The third week of the Saskatchewan election campaign was highlighted by the Leader’s Debate, new polling, and more promises.
The 2020 Provincial Leaders’ debate, which took place on October 14, saw Saskatchewan Party leader Scott Moe face off against leader of the Saskatchewan New Democrats Ryan Meili. The debate was seen by most pundits as very civil, and while there was no clear winner, it might also be said that there were no losers. Both party leaders were very clear on their messaging, allowing Saskatchewan voters to make up their minds based on clear party policies.
During the debate, Moe said that the NDP failed to account for over $4 billion in spending commitments made in their platform. He said the $4 billion in hidden spending is on top of the $2.7 billion that the NDP did account for in their platform, thus adding up to a $6.7 billion spending spree over a four-year term that will result in higher taxes, endless deficits, or both.
The topics of debate ranged from the COVID-19 pandemic and health, to education and the economy. Moe touted his party as having had a steady hand in helping the province recover from the pandemic with a sound fiscal record. He said the question that Saskatchewan voters will ask is – who do you trust to lead Saskatchewan’s economic recovery from the pandemic?
Meili’s messaging during the debate was that Moe and the Sask Party will make deep cuts that the people of Saskatchewan cannot afford. Moe’s response was that the only cuts in his party’s platform are cutting SaskPower bills, cutting the cost of home renovations, and cutting the small business tax. He spoke to the Saskatchewan Party’s record of growth, their plan to make life more affordable, and their plan to balance the budget by 2024.
After the debate, Meili and the NDP put out a news release stating that he was the clear winner with his party’s plan to put people first. They said that Meili demonstrated what real leadership looks like with his plan to fix healthcare, make schools safer by reducing class sizes, and create good jobs for Saskatchewan families.
While this debate is unlikely to shift voters to make the monumental gains needed for an NDP win, it may have helped with Meili’s likeability and helped prove his ability to lead the strong opposition people want to see if the Legislature.
NEW POLL – SAME OUTLOOK
The day after the Leaders’ Debate, an Angus Reid Institute poll showed the Sask Party holds a 27-point lead over the NDP. Sixty per cent of the people in the survey said they planned to vote for the Sask Party, versus 33 per cent for the NDP. The poll also indicated that Scott Moe’s popularity nearly doubles that of Ryan Meili, 56 per cent to 31 per cent.
As can be expected, the Sask Party lead the way on economic questions in the poll. Eighty-six per cent of people in the poll said the party would be best to lead on resources, and 82 per cent favoured the Sask Party on economic growth questions. The NDP ranked better on social issues – 44 per cent of people said the NDP is the best party to lead on health-care issues versus 39 per cent for the Sask Party, and 48 per cent said the NDP would be the best party to lead on the province’s COVID-19 response versus 33 per cent for the Sask Party.
The polling gets much closer in Regina and Saskatoon. People in Regina were split evenly between the Sask Party and the NDP at 46 per cent, with 52 per cent of Saskatoon voters favouring the Sask. Party.
The Saskatchewan Party announcements last week included:
- Announcing the Community Rink Affordability Grant that will provide $2,500 per ice surface per year to help communities keep their rink activities affordable for Saskatchewan families. The grant will be restarted in the current fiscal year with communities receiving payments this winter.
- Increase funding under the Saskatchewan Veteran Service Club Support Program from $100,000 to $1.5 million per year.
- Continue to invest in Saskatoon to ensure the city remains an engine of growth in the province for years to come.
- Ensure the province has a strong, growing economy that will support a great quality of life for families in every community, including Prince Albert.
- Support small businesses as they help drive Saskatchewan’s economic recovery.
The Saskatchewan New Democrats’ announcements for the week included:
- Removing the provincial sales tax on construction labour as part of a Sask-First plan to create good jobs and restart the post-COVID economy.
- Open a badly needed Mental Health Emergency Room in Prince Albert.
- Commit to gender parity in Cabinet and closing gender pay gap.
- Demanding Sask Party candidates in Regina join their call for a full public inquiry into the Global Transportation Hub (GTH) scandal.
- Bring back the Saskatchewan Transportation Company and reverse the Sask Party’s record of privatization.
ELECTIONS SASK AND VOTING
Chief Electoral Officer of Saskatchewan, Dr. Michael Boda, has said that a total of 61,412 vote by mail applications have been approved by Elections Saskatchewan. This is an extraordinary increase from the 4,420 vote by mail ballots that were returned and counted in the 2016 General Election. This might make the results in some constituencies too close to call on election night.
Vote by mail ballots are traditionally counted during a Final Count held 12 days following Election Day. Given the increase in vote by mail ballots, the Chief Electoral Officer has stated that vote by mail counting will instead begin 2 days following election day with vote by mail ballots received by 8 p.m. on Election Day being counted at that time. The remainder of vote by mail ballots received after 8 p.m. on Election Day, and received by 10 days following Election Day, will be counted beginning at the Final Count.
WHAT TO EXPECT THIS WEEK
There is only one week of the campaign left. Election Day is Monday, October 26. This last week will see parties continue to identify the unknown or leaning voters and push them to voting at the advanced polls. Given the apparent apathy towards this election, a key effort for both parties will be ensuring that their identified voters get to the polls.
Leader’s will likely focus their time on key constituencies where the races are close or where there is a possibility to flip the vote during this final week of the campaign. Those constituencies included are in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, and Prince Albert. for an in-depth look at some of those races, please click these links for articles from the Regina Leader-Post and Global News Regina.