11/06/2011 08:00 EST | Updated 01/06/2012 05:12 EST

Saskatchewan Election: All Eyes On Saskatchewan Party And Brad Wall


REGINA - After four weeks of knocking on doors and making promises, the central question that has emerged ahead of Monday's provincial election is not whether Brad Wall and his Saskatchewan Party will win a second term, but whether the Opposition New Democrats will experience significant losses.

Wall has run a steady campaign promising precious little that will rock the boat. Polls have put his party well in front — one had it in the lead by almost 40 points.

The Saskatchewan Party held 38 of the 58 seats in the legislature when the election was called Oct. 10. Their base has been largely in rural Saskatchewan. New Democrats held 20 at dissolution, mostly in Regina and Saskatoon.

One political observer said perhaps the most interesting part about Monday's results is whether that urban-rural split will end.

"The real story in Monday's election is 'does the Sask. Party make significant inroads into urban Saskatchewan' ... and certainly into the traditional NDP strongholds?" said Ken Rasmussen, associate director of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina.

"I think certainly the further you get out of the downtown cores, the more likely you are to see switches in seats."

Rasmussen said "suburban-urban" constituencies on the fringes of Regina and Saskatoon look different than they did before the 2007 vote. With Saskatchewan riding a resource boom, a lot of young families are moving into new housing developments in those areas, he noted.

"The demographics are changing and the NDP vote skews a little older, and I think that's a long-term problem for the NDP regardless of what happens," said Rasmussen.

"I'm not going to be watching the election to see who forms the government. I'm going to be watching to see where the vote is concentrated and which ridings change hands."

Wall and his Saskatchewan Party, an amalgamation of former Liberals and Conservatives who came together in the mid-1990s, are riding a wave of popularity. Then there's the fact that Saskatchewan voters don't have a habit of kicking out governments after one term. It has only happened once and that was in 1934 when voters gave the boot to a Conservative-led coalition government.

Wall said he doesn't want to speculate on the outcome.

"We don't know what the size of the Opposition will be and we're not looking past Monday. I'm not looking past Monday," he said Friday.

"I think it's good to have balance in the legislature. On the other hand, I've got great women and men who are running for our party in constituencies so they want to win wherever they're running and I'd like them to win too."

"So we'll see what happens on Monday. It's very close in some very targeted ridings that we have currently and that they have currently and I think it's going to come down to a ground game. In other words, a get-out-the-vote effort and I'm sure both parties are focused on that."

The Saskatchewan Party hasn't made a lot of new promises in the campaign.

The total cost of new promises in the platform is $414 million over four years. The costliest promise is increased benefits and an expansion of the assured income program for people with disabilities.

New Democrats spent big in their platform in hopes of enticing voters.

Their promises include a cap on childcare costs, a tuition freeze and rent control. The NDP has said it will pay for those promises by collecting billions more from companies that develop the province's potash resource.

NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter said there's one thing he'd like voters to take away from the campaign.

"I think it's fairness and balance and making life more affordable for people and if we can get that message solidly out to people in the last couple of days we're going to do very well on Nov. 7," he said Saturday.

The NDP leader didn't want to speculate on the election outcome and what it might mean for his own future.

"What I'm sure all leaders do going into the last few days is they think about election day and what happens after that is a whole other story or chapter. We're running to win as many seats as possible and to implement our platform after the election."