Saskatchewan Heads to the Polls

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe kicked off the 2020 election campaign, leading to the province’s vote on October 26.  Moe undertakes his first election campaign since becoming leader of the Saskatchewan Party in 2018, facing off against Ryan Meili and the Saskatchewan NDP.

Of the 61 seats in the province, Moe’s Saskatchewan Party held 46 seats in the Legislature at dissolution, with the NDP holding 13 seats.  There were also two vacancies.

How We Got Here

Like elections in New Brunswick and British Columbia this fall, the campaign period is the shortest possible – only 28 days – in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, unlike the other provincial elections, Saskatchewan’s election is the result of a fixed election date.

In this election, the Saskatchewan Party will be seeking its fourth consecutive majority mandate, filling its slate of 61 candidates on September 19.

In the lead up to the campaign, the Sask Party government has made several investments to renovate and expand schools, health care facilities, roads and cellular infrastructure, as well as support for the oil and gas service sector.

Policy and Priorities

Moe has positioned that the central question of the race is which party is best positioned to recover and grow the economy coming out of the pandemic.  Given the investments noted above, Saskatchewan’s relatively low COVID count versus the rest of Canada, and the Sask Party’s pitch to essentially stay the course, there hasn’t been a lot of oxygen for Opposition parties to try and capitalize on.

Premier Moe has also had an active role in the FPT relationship, leading the Council of the Federation from 2019-2020. Increasing health funding under the Canada Health Transfer, increasing economic competitiveness, support for the resource sector and revisiting equalization have all been priorities that Moe advanced in alignment with his government’s direction for Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan NDP are heading into the election focused on “investment in people”.  Leader Ryan Meili, a family doctor, has promised that an NDP government would deliver $25/day child care and continue to protect investment in health care. The NDP’s post-COVID-19 recovery plan also outlined the need to strengthen local businesses and create opportunities for new industries as the path forward out of the pandemic.

While the NDP enters the campaign with a full slate of 61 candidates, preparing for the election campaign was not without challenges. Meili vetoed former NDP cabinet minister Sandra Morin as the party’s candidate in Regina Walsh Acres, which the Sask Party won by only 599 votes in 2016, naming labour relations officer Kelly Hardy as the candidate late last week.

What’s Next?

In the run-up to the vote, the polls have been strongly in Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party’s favour since his election as leader of the party.  Since the beginning of 2019, Moe’s personal popularity has ranged between 57 per cent and 65 per cent, putting him in the ranks of the most popular premiers.  Polling by party preference has also indicated Sask Party support between 52 and 60 per cent, while the NDP have polled between 25 and 33 per cent.

Beyond the main contenders, there are four additional political parties registered in Saskatchewan: Buffalo Party, the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Green Party, and the Saskatchewan Liberal Party.

Of course, we will be watching the trends during the election, especially how the province itself handles Canada’s third COVID-era election.  Turnout in New Brunswick’s September election was respectable, and British Columbia’s election two days prior on October 24 may also be an indicator of how the public reacts.

In any case, StrategyCorp will continue to monitor the polls and platforms as they roll out.