REGINA – Like many things in this province, you can draw a parallel between politics and the season the Saskatchewan Roughriders are having.
With just two wins and 13 losses on the season, the football club is already looking ahead to next year – and when Saskatchewan’s politicians return to the legislature for the fall sitting on Tuesday, they’ll be playing for April 2016.
“The election campaign is basically going to start the day the legislature sits,” said Ken Rasmussen, a political scientist with the Johnson-Shoyama School of Public Policy. “This is going to be very important for the parties to make their point and establish the themes for the election.”
For the Opposition NDP, hoping to claw back against a massive Saskatchewan Party majority, it likely means continuing to expose problems in long term care – sticking to the script it’s brought to question period for more than a year.
“That the government has had this amount of attention to an issue and continues to hit the snooze button … (it shows) the way this government is progressively out of touch with what’s happening to Saskatchewan people,” said NDP house leader Warren McCall.
Deputy Premier Don McMorris argues the government is far from coasting to the election and says the NDP have yet to show themselves as an alternative while in Opposition.
“We set out a platform well in advance (in 2007),” McMorris said. “People knew what we wanted to do on health care. We set goals for nursing recruitment, we set goals for physician recruitment.”
McMorris acknowledged improvements to be made in the health system, but disputes the NDP’s claims there’s a “crisis.”
The latest poll from Mainstreet Research and Postmedia shows the Sask. Party is still in line to form government once again in 2016. When asked which party they would support if a provincial election were held today, 57 per cent of decided voters chose the Sask. Party compared to 32 per cent choosing the NDP.
The strongest New Democrat support is in the two largest cities, but it still only good for second place. 41 per cent of Regina voters support the Sask. Party with 30 per cent voting NDP. The margin in Saskatoon is slimmer, with 42 and 36 per cent support, respectively.
Part of it may come down to the popularity of the two leaders. In his third year at the helm of the NDP, Cam Broten has a lot of ground to gain on Brad Wall.
“The premier is much more popular than his party,” Rasmussen said. “As long as he remains the leader of that party, it’s going to be a very tough sell for the NDP.”
However, Rasmussen suggests it would be “unprecedented” for the NDP to lose even more support in a second straight election and win even fewer than the nine seats the party currently holds.
“It would be very surprising.”
Because it’s the last sitting before the provincial election in spring 2016, the fall will actually be a continuation of the 2014-15 session – meaning no Throne Speech to outline the government’s plans for the year and continued debate on legislation the government has already introduced.
The Sask. Party aims to pass a bill allowing patients to pay out-of-pocket for MRI scans. Also expected are amendments to a controversial Saskatchewan law preventing public sector employees from striking, which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled was unconstitutional.
Beyond seniors care issues, McCall says the NDP will spend the fall continuing to fight public-private partnerships (P3) and push for a legislated right to gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Saskatchewan schools.
In a fall sitting that both parties expect to be intense, just like on the gridiron, it’ll be a rush to find the endzone come April 4, 2016.Follow @mikemckinnon
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