The Saskatchewan Party swept rural ridings across the province on Monday.
As Scott Moe cruised to a nearly 80 per cent win in his own rural riding of Rosthern-Shellbrook, however, his victory speech addressed largely rural voters who may not have voted for the Sask. Party.
“I hear you,” he told those conservative voters, who vented their frustrations at Ottawa and the federal carbon tax by casting ballots for the Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan.
Formerly the Wexit Party, it fielded 17 candidates, but captured the third largest share of the vote at roughly three per cent. It did so by challenging Sask. Party candidates in mostly rural ridings, placing second in four of those races.
“The buffalo’s in the room and it’s not leaving,” said interim leader Wade Sira, who placed third in Martensville-Warman.
As those contenders emerged, the Sask. Party also introduced new faces from rural and small city ridings.
The party’s Travis Keisig is entering politics for the first time, after winning Last Mountain-Touchwood by 2,506 votes.
A farmer and former welding business owner, Keisig attributed the party’s 10-month campaign process for earning the nomination in the riding as a big help once the provincial campaign began.
“It was a huge learning curve when I started down this political path. It was pre-COVID,” he said. He believes he’ll bring a “blue collar” perspective to the party, he added..
Moose Jaw-based lawyer Tim McLeod, a newcomer to campaigning, held Moose Jaw North for the Sask. Party. He beat the NDP’s Kyle Lichtenwald by more than 2,100 votes, an increase of more than 200 votes from the party’s win in the 2016 election.
Though McLeod is a rookie MLA-elect, he said his prior experience as a lawyer and a school board trustee prepared him to enter politics.
The Sask. Party also used Monday to turn a historically NDP stronghold, Moose Jaw Wakamow, into its own regular pickup area. Incumbent Greg Lawrence won his third straight term there to serve as MLA for the southern Moose Jaw riding.
Those wins left the party poised to collect seats in another small city, Prince Albert.
Sask. Party incumbent Joe Hargrave sailed comfortably to a second term in office in Prince Albert Carlton. Neighbouring riding Prince Albert Northcote came down to a nail biting conclusion. The Sask. Party’s Alana Ross called it a “close one” as she narrowly led NDP incumbent Nicole Rancourt, but 568 mail-in ballots could reverse those fortunes.
In the north, longtime Athabasca NDP incumbent Buckley Belanger fended off Saskatchewan Party opponent Kelly Kwan by 1,704 votes to 1,121 on Monday. That’s a far cry from his 2016 run, when he took 1,734 votes over the Sask. Party’s 625.
Doyle Vermette of the NDP was one of the party’s few other candidates to handily defend his seat against challengers. In Athabasca, Vermette beat the Sask. Party’s Darren Deschambeault with 2,460 votes to 1,173. Headed into his third-term, he invited northerners to help him raise their concerns to a deep-rooted majority government.
“I’m not going to be able to do it alone,” he said.
Nick Pearce and Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix