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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Start Your Engines

Nathan Raine
Published Wednesday October 15, 06:58 pm
When will the next federal election happen, and what will it mean for Saskatoon?

Canada’s next federal election will be held on Oct. 19th, 2015 — if, that is, Prime Minister Stephen Harper follows his own fixed election date law. But while following a law that your own government introduced seems pretty much a no-brainer, don’t be too sure.

U of S political studies professor David McGrane, for example, says that the odds are pretty even that Harper will decide to kick off an election prematurely.

“I think there's a 50/50 chance for Harper to go early,” he says, “based on two factors. One, the federal budget is going to be sometime in February. With the type of tax [breaks expected] in the budget, it would make sense to go right then — when the iron is hot, so to speak. And that way the positive effects from the budget [won’t] dissipate.”

The second factor is Mike Duffy. Duffy, the former Conservative senator, made headlines in 2013 when a scandal forced him out of the Conservative caucus. Duff is currently charged with 31 offences, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

“The Duffy trial is going to be starting in April or so,” says McGrane. “There's going to be all sorts of embarrassing stuff coming out during the trial, and Duffy himself is a bit of a wild cannon; you don’t know what kind of stuff he's going to come up with or where he’s going to go. And the prime minister might be called to testify during the Duffy trial. So that's the last thing you need going into an election, a big election, with more details dripping out on what Harper did or didn't know about the Duffy scandal.”

Regardless of when the election happens, McGrane says that the political landscape in Saskatoon may well shift, thanks to revised electoral boundaries.

“These are brand new urban ridings, so in that sense, the issues that the candidates are going to come up with during the election are more urban. I think we will have more debatable urban issues, which I think is a good thing. Also, in terms of the parties, the Liberals and the NDP will probably be a little more competitive in these ridings than they were in the split rural/urban ridings,” he says.

The biggest challenge, says McGrane, is for Liberals to regain their footing, as they fared extremely poorly during the 2011 election.

“It appears as if the Liberal vote is going to be higher than it was in 2011, if you believe the polls at the national level. Then the question becomes, who do the Liberals steal the vote away from? Do they steal from the NDP, which obviously helps the Conservatives, do they steal from the Conservatives, or do they somehow garner enough votes to win a seat here or so,” says McGrane. “The Liberal chances are there, but they're in a tough fight in a lot of ways because you have to remember [in] the last election the Liberals were really not a factor. To jump from five to eight per cent all the way up to the 34-40 per cent range is a huge jump for any political party, so they have an uphill battle facing them.”

For the NDP, the challenge again looks to be a fight with the big blue machine.

“For the NDP, they hope the Liberals take away some of the vote from the Conservatives and that their numbers hold or add a little bit, and then they could maybe elect a few.”

The Conservatives, though, look to face a much more challenging voting demographic this time around.

“The one prediction I would make is that I think it's going to be a lot tougher for the Conservatives to sweep Saskatoon. Because of the new boundaries, but also because this is now almost the end of a 10-year-old government, Harper has been around for a long time, and there've been a variety of scandals pop up over the last few years that are hurting Harper. So in that sense there's a much better argument by the opposition parties that it's time for a change,” says McGrane.

And obviously, for the Liberals there's the Trudeau factor. The Liberal leader, despite a few snags in his political career, is bringing the Liberals a refreshed popularity in the city.

“Trudeau wasn't there in 2011 or before. This appears to be the most popular leader the Liberals have had since Chretien, [so] that might open up a whole new set of variables. So it’s a much more volatile situation in the Saskatoon. And because of that volatility, which is partly attributed to the redistributed ridings, it's indeed going to be more difficult for the Conservatives to sweep the city blue again.”

The key for the Liberals, says McGrane, is to build on the popularity of their leader.

“Undoubtedly they have a popular leader — people find Trudeau very likeable. So when it comes to Saskatoon specifically, they're going to want to run a campaign that's focused on Trudeau, and how electing Trudeau is going to create positive change in Ottawa. In that sense it will be interesting to see if the campaign can attract Trudeau here for a date during the campaign,” says McGrane. “That might be an important part of what happens in Saskatoon: if he comes here or not.”

The strategy for the NDP in order to break the Conservative stronghold is to focus on the local and immediate issues, says McGrane.

“It appears that Mulcair might not be as popular as Trudeau, so you might see them run a little less of a leader-centred campaign. They might want to concentrate on the issues that are important to people in Saskatoon — health care, housing, the issues we're known for,” he says.

“[They also have to] ensure that there's not much strategic voting happening. What's going to be happening is that you have a situation where you have a national narrative forming, and where they are talking about it being a Conservative or Liberal government, some people who support the NDP might jump over to the Liberal side in order to get rid of the Conservative government,” says McGrane.

“They're really going to have to drive that message home, that the only party to beat the Conservatives in Saskatoon is the NDP. So we'll see them drive that message: 'If you want to kick out Harper you have to vote NDP.'”

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