For the first time in 2020, a Canadian province is holding a required, instead of an early, election. The writs were finally dropped for the mandatory election in Saskatchewan. Premier Scott Moe looks set to hold his current majority in the Legislative Assembly.
Unlike the elections in New Brunswick and British Columbia, Saskatchewan’s fixed election date laws require this one. The COVID-19 outbreak prevented Premier Moe from calling an early election in the spring after he hinted at the possibility. Saskatchewan health officials have said there is no need to further delay the election, as the current situation in Saskatchewan is favorable.
The political situation in Saskatchewan is unique. While there are Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties in Saskatchewan, the previous dominance of the New Democratic Party caused the creation of the Saskatchewan Party. Formed by former Liberal and Progressive Conservative MLAs, the party siphoned support from the Liberals and PCs. It lost its first two elections before finally winning under the leadership of Brad Wall in 2007.
Since then, the SK Party has dominated provincial politics. From the 2007 election to the 2016 election, the party gained 23 seats and has consistently gotten over 50% of the vote. Each election in that span has seen at least a 13% margin between them and the NDP. The 2016 election saw an increase in the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Saskatchewan and New Democratic parties lost 1.89% and 1.72% of their vote shares, but gained two and one seats, respectively. This set the stage for the current situation.
State of Play
Polling currently places Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party close to their vote share in 2016. The New Democrats and their leader Ryan Meili are also close to their vote share. The Liberals seem to be up from their position in 2016, with the wild card being the Progressive Conservatives. A recent poll saw the Progressive Conservatives siphoning votes away from the Saskatchewan Party. However, the poll’s small sample size means observers should analyze it with caution.
The signs point to another SK Party win. However, the NDP does have a path. If it weakens the SK Party, makes substantial gains in its former urban strongholds, and maintains its current seats, Scott Moe could be in trouble. A good night for the NDP would be picking off seats from the SK Party – an NDP-led government looks unlikely. For the Liberals, coming close to winning a seat would be impressive for them. This is the same for the Progressive Conservatives.
This election should be rated as safe for the Saskatchewan Party, with a landslide likely. However, if the NDP is able to regain the position it had in the Spring and Summer of 2017, the situation could change. Either way, this will be an interesting race in the prairies of Canada.