As Ontario’s Election Ends, Saskatchewan’s Begins

Yesterday’s Ontario election was pretty crummy. Almost the entire campaign was dominated by a contrived issue. Turnout hit an all-time low, with barely more than half of eligible voters bothering to cast ballots. Despite a smaller percentage of the popular vote than in the last election, the McGuinty Liberals cruised to a huge majority. The more progressive NDP gained popular vote but won no more seats than its pre-election total. My local NDP candidate lost by a painfully narrow margin. The proposed new voting system, which would have given parties fairer shares of seats, was soundly defeated.

Provincewide polls suggest that Saskatchewan’s election could also be pretty crummy, with the right-wing Saskatchewan Party displacing the NDP. However, there are a couple of significant glimmers of hope. First, the race is much closer outside of the Saskatchewan Party’s rural stronghold, although it only needs to take a couple of seats from the NDP to win. Second, Premier Calvert proved capable of defying the odds in 2003 to win a provincial election that should have been a cakewalk for the Saskatchewan Party.

The Saskatchewan Party wants a campaign with no issues, which at least partly explains its reversal on TILMA. However, Calvert is starting to stake-out a clear left-wing agenda. Shortly before the campaign, he hiked the minimum wage. His first major campaign promise was a provincial pharmacare program.

The Globe and Mail intriguingly quotes former NDP Premier Allan Blakeney as identifying “royalty levels and the royalty take” as a probable election issue. I was somewhat surprised to read this statement because the NDP government and the Saskatchewan Party opposition have agreed on low royalties for years. Murray Mandryk identifies “oil royalty rates” as something that both parties “agree on.”

I hope that the debate in Alberta and Newfoundland will shake up this wrongheaded consensus. Certainly, higher royalties would help finance the left-wing agenda that Calvert is trying to develop and provide an excellent contrast to the Saskatchewan Party’s pro-business policies. In other words, I hope that Blakeney knows something that Mandryk and I do not.

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