Tuesdays with Murney: How Saskatchewan politics got to this point


Uniting the vote against the NDP has been a big factor in the Sask. Party rising to power

John Murney
Guest Blogger

Saskatchewan politics has undergone a great deal of change in the past 20 years. To understand this, you have to know Saskatchewan political history.

The post-World War II period of Saskatchewan political history has largely been dominated by the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP. This domination has been made possible by the split in the anti-NDP vote by the two free enterprise parties: the Saskatchewan Liberals and the PC Party of Saskatchewan. Twenty years ago, Roy Romanow and the New Democrats rolled to a landslide win when the Liberals and the PCs almost evenly split the vote against them.

But today, we have a Saskatchewan Party government in power, and the NDP is a shattered opposition. The Sask. Party rolled to a landslide win last fall, capturing over 64 per cent of the vote. The NDP got just under 32 per cent of the vote, its worst showing since the Great Depression. Polling done since the 2011 election confirms that these numbers are not going away. How did we get to this point? How did Saskatchewan politics change so dramatically over the past 20 years?

"Twenty years ago, Roy Romanow and the New Democrats rolled to a landslide win when the Liberals and the PCs almost evenly split the vote against them."

There is no one answer to that question, but a trend emerges from the many answers. First off, the rise of the Saskatchewan Party is a very important development. Brad Wall is a very popular Premier in most quarters, but his popularity would not have made such a dramatic impact on the overall results if the anti-NDP vote had been split between two or three parties. The Saskatchewan Party worked hard to unite the entire PC and Liberal vote under its banner. That hard work paid off last fall in a big way. It is that uniting the vote against the NDP that is the true story here. Both the PC and Liberal parties are now fringe parties in Saskatchewan and neither of them appear to be in a position to win back their former supporters at any time in the near future.

This spells disaster for the Saskatchewan NDP. The New Democrats have always relied on a split among the vote against them to win power. But starting in 1997, that anti-NDP vote has been moving toward the Saskatchewan Party, and now almost all of it is united under the SP banner.

If this vote remains united behind the Sask. Party and doesn’t find another political banner to gather under, then the NDP will remain in opposition indefinitely. Whether or not this is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder. But one thing is for certain: we are now in a new era of Saskatchewan politics.

Tuesdays with Murney focuses on Saskatchewan politics. John Murney is a veteran political analyst. Murney, who was a broadcast journalist for over 13 years, has three degress: BA in economics, BA in classical and medieval studies and MA in economics.

For more of his work, visit http://jmurney.blogspot.ca/