SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. — Premier Brad Wall started his third term in office right where he left off — pushing Ottawa to support pipelines and energy sector workers who are out of a job.
Wall and his Saskatchewan Party resoundingly delivered another majority election win Monday, taking 51 seats in the 61-seat legislature.
Opposition NDP Leader Cam Broten even lost his seat in a tight race.
The premier and his government will have to immediately get to work putting together a new budget and it could be a challenge because Saskatchewan is running a deficit.
Brad Wall has been premier of Saskatchewan since 2007. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
Wall said the budget should be ready by late May or early June.
He also took a swing at the federal government, saying Ottawa erred when it didn't include workers in southern Saskatchewan's oil producing regions in changes to employment insurance benefits.
"I think the federal government has made a mistake, maybe it's an honest mistake, and I'm going to give them that benefit of the doubt in terms of the employment insurance extension to five weeks, which ostensibly was to help the energy sector, but they missed two-thirds of our energy sector," Wall told reporters after the election win.
"It's been our experience that government is sometimes well-served frankly to say 'I think we made a mistake here and we're going to fix it' and we hope the federal government will take that approach."
Wall, 50, has carved out a niche on the national stage as a defender of the province and a strong voice for small-c conservatives, especially in the West.
Brad Wall consistently ranks as one of the most popular premiers in Canada. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
He said he would also push Ottawa to champion the Energy East pipeline.
"We know they're reticent to do that, but I think it's very important that that pipeline get approved in the economic interests of the country, in the interest of our energy sector and really in the interest of Canada coming together around a pretty important project."
It was an anticlimactic win for Wall.
Polls throughout the campaign had suggested his party would defeat the rival NDP for the third time since 2007.
The New Democrats under Broten did little to better their showing from last time, adding only one seat to their pre-election total of nine.
"This isn't quite the night that we were hoping for," said Broten.
Broten did not address his future as leader and didn't take any questions.
Cathy Sproule, who did win a seat for the NDP in Saskatoon, said the party is likely to ask for a judicial recount in the leader's seat. The margin of victory for the Saskatchewan Party was fewer than 250 votes.
Broten's NDP knew it was facing a formidable foe in Wall, who consistently polls as one of the most popular premiers in Canada.
Wall spent most of the 27-day campaign talking about his party's record. The premier said the ballot box question was about the economy and which party would best protect and create jobs in the province.
Political scientist Charles Smith said Wall's victory is welcome relief for Canada's conservatives, who have seen their power disappear in Ottawa to Justin Trudeau's Liberals and in Alberta to Rachel Notley's NDP.
Third term likely to be tougher
"Had he gone down to defeat, there would have been no conservatives at any level of government, federally or provincially," said Smith from the University of Saskatchewan.
On the hustings, Broten, 37, hammered on the message that the sheen was off the Wall government. The province is running a $427-million deficit this year. Wall is expected to table another deficit budget for the coming year, but said Monday night that wouldn't happen until late May or June.
Political scientist Tom McIntosh said Wall's third term is likely to be rougher than the first two given the worsening economy.
"This is going to be a government now that's going to have to make some difficult choices in a way that it hasn't had to in its first two terms," said McIntosh of the University of Regina.
With files from Bill Graveland in Saskatoon and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton