OTTAWA - New Democrat MPs are returning to their Saskatchewan roots for their annual summer caucus retreat.
The party was born in the province 52 years ago, and it may yet hold the key to their hopes of forming government in two years.
The two-day gathering in Saskatoon, which starts Tuesday, is as much about setting the stage for the 2015 election as plotting strategy for the fall session of Parliament.
Saskatchewan also holds the promise of as many as five new seats for the NDP, thanks to a major redrawing of electoral boundaries in the province. The NDP stands to make big gains under redistribution, which has created wholly urban ridings in Regina and Saskatoon.
The NDP won official Opposition status for the first time in 2011, on an orange wave that swept Quebec, where the party had barely registered. The party won 59 seats there.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's challenge for 2015 is to hang on to the party's gains in Quebec while adding 69 seats elsewhere.
"There's no question that for us the new math that's been put in is definitely going to play out differently," Mulcair said in an interview.
"We will be winning seats, and quite a few of them, in Saskatchewan so it's important for us to show the flag, to be there."
Federal Conservatives aren't going to let Saskatchewan voters forget Mulcair's stance on natural resources.
"While the NDP advocate higher taxes, they also denounce our resource sector, including agriculture, and the thousands of workers who make a good living off the land," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who represents a rural Saskatchewan riding, said in a statement Sunday.
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