Saskatchewan’s 29th general election campaign is officially underway.
Premier Scott Moe visited Lt.-Gov. Russ Mirasty on Tuesday asking him to dissolve the legislative assembly.
The election will take place on Oct. 26.
Moe said the main question for voters is which party do they trust to lead the province’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Ultimately you’re going to see conversation around a vision for where this province is going to go. We are a party that has a plan for growth,” Moe said on Sept. 24.
“We actually have a plan and we put together in consultation with the people. It’s called the Saskatchewan Plan For Growth to 2030. We have a plan to continue to grow our population, grow our economy and grow our opportunities.”
Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili is framing his campaign as choosing between austerity or investing in people, health and education.
“People are stretched and stressed and finding it more difficult to make ends meet. Scott Moe and the Sask. Party are satisfied with the way things are — and willing to make things worse with deep cuts and austerity,” Meili said Tuesday.
“That’s just wrong. It’s time to put people first.”
The NDP have rolled out a number of pre-election promises, including bringing in $25 a day child care, lowering SGI premiums and reaching 50 per cent renewable electricity by 2030.
Moe’s government has made a flurry of previously committed infrastructure spending announcements.
Jim Farney, head of politics and international studies at the University of Regina, said the stakes are high for the NDP this time around. A good showing, he said, would between 20 and 25 seats.
But if there’s a repeat of past elections, with increasingly fewer seats, Farney said he can’t imagine “how people don’t start looking around the party and going ‘something is fundamentally wrong.’”
Farney said Moe’s message is that the province is operating as near to normal as possible during the pandemic. Problems could arise for Moe if the number of coronavirus cases jumps in schools, and parents in their 30s and 40s — who are swing voters — mobilize, he added.
While the Saskatchewan Party appears to have a lock on the support of rural residents, key battlegrounds will be in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw, Farney suggested.
“That’s going to be (Moe’s) political challenge,” he said.
“Can (Moe) pitch a message that appeals to suburban voters?”
The Saskatchewan Party is seeking its fourth-straight mandate and its first under Moe’s leadership.
Brad Wall led the party to three election victories — in 2007, 2011 and 2016 — before retiring from politics in 2018.
Meili is also heading into his first campaign as the NDP’s leader.
Four other parties are running candidates in the upcoming election: Buffalo Party, Liberal, Green Party and the PC Party.
Four other parties are running candidates in the upcoming election: Buffalo Party, Progressive Conservative, Green and Liberal.
The Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan is preparing for its first provincial election.
Leader Wade Sira tells Global News he’s heard frustration from voters about how Saskatchewan is treated by the federal government.
“People are frustrated as well that they want to get back to work, they want to get back to business and it feels like the letters that are being sent from Regina to Ottawa saying that, ‘We want this. We would like to see this,’ isn’t working for Saskatchewan. We need a stronger voice to actually start making Saskatchewan heard on Canada’s stage,” he said.
Sira said he anticipates there will be 14 Buffalo Party candidates across the province and isn’t concerned about vote splitting.
The party’s platform is anticipated to be released in the coming weeks.
The leader of Saskatchewan’s Progressive Conservatives, Regina Paratransit supervisor Ken Grey, said his party has a two-pronged focus.
The PCs want to see infrastructure contracts given to Saskatchewan companies, he said, and have more transparency around spending as the provincial deficit swells amid the pandemic.
“What we want to do is bring a real fiscally conservative voice to the legislature,” Grey said.
To recover economically, Saskatchewan will need policies favourable to industry, specifically manufacturing, he added.
“It all starts with making our tax system far more advantageous in Saskatchewan,” Grey said.
Saskatchewan Green Party leader Naomi Hunter said her top priority is responding to climate change.
“When I look at the other parties, they claim to care about these issues, but I see weak or non-existent targets,” Hunter told Global News.
The farmer from Turtleford, Sask., said she’d like to see the province transition to 100 per cent renewable energy use in the next decade.
Another key platform point, she said, is implementing a guaranteed livable income.
“It would be a safety net that would take care of everyone,” Hunter said.
A Green Party government would strive to hike corporate tax rates to well over 20 per cent — similar to the rates in Nordic countries, she said.
“The industries that currently could be paying for all of that (government programming) are getting away almost scot-free,” she said.
The Liberals did not respond to Global’s request for comment.
Saskatchewan is the third province to hold an election during the coronavirus pandemic.
New Brunswick went to the polls on Sept. 14 and British Columbia hold a vote on Oct. 24.
Most Saskatchewan residents will head back to the polls on Nov. 9 for municipal elections.
— With files from The Canadian Press