The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Battleground 2015: A comprehensive look at the elections

By in Features/News

With the turn of the calendar to 2015, Saskatchewan entered both a federal and a provincial election year.

The most recent federal vote projection shows Stephen Harper’s Conservatives neck-and-neck with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals — with the Conservatives barely pulling out in front after several months of rallying. If the federal election was held tomorrow, 32.3 per cent of survey respondents in an iPolitics poll would vote for the Conservative Party versus 31.6 per cent for the Liberals, meaning the Conservatives may be wading into minority government territory. Less than a one-point lead is a virtual tie.

Nationally, Thomas Mulcair’s New Democratic Party was indicated to have 19.1 per cent of support, suggesting that the Liberals and the Conservatives are the two main parties Canadians will choose from. Elizabeth May’s Green Party garnered eight per cent nationally, with Mario Beaulieu’s Bloc Québécois trailing behind at 5.4 per cent.

The survey suggested that 3.6 per cent of Canadians are still unsure which way to cast their ballots.

Since April 2013, the federal Liberals have been riding high in the polls. So what’s pushing the Conservatives back into voters’ favour? Perhaps voters feel that the economy is on shaky ground as oil prices continue to drop. Harper has consistently branded his party as a strong steward of the economy.

Or perhaps it could be the increasingly frequent terror attacks leading the news — Harper has traditionally been seen as a global leader against terrorism.

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Due to Canada’s rising population, 30 additional seats will be added to the Canadian House of Commons for this year’s election, bringing the total number up to 338. The riding redistribution creates six additional seats in both Alberta and British Columbia, three in Quebec and 15 in Ontario.

Federally, the election date is scheduled for Oct. 19, but there is speculation that Harper could drop the writ before then.

As established in the Canada Elections Act, a general election is to be held on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following the polling day for the preceding general election. However, the Act does allow the Governor General of Canada to call an election at any prior time on the advice of the Prime Minister, which, by convention, the Governor General must almost always follow.

Although Harper has explicitly stated that he has no plans for an election before Oct. 19, the Liberals and the NDP are getting ready just in case the Conservatives deem the spring more opportune timing.

It all depends on whether Harper thinks he has a better chance of winning in April or May than in October. One potential reason for Harper to call an early election is the economy — plummeting oil prices are threatening to seriously dent the budgets of the federal and a number of provincial governments, and Harper may want to make his case to voters while the economy remains relatively stable.

Prime Ministers calling early elections is not unprecedented. Harper himself called an early election in 2008, coming back with more seats as a result.

Here’s where things get tricky: if the date set for the election conflicts with another Canadian provincial, territorial or municipal election, the date of election must be moved.

Saskatchewan, like Canada, follows a fixed election-date system, where voters must head to the polls on a specific day four years after the previous election. In Saskatchewan, that day is the first Monday of November, which means its next election is scheduled for Nov. 2. This would cause two campaigns to occur at the same time.

Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Ontario are all in similar situations. Recently, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall asked Harper to consider changing the federal election date.

Wall says he will reschedule Saskatchewan’s election to April of 2015 or 2016 if Harper says no, but he says it would be easier for the federal government to change its date than for a number of provinces to do so.

In a straw poll survey conducted by the Sheaf, 53 students were asked how they planned to vote in the next provincial and federal elections.

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Respondents leaned overwhelmingly left, evidenced by a 49 per cent of support for the Liberals federally and 47 per cent for Cam Broten’s NDP provincially. Nationally, 23 per cent of students would vote for the NDP, followed by the Conservatives at 17 per cent and other parties at four per cent. Seven per cent of respondents will not vote in the federal election.

Provincially, Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party would receive 34 per cent of the student vote with other parties trailing behind at six per cent. More students will elect not to vote provincially than nationally — 13 per cent.

Interestingly, the federal Liberal vote seems to be split between the NDP and Sask. Party provincially, suggesting a high propensity of libertarian voters on campus.

In the latest provincial opinion poll, the Sask. Party and NDP are sitting at 63.2 and 27.4 per cent of the vote, respectively — a significantly different proportion compared to the campus vote. 

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Although the average University of Saskatchewan student may be disillusioned with party politics, students like Avery Beaudin and Brayden Fox say this doesn’t have to be the case.

Beaudin, a fourth-year student of native studies and social work, is the vice-president of the U of S New Democratic Party campus club. Fox, a fourth-year political studies major, is the president of the U of S Saskatchewan Party club.

While their ideologies may be fundamentally opposed, their message is the same: get involved.

“When it comes time for the election, we’re hoping our membership will be valuable to the candidates as volunteers for campaigning and door-knocking, that sort of thing,” said Beaudin.

