POLITICS

Saskatchewan Election: What A Victory For Brad Wall And The Saskatchewan Party Means Federally

11/04/2011 08:50 EDT | Updated 01/04/2012 05:12 EST
CP

Saskatchewan will be voting on Monday and the polls indicate Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party will be re-elected. But will the results in the Prairie province have any reverberations in Ottawa?

Though Saskatchewan has only 14 seats in the House of Commons, it could be an important battleground in 2015.

If the next federal election becomes a showdown between the Conservatives and the New Democrats, Saskatchewan will be one of the provinces the NDP will be targeting for gains.

Since 2004, the federal New Democrats have improved in every election in Saskatchewan, from 23 per cent of the vote in Jack Layton's first election to 32 per cent in his last. These steady gains have not given them any seats, but in May the NDP came up short by less than 1,000 votes in three ridings in the province.

The provincial election on Monday is unlikely to give the NDP much of a boost. Leader Dwain Lingenfelter's campaign has not improved his party's fortunes, and he is likely to take about as much of the vote as his federal counterparts did six months ago. If his party is reduced to single-digit numbers in the Legislative Assembly, it will spoil what was a relatively good fall season of provincial elections for the NDP.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, should be smiling on Tuesday morning.

Brad Wall's Saskatchewan Party is the federal Tories' doppelganger in the province, despite the presence of a minor PC Party. Wall is one of the country's most popular premiers, and he could take as much as two-thirds of the vote on Monday. It would continue what has been a string of electoral gains for the Tories in Saskatchewan.

When Stephen Harper first led the Conservatives in an election in 2004, his party took only 42 per cent of the vote in the province. That has improved in every election since, and in May the party took 56 per cent. With the Tories likely needing to fight off the NDP in three or four ridings in 2015, they will need to continue to grow in order to maintain their stranglehold on the province.

The Liberals were the only other party to win a seat in Saskatchewan in May. Ralph Goodale has been the party's standard bearer in the province since 1993 and led the provincial party for most of the 1980s. But the Liberal brand has taken a beating in Saskatchewan. Since 2004, when Paul Martin took 27 per cent of the vote in the province, the Liberals have shed supporters in every election. They only took nine per cent in May, the same amount of support the provincial party earned in the 2007 election.

It will certainly be even lower on Monday. The provincial Liberals have only nine candidates running in Saskatchewan's 58 ridings. It will be difficult for the party to take even one per cent of the vote, and with so few candidates they have more in common with the Western Independence Party than \ with the provincial Greens, who are running a full slate.

Neither the Liberals nor the NDP will have much to gloat about on Tuesday in Ottawa. But while nobody is expecting any surprises on Monday night, how it all shakes out will determine the next four years in the province -- and set the stage for what should be a battleground in the next federal election.

Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.