On the surface, there didn’t appear to be a lot of change stemming from Monday night’s provincial election.
The Saskatchewan Party won a majority government – the fourth consecutive majority for the party. They collected more than 60 per cent of the popular vote for the third consecutive election.
And every member of the Sask. Party cabinet has been re-elected or was leading in their riding at the end of election night.
The Saskatchewan Party also continued its dominance in rural Saskatchewan, winning all of the seats outside of Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, with the exception of the two far north ridings.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) will still be the Official Opposition. They won or led in 11 of the 61 seats available in the Saskatchewan Legislature, one more than they had four years ago, but two fewer than what they had when the election was called.
There were some close races in the larger centres on election night, and many people opted for mail-in voting, so the NDP might pick up a few seats in which they were a close runner-up, but still, the best case scenario would likely be 15 or 16 seats – not exactly the result they wanted.
If they do ultimately see an improvement of several seats, it might be enough to save NDP Leader Ryan Meili’s job for now, but don’t be surprised if the NDP has a different leader for the fifth consecutive election when 2024 rolls around.
Support for the NDP in rural areas plunged to an all-time low on election night. You’ll never succeed in rural areas when you support a carbon tax, but the rejection of the NDP Monday night in Cannington and elsewhere extended far beyond their support of a carbon tax.
And if the NDP doesn’t start to pick up rural seats, it’s not going to form government. The days of an NDP clean sweep in Regina and Saskatoon are over.
One of the big stories on election night was the rise of the Buffalo Party, and for good reason. They finished second in Cannington, and in three other rural constituencies. Not coincidentally, their best results came in ridings that have been hit hard by the policies from the federal Liberal government.
But voters who feel like they’ve been taken for granted by the Sask. Party after 20 years of rural dominance found an alternative in the Buffalo. It wasn’t enough to get them a seat in the legislature, but it was enough to send a message.
Critics will be quick to point out the party’s separatist roots; they were known as the Wexit (or Western Exit) Party until a few months ago. But regardless of what you think of their message, you can’t deny the impact of the Buffalo Party on this election.
As for Cannington itself, nobody should be surprised with the result. Cannington has long been a stronghold for the Sask. Party; the retiring Dan D’Autremont, the long-time MLA for this riding, was a founding member of the Sask. Party and strung together dominant election victories.
We can all agree that MLA-elect Daryl Harrison will have very big shoes to fill once he gets to the legislature.
One thing that nobody should be happy about is voter turnout. Yes, we know we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and a lot of people are skittish about going out, especially as we see a rise in cases.
But it appears voter turnout will be around 50 per cent, which is inexcusable. You have to wonder how much the lack of turnout is due to the pandemic, and how much of it is due to people taking the results for granted, since everyone knew the Saskatchewan Party was going to win handily.