Saskatchewan Election Results: Assessing the Damage (Updated Again)
The Saskatchewan Party won 37 seats with 51% of the popular vote and the NDP won 21 seats with 37% of the vote. Obviously, the Saskatchewan Partyâ€™s victory is bad news for progressives.
The provincewide figures mask significant regional variations. Outside of the main cities, the Saskatchewan Party won 27 seats with 62% of the rural vote. Two of the four seats that the NDP hung onto, with 29% of the rural vote, were the northern pair that the NDP almost always wins.
In Regina, the NDP retained a solid lead in popular vote (48% to 36%) and in seats (8 to 3). Saskatoon broke down well for the NDP, which kept a majority of seats (7 to 5) despite a tied popular vote (42% to 43%). The Saskatchewan Party was more fortunate in Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, where the seat count was tied (1 and 1 in each) despite the NDP winning the popular vote (49% to 42% in MJ and 50% to 42% in PA).
As expected, my old local MLA, Harry Van Mulligen of the NDP, won handily in Regina Douglas Park. My old university buddy, Dustin Duncan of the Saskatchewan Party, won by an even wider margin in Weyburn-Big Muddy.
Given that the Saskatchewan Party was headed for victory, the worst-case scenario was that the NDP would lose so badly as to allow the Liberals to positionÂ themselves as the main opposition party. Fortunately, the NDP held onto a respectable number of seats and the Liberal PartyÂ was again shut out.
At the campaignâ€™s outset, I wrote that the Saskatchewan Party wanted an issue-free election. Unfortunately, it largely got one.
The Saskatchewan Party successfully neutralized several potential wedge issues by pledging not to privatize healthcare, sell Crown corporations, sign TILMA, or stop scheduled minimum-wage increases. In response to the NDPâ€™s proposed universal prescription drug plan, the Saskatchewan Party offered a plan covering all children and most seniors. Progressives will have to hold Saskatchewanâ€™s New Government to these commitments.
Disappointingly, the outgoing NDP government also neutralized several potential wedge issues by adopting the same positions as the Saskatchewan Party. Even as Conservative governments in Newfoundland and Alberta began raising resource royalties, the Saskatchewan government continued giving away provincial resources toÂ accelerate development.
The 2006 provincial budget eliminated Saskatchewanâ€™s corporate capital tax and slashed its corporate income tax from 17% to 12%. A year ago, the NDP government cut the provincial sales tax (PST) from 7% to 5%.
There is no getting around the fact that these tax cuts mirrored the Saskatchewan Partyâ€™s program and, for that matter, the federal Conservative program. The upshot is that the Saskatchewan Party is promising few further tax cuts. Its election platform pledged to exempt used cars for the PST, a tax credit for recent post-secondary graduates, and some smaller tax credits and rebates. In other words, the Saskatchewan Party is not proposing to significantly reduce the fiscal capacity available to finance provincial public services.
By contrast, industrial relations are an area in which the Saskatchewan Party will certainly make matters worse. Although the NDP did notÂ implement most available hours, anti-scab legislation or sectoral bargaining, Saskatchewan still shines across Canada as a beacon of relatively progressive labour legislation.
The Saskatchewan Party clearly intends to move toward the employer-friendly regime present in the rest of English Canada. Its platform explicitly included essential-services legislation, “reviewing” Workersâ€™ Compensation, an end to card-check certification, and free reign for management to oppose union organizing.
UPDATE (Nov. 9): The morning after the morning after –
Although the website that I linked to still reports that the NDP won the “rural” constituency of Meadow Lake, it emerged yesterday that the Saskatchewan Party is ahead. This seat, along with the two that the Saskatchewan Party barely won in Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, might change based on absentee ballots, recounts, etc. At this point, the provincewide seat count is 38-20, but up to three seats could ultimately shift to the NDP opposition.
On the policy front, the Alberta government has already made an overture about Saskatchewan joining TILMA.Â Some CanWest pundits are pushing the Saskatchewan PartyÂ to break its promise on Crown corporations.
UPDATE (Nov. 10): I flew into Regina this morning. John Baird was also on the flight. I wonder whether he is advising Saskatchewanâ€™s New Government.