Fox and Beaudin are both heavily involved in their respective parties. Fox has served as the treasurer for the youth wing of the Sask. Party and also as the president of his constituency association. Besides volunteering for several provincial campaigns, Beaudin is seeking the nomination for NDP candidate in the Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek federal riding, a rural constituency just outside of Saskatoon.

During their relatively short tenure, the U of S New Democrats have acquired 146 likes on Facebook and have around 10 dedicated members. The U of S Sask. Party has 84 likes on Facebook and about 15 members on paper.

“People often ignore provincial politics, and I don’t understand why,” said Fox. “It’s such a great way to make change. Even something like tuition is a provincial issue… everyone cares about tuition yet no one cares about provincial politics.”

Both clubs aim to encourage critical thought, political involvement and an interest in policymaking. One way they do this is by hosting meet-and-greets with federal and provincial politicians. The U of S New Democrats are planning to organize a panel discussion on March 21 in Louis’ Loft. The event will take place at 6 p.m.

Similarly, the U of S Sask. Party hopes to host a panel discussion sometime in March.

The U of S New Democrats also have tentative plans to show a documentary called Inequality for All, which “goes over what a capitalist economy creates and how inequality increases over time in a consumerist, capitalist environment,” Beaudin said.

The U of S Sask. Party’s main event this year was sponsoring youth to attend the Sask. Party convention in November, which took place in Regina.

Beaudin recently re-founded the U of S New Democrats after a significant period of inactivity. Fox has been a member of the U of S Sask. Party since his first year in university.

The U of S Sask. Party meets on certain Wednesdays and Thursdays in Arts 108 at 4 p.m. The U of S New Democrats do not have a set meeting schedule.

Beaudin said she joined the NDP because of her family’s personal experience with the provincial government.

“I grew up in a household that didn’t have a lot of stability and I noticed a negative change in my family’s economic status when the government changed provincially,” said Beaudin. “If we’re going to talk about being socially conscious and making good investments, the people who put money on the table so we’re better off down the road are the New Democrats.”

Fox’s motivation was simply a fascination with provincial politics.

“It’s a great way to meet people, learn about policymaking and try to make change in the province,” said Fox.

Students wanting more information on the U of S Sask. Party club or U of S NDP club can visit their Facebook pages. The U of S Sask. Party also has an email: uofs.saskparty@gmail.com.

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University of Saskatchewan professor Claire Card has been named the New Democratic candidate for the campus’ riding, Saskatoon Centre—University, in the upcoming federal election.

“I had a growing sense of frustration that the Canadian identity that I know and love was being systematically eroded and dismantled by the Harper government,” said Card. “I had a lot of concerns about opportunity for people in the future being changed and wealth being polarized, the environment being degraded and privacy being invaded.”

A professor of theriogenology in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Card said she never imagined pursuing a career in politics.

“I’ve been asked for many, many years to run. I was president of the former riding association of Saskatoon—Wanuskewin but I just didn’t see myself stepping forward in that role,” said Card.

However, Card believes her experience in academia has uniquely prepared her for the job of a public official.

“As a professor, I have a lot of concerns about sustainability and fairness in society,” Card said.

“Watching that be eroded was an impetus for me to want to make some big changes… that’s why I’ve decided to run.”

Historically, the Saskatoon Centre—University constituency has been partially urban and mostly rural. This year, however, the riding has been reconstituted as a completely urban one.

“We have an exciting opportunity with the new riding boundaries,” said Card. “For the first time, your vote matters in Saskatoon Centre—University.”

According to the university’s collective agreement, Card is able to take an indefinite leave of absence to pursue politics.

“If I win the election and a year later I’m booted out, I’ll be right back on campus,” Card said.

Card stated that her biggest priorities are academic freedom and affordable, accessible education.

“This is a good opportunity to advance that portfolio in Ottawa,” said Card. “It’s time for change.”

Adam Duke, a third-year political studies major, will also seek public office this year in the provincial riding of Humboldt—Watrous.

Duke joined the NDP a year and half ago because he liked their new leader, Cam Broten.

“I stand for what Cam stands for,” said Duke. “He’s a tremendous leader.”

Duke’s main goals include making post-secondary education affordable and focusing on seniors’ care. The primary education system is also a priority for Duke.

“The elementary school that I grew up in has classrooms meant for 20 kids that are holding 34,” said Duke. “We want to make sure teachers and students have proper classroom sizes so the learning and working environment is proper.”

Duke said a career in provincial politics is always something he was interested in.

The iPolitics survey was administered by EKOS Politics, an election-research and polling technologies agency, over Feb. 11–17. The sample group was entirely made up of Canadians aged 18 and over and reached 3,386 individuals via telephone. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 1.7 percentage points.

The latest provincial provincial poll was administered on April 9–13, 2014, by Insightrix Research Inc., a market research firm. There were 807 randomly selected members of the SaskWatch Research panel who took part in the online study.

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