With less than two months before the provincial election, Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party have the support of more than three in five decided voters, a new poll shows.
A Praxis Analytics survey of 800 Saskatchewan residents shows the Sask. Party with 63.4 per cent support compared to only 26.1 per cent for Dwain Lingenfelter and the NDP. At these levels of support, the Sask. Party could significantly increase its current seat total of 38 in the 58-seat legislature. The NDP currently holds 20 seats.
The survey shows a majority of people trust the Sask. Party on economic matters, agriculture, crime and “dealing with First Nations issues.” The NDP scored highest on housing and health care while the Greens were first choice for environmental stewardship.
The poll results were first published by the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix in advance of the Nov. 7 provincial election.
“Obviously it’s fairly devastating for the NDP. Sixty-three per cent is a very large number for the Sask. Party to go into an election with,” said University of Saskatchewan professor David McGrane, an expert on provincial politics.
McGrane says a deeper look into the numbers reveal an even grimmer picture for the New Democrats since voters seem already firmly committed to their choices. Only 13 per cent of respondents were still undecided about whom to vote for in November.
“It seems as if that support that the Sask. Party has gained is quite firm, so it seems the NDP is maybe running on the wrong topics,” said McGrane.
One of the NDP’s recent proposals has been a resource royalties savings fund that would collect oil, gas and potash revenues for future uses. However, the poll numbers show a majority of the public trusts the Sask. Party more than the NDP on “collecting reasonable resource royalties.”
But as bad as the NDP’s numbers are, party leader Dwain Lingenfelter’s are even worse. Only 13.4 per cent said Lingenfelter would make the best premier for Saskatchewan while Brad Wall is the first choice for an astonishing 78.7 per cent.
When asked “Is there a party leader you would not want to see as Premier of Saskatchewan?” almost 60 per cent name Lingenfelter.
“Obviously Lingenfelter’s leadership isn’t going all that well. Maybe you could start to stress the party more as opposed to the leader,” McGrane suggested as a possible NDP strategy.
He also said the NDP could reduce the casualties in November by focusing on health care, housing and environment — issues on which the public trusts the New Democrats.
The current level of support for Wall and the Sask. Party could lead to an unprecedented majority. Even the NDP’s landslide in 1971 under the popular Allan Blakeney came with 55 per cent support and netted the party 45 seats in the legislature. The Sask. Party could easily beat that record on Nov. 7.
One remaining question is whether the Liberals and Green Party will play any significant role in the election. At present, the province’s left- and right-wing movements appear entrenched within the Sask. Party and NDP, respectively.
McGrane says the NDP usually succeeds electorally when the right is split among parties, as happened during most of the 1990s, before the Sask. Party formed to draw support from former Progressive Conservatives and Liberals.
“It’s going to be interesting to watch how high Brad Wall and the Sask. Party can go, and how low the NDP is going to go,” said McGrane.
graphic: Brianna Whitmore/The Sheaf