Premier Scott Moe has secured the Saskatchewan Party’s fourth consecutive majority government. In his first election since becoming Leader in 2018, Moe’s Saskatchewan Party held its majority with over 63% of the vote. At the time of writing, it had won 50 seats and to the New Democrats 11 seats. The NDP under leader Ryan Meili received about 29% of the vote. He is currently awaiting the counting of mail-in ballots to determine if he won his own seat in the Legislature.
As a pandemic election, early voting options were popular with voters. Of the province’s 800,000 eligible voters, over 185,000 voted in advance polls. Over 61,000 received mail in ballots, which will be counted in Wednesday morning’s second preliminary count and reported in the final counts on November 7. These mail-in ballots could prove to be deciding factors in 8 constituencies in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert, which had margins of around 500 votes or less on election night. What is not in doubt is a Saskatchewan Party majority.
Unlike other provincial elections held this fall in British Columbia and New Brunswick, this election was the result of a fixed election date. The ballot question was “which party do you trust to lead the province through recovery?” At the end of the night, the result was more akin to a referendum on the Saskatchewan Party’s leadership of the province, including the response to the pandemic and recovery. It also reinforced the Saskatchewan Party as the natural governing party of the province’s rural regions, even in a campaign where agriculture and rural communities were scarcely recognized.
How We Got Here
This was really a two-party fight between the Saskatchewan Party and NDP, with each contending that they had the plan to usher Saskatchewan through the pandemic and to recovery. In power over a strong period of growth since 2007, the Saskatchewan Party leveraged its incumbent status and record of building schools, hospitals, and highways, while criticizing the NDP’s record of closing schools and hospitals while in government. In turn, the NDP warned that Moe’s Saskatchewan Party could not be trusted, pointing to 2017’s austerity budget as a roadmap for further cuts and privatization under its watch.
The Saskatchewan Party’s platform committed to strong financial management and a balanced budget by 2024-25, while reinforcing the importance of the province’s energy and resource sectors. Key economic measures to stimulate the economy and support families include a home renovation tax credit, small business tax reductions, and a 10% SaskPower customer rebate. Additional investments, slated for subsequent years, focus on supporting families and seniors, including increases in home care and long term care aides, increasing childcare spaces, increasing the seniors income program, reducing costs for diabetics, and individualised funding for autism spectrum disorder services to children under the age of 12.
These commitments complemented announcements made in the run-up to the election, where the Moe government announced investments in schools, health care facilities, roads, cellular infrastructure, and support for the oil and gas service sector.
The NDP platform focused more heavily on investing in the province and increasing spending to support the province through recovery. Key NDP commitments focused on increases in health care and education, while addressing social issues in justice, child welfare, and poverty reduction.
The economy, health care, and education featured heavily in the campaign and were dominant issues in the single debate between Moe and Meili on October 14. A key point of diversion featured prominently in the debate was approach to increasing engagement with Saskatchewan’s Indigenous communities. The Saskatchewan Party’s platform focused on growing Indigenous participation in natural resource industries. The NDP countered with a proposal to close the gaps in health, employment, justice, and education between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and specifically committed to reforming the child welfare system.
Premier Moe promised to govern for all and build a strong Saskatchewan. With a renewed caucus, including several new MLAs, a new cabinet will be appointed shortly after election results are finalized. An immediate focus will be the 10% cut to power bills and reducing the small business tax rate. Moe also reiterated his dissatisfaction with the federal government and committed to continuing to defend Saskatchewan’s industries, especially the resource sector.
For the NDP, Ryan Meili committed to being a strong opposition for the next four years. The continuing challenge for the NDP is to find relevance outside of the urban core and be competitive in rural ridings which are heavily represented in the legislature. If threats of austerity are realized and people begin to feel worse off, it could begin to shift NDP fortunes in the future, but it is clear there remains a lot of work to be done.
The first move post-election may be implementation of further measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic, as provincial case numbers rise, particularly in Saskatoon, Regina, and the north central regions of the province. Moe’s speech late last night emphasized the ability to balance the protection of lives and livelihoods, so anticipate that any additional measures will focus on keeping the province open for business.