NDP faces uphill battle against Saskatchewan Party as writ drops: experts

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NDP faces uphill battle against Saskatchewan Party as writ drops: experts
WATCH: With Saskatchewan's election period formally underway, the opposition would need to make significant headway for power to change hands – Sep 29, 2020

The Saskatchewan NDP, led by Ryan Meili, will be in tough against the Saskatchewan Party and Scott Moe, according to experts who spoke to Global News.

Saskatchewan NDP supporters should be happy if the party gains any seats in the upcoming provincial election because the potential for peril is real, according to a University of Saskatchewan political studies professor.

Joe Garcea told Global News that before thinking about governing, the New Democrats need to focus on shoring up their support and seat count in order to survive.

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“If they lose three or four seats in this election … they’re really going to have to do some soul searching because they’re facing an existential threat at that point,” Garcea said.

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At the time of the writ drop, the Saskatchewan Party held 46 of the legislature’s 61 seats. The NDP had 13 seats and two were vacant.

Garcea highlighted the departures of high-profile NDP MLAs as an area of concern for the party. July 3 marked the final sitting for Warren McCall (Regina Elphinstone-Centre), David Forbes (Saskatoon Centre), Danielle Chartier (Saskatoon Riversdale) and Cathy Sproule (Saskatoon Nutana).

“These were veterans and strong performers,” Garcea said.

Seven Saskatchewan Party MLAs are retiring as well, but Garcea said those members are likely still “licking their chops” at the prospect of maintaining their seat count or possibly even increasing it.

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The professor noted the governing party is rolling out familiar ads that “demonize the leader and demonize the legacy of the NDP.” To date, he said the New Democrats haven’t been able to strike back with equal ferocity.

At the same time, he said a lot can change during a campaign and the NDP could be “playing rope-a-dope” before striking closer to voting day.

Garcea doesn’t expect the popular vote to change much from the 2016 election, but with several close races, he said the results could be slightly different. The NDP will likely “hope it’s for the better and not for the worse,” he said.

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The election is scheduled for Oct. 26, roughly two months after an Angus Reid Institute poll determined Scott Moe had a 59 per cent approval rating.

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“The vice grip that the Saskatchewan Party has had on the electorate over the last several years looks to be something that isn’t under threat at the moment,” said Shachi Kurl, the institute’s executive director in an interview.

The poll was carried out through an online survey between Aug. 20 and Aug. 30.  It took a random sample of just over 4,700 Canadian adults. Angus Reid said the margin of error is +/- 1.4 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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Kurl said while the Saskatchewan Party has had substantial buy-in when it comes to economic policy, some voters might want more progress on the “people files, whether it’s poverty, homelessness [or] opioid addiction.”

The Saskatchewan Liberals haven’t won a seat in the legislature since the 1999 election and the Progressive Conservatives last elected an MLA in 1995. The Green Party has never had an elected representative in the province.

This is also the first year where the Buffalo Party, formerly Wexit Saskatchewan, has participated in a provincial election.

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