Canadian Press

"The New Democrats would have had some trouble to hold onto the seat to begin with. But without [Weir] and the controversy over his expulsion from caucus and the fact that a lot of local New Democrats were not happy with that decision, I think that pretty well seals the NDP fate," Grenier said. 

4) Who wins the North?

The province's biggest geographical riding, Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River, will likely come down to NDP incumbent Georgina Jolibois and Liberal challenger Tammy Cook-Searson.

Jolibois has been a vocal advocate for Northern issues in Ottawa and has strong support the western side of the North, as the former mayor of La Loche. Cook-Searson is a well-known politician as five-term chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, the largest First Nation in the province. 

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

"The northern Saskatchewan seat is majority Indigenous voters," Grenier said. "It would be a big symbolic win for [the Liberals] to have that seat. So for them, with all the efforts they've made among Indigenous Canadians, they would like to have some tangible results at the ballot box, and that is one of the seats that that could happen."

"We know Indigenous people came out in huge numbers to vote for Trudeau in 2015," Farney said. "And there's been a lot of disappointment on his ability to deliver the change that he'd arguably promised. My guess is that we'll see lower turnout up north than we did in 2015, and it probably [will be] split more evenly between the NDP and the Liberals."

5) What are the ballot box issues?

Farney said in Saskatchewan the carbon tax remains a "huge" topic, as does the economy.

"Conservatives and to some extent the NDP will be focusing on SNC-Lavalin, personal integrity and the rule of law. I think the Liberals are more likely to go down the road of reconciliation and anti-racism," Farney said.

"Saskatchewan doesn't look like the rest of Canada. There's a lot of hay to be made in Vancouver and in Toronto on emphasizing green energy and the Green Party platform. We haven't talked about them at all here because realistically they're likely to be outpolled by the People's Party."

Grenier said the PPC are polling between two and four per cent nationally, including in Saskatchewan. In 2015, the Green Party received two per cent of votes in the province.