When Saskatchewan heads to the polls on Oct. 26, 61 MLAs will be elected and of those, at least 13 will be rookies.
While the results in some ridings may be a foregone conclusion, there are a number of tight races.
FULL COVERAGE: 2020 Saskatchewan Election
Two political experts say there are a number of ridings to watch on election night.
One riding involves controversy within the Saskatchewan NDP and another is NDP Leader Ryan Meili’s riding.
One expert opined that the future direction of the Saskatchewan Party is also in play.
Regina Walsh Acres
Greg Poelzer, a political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, says of all the ridings to watch, Regina Walsh Acres is the most fascinating one.
Former NDP cabinet minister Sandra Morin initially won a contested nomination, however, party leader Ryan Meili refused to sign her nomination papers.
When that happened, Morin announced she was running as an independent.
The question NDP supporters face is whether to support the party or send a message, according to Poelzer.
“If you had asked anyone prior to this election which direction Regina Walsh Acre is going to go, you would have said for sure it’s going to go NDP,” says Poelzer, adding now the outcome is not as clear.
Jim Farney, an associate professor of politics and international studies at the University of Regina, says vote splitting is possible.
“Because it’s not just Morin, a lot of the riding association and some people in the union movement moved with her,” says Farney.
“Nobody’s quite clear exactly what happened, but I think there’s certainly the chance of a vote split there.”
Farney and Poelzer both say if that happens, the Saskatchewan Party could take the riding.
The riding of NDP Leader Ryan Meili — Saskatoon Meewasin — is another one to watch closely on election night.
In the last two provincial elections, the leaders of the party failed to win their seat — Dwain Lingenfelter in 2011 and Cam Broten in 2016.
Farney doesn’t see that happening this time.
“I’m pretty confident (Meili’s) going to win that one, but that’s swung from one party to another,” says Farney.
“It would obviously be catastrophic for them to lose three leaders in a row. I think that outcome’s pretty unlikely. But, it’s a possibility, but I think an unlikely one.”
Poelzer thinks a possibility exists for Meili to lose his seat.
“That would be embarrassing for the NDP if they lost another leader during an election. I think it’s a real risk for Ryan Meili,” he says, adding the danger Meili faces is having to be everywhere in the province and not spending enough time in his own constituency.
“If I were Ryan Meili, I would be focusing on the competitive (ridings) where they have a chance. And then I would, over the last two weeks, be spending half, literally half my time in my own riding.”
Moose Jaw Wakamow
The Moose Jaw Wakamow riding is in play, according to Farney and Poelzer.
The Saskatchewan Party’s Greg Lawrence is the incumbent, but Poelzer says the riding is competitive.
“It’s always been competitive for the NDP and right now it’s showing that one will be competitive as well.”
Farney says it’s an interesting race as it was close in the 2016 election.
“I think there is something to watch in case the NDP kind of starts to gain some momentum there,” says Farney.
Saskatoon ridings to watch
The NDP’s Vicki Mowat is seeking re-election in Saskatoon Fairview after winning the seat in a 2017 byelection. The seat was won by the Saskatchewan Party in 2016.
David Buckingham is aiming to hold his Westview seat for the Saskatchewan Party. He defeated Cam Broten, who was the NDP leader at the time, by 232 votes.
“Those are big ones that the NDP, if they are making ground in urban Saskatoon, those are almost must-wins to demonstrate that,” says Poelzer.
The Saskatchewan Party’s Lisa Lambert took Churchill-Wildwood by 883 votes, while Cory Tocher took Eastview by 942 votes for the Saskatchewan Party.
Lambert is running again while voters in Eastview will elect a new MLA after Tocher stepped down after winning a seat in the 2019 federal election.
“If the NDP has a good outing, they’ll do well in those ridings and even move them over into their column,” says Farney.
Regina ridings to watch
Both seats are currently held by the Saskatchewan Party — Mark Docherty in Coronation and Tina Beaudry-Mellor in University.
“The word on the street is they’re in for very tough battles, battles that they have a good chance of losing,” according to Poelzer.
“Those two ridings, I think, are also important in terms of a future where the Sask. Party ends up going.”
Poelzer says that under Brad Wall, the Saskatchewan Party was a true coalition of federal conservative and federal liberals.
He adds that if Docherty and Beaudry-Mellor lose in Regina, and if Chris Guérette fails to win Saskatoon Eastview, it would leave Gordon Wyant as the lone liberal left in the party.
“That’ll be … the end of it… the Sask. Party will be a conservative party by any other name.”