The shifting political sands in Saskatchewan now have large implications for at least one person at the University of Saskatchewan. The Saskatoon-Fairview by-election has provided former university faculty member Vicki Mowat with a New Democratic Party seat in the provincial legislature.
Mowat has a long past with the U of S, as she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from our Prairie university. More recently, she has been a sessional lecturer, before moving on to work as an executive associate to the associate dean of Aboriginal affairs.
On Sept. 7, Mowat won what anybody would call a landslide victory in the Saskatoon-Fairview by-election. With 60.3 per cent of the vote cast in her favour, Mowat almost doubled the vote count of her nearest competitor, Cameron Scott of the Saskatchewan Party.
Mowat is a member of the almost-perpetual-underdog party, the Saskatchewan NDP. Her victory raises the number of seats held by the NDP to 12, reducing the seat count of the dominant Sask. Party from 49 to 48.
Many students on campus only hold hazy recollections of an era before Brad Wall and vague memories of the last NDP dynasty, led by Lorne Calvert — and prior to that, Roy Romanow. This dynasty ended in 2007, which marked the beginning of a decade of Sask. Party dominance.
The Sask. Party emerged from the 2016 provincial election with 51 seats to the NDP’s 10, making the Sask. Party the only centre-right party to form three consecutive governments in Saskatchewan’s history.
Mowat’s seat in the legislature is the product of a by-election initiated after the withdrawal of Jennifer Campeau, who narrowly beat Mowat in the 2016 general election. A similar situation occurred earlier in the year in the Saskatoon-Meewasin riding, which yielded another NDP seat to the hands of Ryan Meili.
The Sheaf reached Mowat for comment on her win and her take on the larger operation of Saskatchewan as a whole, and she acknowledges her roots at the U of S in relation to her new position in the legislature.
“Part of me feels as though I really represent working people,” Mowat said. “Obviously, I was a student as well at the U of S, so part of me feels the responsibility to represent students and staff members.”
Recently, the Sask. Party’s austerity budget has led to cuts across a wide number of provincial expenditures, including a 5.6 per cent cut to the university’s base funding. The students aren’t the only ones who are agitated over these cuts.
“It’s so frustrating that we’ve had record revenues in this province for the past 10 years, and this is where we’re at… I cannot imagine how that decision-making process takes place,” Mowat said.
Additionally, Mowat shares what actions she will undertake as MLA.
“If we want to talk about what an NDP government would look like, we absolutely would have to start by opening the books to look at all these things, making sure that all our priorities are in place,” Mowat said.
Mowat believes that she noticed a change in the political climate in Saskatoon during her door-to-door campaign before the by-election.
“Public opinion had shifted quite a bit since the 2016 election… You can tell people are quite frustrated,” Mowat said.
Given the recent controversies with the Sask. Party’s budget and Brad Wall’s subsequent resignation, Mowat is confident of what the NDP can offer to all Saskatchewanians.
“There is a lot of energy in our party right now, a lot of people working very hard,” Mowat said.
Certainly, it is an interesting time in Saskatchewan’s political scene.
Mowat will be at the Usask NDP annual general meeting in the Campus Club Space, in Room 220 of Place Riel, on Sept. 28.
Photo: Saskatchewan NDP / Supplied