POLITICS

Saskatchewan Election: Leaders Brad Wall And Dwain Lingenfelter Cast Their Votes

11/07/2011 04:00 EST | Updated 01/06/2012 05:12 EST
CP
SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. - The Saskatchewan Party destroyed all comers in a historic landslide victory Monday, knocking off the Opposition leader and putting an exclamation point on what has become the Year of the Incumbent in Canadian politics.

Premier Brad Wall's party took more than 60 per cent of the popular vote along with 49 of 58 seats.

Previously, the largest popular vote in the province was 57 per cent by the Liberals in 1912.

The rout came at the expense of Dwain Lingenfelter's NDP, which was left in tatters after it lost support across the board, especially in the big cities of Regina and Saskatoon.

Wall, in his victory speech, compared the beloved green-clad Saskatchewan Roughriders football club to his green-bannered team and its battle against an "orange wave" of resurgent NDP support across Canada.

"People from across the country might be looking in on us this evening and wondering, 'What happened in Saskatchewan this evening?'

"What those folks may not know is that in this province, green is the colour!" he said as the crowd cheered.

The Saskatchewan Party gained 11 seats from the 38 it held at dissolution.

Lingenfelter, a political veteran and former deputy premier, was among the casualties. He was defeated by Saskatchewan Party candidate Russ Marchuk in Regina Douglas Park.

Speaking to subdued supporters, Lingenfelter, 62, took sole responsibility for the loss and tendered his resignation as party leader, effective immediately.

"That (defeat) was my fault, not yours, not your fault at all," said Lingenfelter as supporters shouted back "No, no!"

"For that I say I'm sorry," he continued. "But we will do better.

"We will be victorious on the principles we believe in in the next election. Just keep working at it."

It is the second majority for Wall's team, which even tapped into a bit of football Rider Pride on the hustings. Roughriders offensive lineman Gene Makowsky was elected in Regina Dewdney, defeating longtime NDP member Kevin Yates.

Wall retained his seat in Swift Current.

The win builds on victories by other incumbents that began in May, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives won their coveted majority.

Since then, Manitoba's Greg Selinger, Prince Edward Island's Robert Ghiz, Ontario's Dalton McGuinty and Newfoundland's Kathy Dunderdale have all been returned to office.

The Yukon Party won again in the Yukon and in the Northwest Territories, where there are no political parties, 13 incumbents were returned to the 19-member legislative assembly.

Harper, in a news release, congratulated Wall.

"I look forward to continue working with him on issues important to Saskatchewanians and all Canadians, including promoting prosperity in a challenging growing economy," said Harper.

The party rode a wave of economic prosperity and growing population.

"Today in Saskatchewan our economy is leading the nation," said Wall to cheers.

"More people are living here than ever before and young people — I can see you out there — are choosing to stay in Saskatchewan and build their futures here."

The victory was as much about the leader as his party.

The 45-year-old Wall has successfully built his brand as a masterful orator and a defender of Saskatchewan interests. He won acclaim for helping thwart a foreign takeover of Saskatchewan's Potash Corp.

Political scientist Chaldeans Mensah said Wall sent a message Monday that will reverberate well beyond his province.

"It really shows that Brad Wall is a significant political actor with potential for national recognition," said Mensah, with Edmonton's Grant MacEwan University.

"He's gradually building a reputation for himself as someone who can deliver a solid economic performance for his province."

Joseph Garcea, head of the political science department at the University of Saskatchewan, said Wall benefited from the temper of the times, with votes averse to taking political risks.

"People get mad, but at the same time they get scared," he said.

"They get mad at governments for certain things they do, but they get scared of change. We live in volatile times and people are not sure that they want radical change."

Wall and his Saskatchewan Party ran on an election platform featuring $414 million in spending promises over four years. The costliest promise was increased benefits and an expansion of the assured income program for people with disabilities.

There were also promises to help new high school graduates with tuition, to set up a tax credit for first-time home buyers and to fund 2,000 new child-care spaces. The party pledged to forgive up to $120,000 in student loans for new doctors and $20,000 for new nurses and nurse practitioners who work in underserved rural and remote communities for five years.

Wall spent much of the campaign boasting about the Saskatchewan Party's work over the last four years, including spending on highways and debt payments.

The New Democrats pitched a big-ticket spending plan that relied on collecting $2.3 billion more from potash companies to pay for it.

Promises included rent control and a tuition freeze and more training spaces at post-secondary institutions at a total cost of $88 million over four years. There were millions more pledged for a crop insurance plan and a fund to help families pay their mortgages and save for the future.

Wall characterized the NDP's promises as an irresponsible spending spree and said the platform would rack up debt.