Saskatchewan will head to the polls before October ends, as Premier Scott Moe seeks to extend the Saskatchewan Party’s 13-year reign. If he succeeds, it’ll be the fourth consecutive victory for his party.
Moe must call an election soon. Saskatchewan’s Election Act dictates a campaign of at least 27 days, and its fixed-date election law means Oct. 26 is the latest that ballots could be cast.
This will be Moe’s first time leading his party into an election, having gained the leadership in 2018 following Brad Wall’s resignation. It will also be the Wexit movement’s first chance to elect representatives from the Buffalo Party and will demonstrate how the group pushing for western independence from Canada will fare.
The Sask. Party is favoured to win, says University of Saskatchewan political studies professor Joseph Garcea.
“There’s a sense that the outcome is a foregone conclusion. And the Sask. Party is campaigning very, very hard, with hard-hitting types of commercials already … aimed at two things, really. Number one is at the current [NDP] leader and number two is at the NDP legacy,” Garcea told The Epoch Times.
The NDP also chose a new leader in 2018, Saskatoon physician Ryan Meili. The province stagnated during the party’s previous reign from 1991 to 2007 and then grew in population and economic output during the Wall years.
“There are seats in the two cities that, as in every election, they tend to be up for grabs. And that’s where I think any kind of change one way or another might be noticeable,” Garcea says, referring to Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan’s two main cities.
An EKOS poll released Aug. 31 showed that the Sask. Party enjoyed 60 percent support among decided voters, compared to 28 percent for the NDP and 12 percent for other parties. In particular, the Sask. Party led the NDP by 12 and 13 points in Regina and Saskatoon respectively, and by 9 points among university-educated voters in the province.
Garcea says the NDP has many “small messages” but must find a big one.
“It’s got to be singular, it’s got to be clear, and it’s got to be big,” he says. “It has to be bold and it has to have resonance and it has to provide both a critique of what’s going on and a vision of what should be going on. And they’ve found it very difficult so far to get that and to articulate it.”
The election would be held within one year after the federal Liberals were re-elected without any seats in Alberta or Saskatchewan. The Wexit Facebook page grew from a few thousand supporters to over 212,000 in the two days that followed the Oct. 21, 2019, federal election.
Wexit Saskatchewan registered as a political party in March this year but rebranded itself in July as the Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan. The name recalls the vision of Sir Frederick Haultain, the first premier of the Northwest Territories, who wanted the creation of one giant province—called Buffalo—between Manitoba and the Rockies, which would rival Ontario and Quebec in importance.
Garcea says the Buffalo Party will attract “angry” people who feel “marginalized … but I do not think that there are many constituencies where it is likely to garner enough support to come in second.”
Buffalo Party leader Wade Sira told The Epoch Times that his party will run “competent” and “relatable” candidates in one quarter of the province’s 61 ridings. He says six seats are winnable, “and the other ones, I feel that we can take enough percentage away to make the other two parties realize that this is no longer a two-party province.”
Sira claims many are disillusioned with the Saskatchewan Party, saying the “red” influence on the party grew after Wall left.
He admits the pandemic makes it harder to raise funds and reach voters, since many venues must limit gatherings to 30 people. Yet, “People are still being interactive everywhere we do go. They’re asking questions and they want to know more than what’s being told out there,” he says.
“I drive truck right now, so I drive all over Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. … There’s a lot of people unhappy. [The question is], can you turn that frustration into actual votes [for Wexit]?”