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Canada Election: Saskatoon West a federal battleground to watch on election night

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WATCH: This federal election has been unlike any other and perhaps one of the most interesting ridings to watch may be right here in Saskatchewan. – Sep 16, 2021

A veteran political watcher said Saskatoon West is one of the most interesting federal ridings to watch during this election, because it’s so diverse and because well-known candidates are running.

The riding stretches from the South Saskatchewan River west, encompassing the rest of the city and it includes the city’s downtown core and new suburbs.

And according to the 2016 census of the electoral district, more than 17,000 people speak languages other than English and French.

Statistics Canada hasn’t published the latest census figures yet, but if the building development on the fringes of the city in the past few years is any indication, the overall population has only increased.

“Whenever you see a rapid development of a community like that, it really makes the result unpredictable,” the University of Saskatchewan public policy professor Ken Coates said, speaking from De Courcy Island, B.C.

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Coates said candidates’ hopes largely depend on party leaders, though Saskatoon West could prove to be an exception.

He said NDP candidate Robert Doucette, an Indigenous activist and former president of Métis Nation–Saskatchewan, has name recognition in the riding that few other candidates can match.

Coates said that gives him a good shot at gathering more votes than Brad Redekopp, the Conservative candidate and the incumbent.

The Tories won every single federal riding two years ago and, Coates told Global News, are very good at getting their voters to polling stations.

Coates said that likely gives Redekopp an edge, given how close some polls show the riding to be.

Global News spoke to all five candidates with just days left in the campaign and asked them what they are talking to voters about to get their vote.

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There was little overlap and most of their answers echoed their party platforms.

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“The number one thing that I’ve been hearing at the doors is Justin Trudeau and how much he needs to be replaced,” Redekopp said.

“The key to doing that,” he said he tells voters, “is to make sure that we elect a conservative in this riding.”

He told Global News the election is about leadership in Ottawa, and about “corruption” and “giving money to friends,” which Redekopp said is a reference to the WE Charity scandal.

He said voters told him they are worried about the economy and the size of debt Canada is accumulating.

When asked about Doucette’s familiarity within the riding, Redekopp pointed out he won the seat from NDP incumbent Sheri Benson during the 2019 election and now has his own recognition.

Doucette, during his interview with Global News, said affordability was the issue most potential voters bring up.

“We see every day we have people living and sleeping, living on the streets,” he said, stating he’s never seen this level of Indigenous homelessness.

He also said the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis are issues that the next government must address.

Read more: ‘Incredibly real’: Saskatchewan Health chief medical officer on COVID-19 burnout, protests

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Liberal candidate Dr. Ruben Rajakumar said voters, especially the younger generation, are very concerned about the pandemic issues of the deadly virus, coupled with the climate crisis.”

He touted the Liberal Party’s record in handling climate change and the pandemic.

In terms of helping address the issues the pandemic raises, he said he had a strong relationship with the Saskatchewan Party and said he would draw on his four decades as a cardiologist.

The People’s Party of Canada candidate said it would take a different approach.

“We’re getting draconian lockdowns right now. We see it right across the Prairies, right across western Canada, right across Canada. These lockdowns are unnecessary,” People’s Party of Canada candidate Kevin Boychuk said.

He told Global News voters spoke to him most about the COVID-19 pandemic and government reactions to it, which he referred to as “medical tyranny.”

“This is not about people being sick and dropping dead in the streets because that’s not happening,” he told Global News.

Global News spoke to Boychuk on the same day the provincial government, which is responsible for health care, imposed a mask mandate and vaccine passport system but before the government announced it was doing so.

On the same day, the Saskatchewan government reported that one person died from COVID-19, presumably in a hospital, bringing the provincial total to 630, and 439 more people were infected.

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Read more: Canada’s inflation rate reached 4.1% in August, highest since 2003

Finally, Green Party candidate Dave Greenfield said affordable housing was the main issue people mentioned to him.

“A lot of people seem to be concerned about people being able to afford their rent and not being evicted.”

He also said many people have spoken to him about climate change, the need to phase out fossil fuels and the need to bring in renewable energy.

He said the pandemic and associated burdens on the health-care system are the main issues facing Canadians, combined with climate change and affordability.

Green parties, at any level, have a poor electoral history in Saskatchewan. Greenfield said he hopes voters will respond to his conviction and the issues he’s brought up.

Coates said all candidates in this election talk about different issues because this election isn’t about any one issue.

He said it’s not really about anything and the result is “one of the most vapid federal elections you can imagine.”

To him, it comes down to how voters feel about the party leaders instead of anything substantive.

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“Do you like the prime minister or not? Do you like or trust Erin O’Toole or not? And have you always voted NDP?

As for the People’s Party of Canada, he said the mixture of anti-vax sentiment with libertarianism could help it reach as high as five or 10 per cent of the popular vote across the country. That’s not enough to win a riding but he said it’s could be enough to alter some of the votes if PPC candidates draw ballots away from the other parties.

Coates shied away from any prediction about Saskatoon West, but said it will be fascinating to watch on election night.

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