Sask. Election 2020: Buffalo Party takes larger-than-expected share of vote in debut

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Despite running candidates in only 17 constituencies, the Buffalo Party captured the third-largest share of votes in the province Monday night.

Interim Buffalo Party Leader Wade Sira said observers who discounted the party “are in for a pleasant surprise.” Though, he also acknowledged the race was an “uphill battle.”

Sira, who finished third in Martensville-Warman, found encouragement in the party’s second place finishes against the Saskatchewan Party in Cypress Hills, Kindersley, Estevan, and Cannington. Those races made it the only third party to place second, he noted.

Sira said low turnout hampered the party’s support “because a lot of people were frustrated and didn’t know there was a third option.” He said increased emphasis on recruiting volunteers and fundraising would help the party grow its base in 2024.

“The buffalo’s in the room and it’s not leaving.”

The Buffalo Party finished Monday with 11,050 votes (2.91 per cent) followed by the Green Party at 9,051 votes(2.37 per cent) and the Progressive Conservatives at 7,905 votes (2.07 per cent). Independent candidates garnered 954 votes (led largely by Sandra Morin in Regina Walsh Acres) and the Liberals three candidates had 338 votes.

Green Party Leader Naomi Hunter said she’s pleased with her party’s turnout Monday night, underscoring hers was the only third party, after the Sask. Party and the NDP, that would be able to form government.

“We ran a full slate of candidates,” she said.

Four years ago, the party earned a 1.83 per cent vote share, 7,967 votes.

“There was this wave of energy across the province; I travelled to all 61 ridings,” she said. “Saskatchewan people care about green issues, they care about ending poverty and homelessness, they care about participatory democracy.”

Hunter said she’s “horrified” by the Sask. Party’s platform promises to address climate change, saying they’re non-existent; while the NDP only “claims to care about the climate crisis.”

She urged both parties to steal from the Greens’ platform to adopt more immediate policies to address climate change over the next four and 10 years. That includes the party’s plan to make Saskatchewan use 100-per-cent renewable energy by 2030.

PC Leader Ken Grey said he was disappointed his party didn’t have a better showing.

“I was surprised they did as well as they did some ridings,” Grey said of the Buffalo Party. “Buffalo took away our votes.”

“I do congratulate them. They tapped into a good source of anger, they made some gains,” Grey said.

He figures voters who supported the far right party, formerly named the Wexit Party, were expressing frustration over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals.

“(Premier-elect) Scott Moe’s challenge will be bringing forward a better relationship between the west and the federal government.”

Sask. Party holds on in Moose Jaw

The Sask. Party used Monday to turn what has historically been a NDP stronghold, Moose Jaw Wakamow, into its own regular pick-up area.

Incumbent Greg Lawrence won his third-straight term to serve as MLA for the southern Moose Jaw riding.

“My team and I did the best we could. We door-knocked on 14,000 to 15,000 doors twice,” he said, thanking people in his riding for getting out to vote.

“I work for the people,” he said.

At the end of the night, Lawrence led NDP challenger Melissa Patterson by 854 votes, bumping up his 2016 695-vote margin.

He commended Patterson for her work during the campaign.

Prior to Lawrence taking the riding for the Sask. Party in 2011 from Deb Higgins, the NDP held it in 10 of the previous 11 governments going back to the 1960s.

The NDP had been hoping to use the southern Moose Jaw riding as a way to build its base outside of the province’s two main cities. A long-time former NDP MLA previously told the Leader-Post the riding is essential to the party either forming government or a credible opposition.

The Sask. Party handily won Moose Jaw North; newcomer Tim McLeod beat the NDP’s Kyle Lichtenwald by more than 2,100 votes. He’s a partner at a local law firm in the city and he has previously served as the chair of the Prairie South school board.

Prince Albert race down to the wire

The Saskatchewan Party’s chance to claim victory in Prince Albert is down to a few hundred votes.

With all 50 polls reporting by midnight, the party’s Alana Ross carried 2,393 votes to NDP incumbent Nicole Rancourt’s 2,171 votes in Prince Albert Northcote. That doesn’t account for the 568 mail-in ballots that could decide the race.

“It’s a close one. We thought it would probably go to the mail-ins,” Ross said.

Rancourt was unavailable for comment.

Ross, a health care worker, pitched herself as a moderate that could bring riding concerns closer to decision makers. Her opponent, Rancourt, promised to spur the local economy by building a second bridge and a hospital in Prince Albert.

Monday’s close race follows a trend from 2016, when Rancourt won the riding by a slim 261-vote margin. That year, turnout in the riding was 43 per cent — the fifth lowest in the province with 5,603 total votes. That number dropped to 5,446 this year.

The Sask. Party’s Joe Hargrave sailed to re-election in Prince Albert Carlton with a comfortable lead on Monday. He has served as minister responsible for Crown Investments Corporation and minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance.

He defeated NDP challenger Troy Parenteau with 3,470 votes against his opponent’s 2,112 on Monday.

Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix