Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe won’t commit to fall election; cites national unrest

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe speaks with the media following a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday November 12, 2019. Moe says he's not committing to a provincial election in October. Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says rail blockades and the spread of the novel coronavirus are creating challenges and he’s not committed to a fixed fall election.

The next provincial vote is set for October, but Moe said Friday he has the right to call an early vote.

“There’s a tremendous amount of unrest in this nation,” Moe said during a funding announcement in Estevan.

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He said blockades in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline through their territory in British Columbia, as well as the outbreak of COVID-19, are hurting the economy.

“We continue to plan for Oct. 26. But as I said, the premier has the prerogative to go early. And I’m going to reserve that opportunity.”

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This spring marks four years since the Saskatchewan Party won the 2016 election, he added.

Jim Farney, head of politics and international studies at the University of Regina, said speculation about an early vote puts the lesser-financed Opposition NDP on “standby.”

“It puts them up on their toes and makes them use money they won’t be able to replace,” he said.

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The spring sitting of the legislature begins Monday. Moe has committed to presenting another balanced budget in about two weeks.

Farney said it would be more challenging for the Saskatchewan Party to run a positive campaign in the fall, given the global financial situation and the possibility of a summer recession.

If there were an early election, he said, the government could face criticism from people who felt it was violating the intent of its own fixed election law.