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Tight race expected in Regina Coronation Park byelection as MLA Docherty resigns

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Tight race expected in Regina Coronation Park byelection as MLA Docherty resigns
WATCH: If history is any indication, voters can expect a tight race in the coming byelection in Regina Coronation Park – Feb 7, 2023

If history is any indication, voters can expect a tight race in the coming byelection in Regina Coronation Park.

With outgoing MLA Mark Docherty announcing his resignation, a byelection will be held in the riding within six months. And while Docherty has held the district since 2011, all three of his victories have come with narrow margins.

Before he took the seat, the riding had been orange since 1986.

University of Saskatchewan Political Studies assistant professor Daniel Westlake said what was historically a comfortable NDP riding has become one of the province’s most competitive.

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“I would say 30 or 40 years ago, this is a safer riding for the NDP, but in the more recent political context, this is a competitive riding for both the NDP and Saskatchewan Party.”

He said the trend in the urban riding is reflective of one playing out across the country.

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“More centre and centre-left parties like the NDP and Liberals tend to do better in the urban centres, I think in part because they’ve got a range of policies that match the interests of voters in those urban centres. These go from support for diverse communities, to support for public transit to being more environmentalist. All of these things tend to make one more favoured in urban centres and weaker in rural areas.”

Westlake cautions though, that the results of this byelection may not necessarily be a harbinger of the general election results in 2024.

“For a smaller opposition party like the NDP, every seat matters. It means they’ve got one extra person to hold the government to account. Those resources are useful,” he said.

“At the same time I think we have to be careful not to read too much into the results of byelections as predictive of future elections. Turnout tends to be quite low, and is not necessarily representative of who’s going to turn out in a general election. Byelections are really about whose voters are enthusiastic and willing to show up, whereas in a general election you’re going to see more people turn out because they see themselves as having a duty to vote.”

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Westlake adds timing of byelections relative to general elections can skew results too.

“The issues that are going to be important this summer or when this byelection is called, are not necessarily going to be the issues that matter over a year from in October 2024 when we see a general election. The issues that are top of mind do matter to an election.”

In addition to the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP, there are five other registered political parties in the province.

“It has been an honour to serve the people of Coronation Park as a member of their Saskatchewan Party government for the past 11 years and to see the tremendous growth and progress in our city and our province during that time,” Docherty said, in a statement supplied by the Saskatchewan Party Monday afternoon.

“Serving and building community are at the heart of who I am and I look forward to continuing that important work in new ways.”

Docherty could not be reached for a further interview Tuesday.

“Mark is a tremendously sincere and empathetic MLA who cares deeply about his community and its people,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe added in the statement. “I will miss the passion and compassion Mark brings to our caucus discussions.”

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Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck, meanwhile, thanked Docherty for his service in an emailed statement of her own and called on Premier Moe to initiate the byelection

“I hope that the premier will call this by-election as soon as possible. The people of Regina Coronation Park deserve a strong voice in the Legislature,” Beck wrote.

“Saskatchewan New Democrats are ready – my team and I look forward to working with the people of Regina Coronation Park to send Scott Moe’s Sask. Party a message.”

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