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The state of nominations for Saskatchewan’s provincial election

Both the Sask Party and NDP have half their candidates nominated in the run up to the 2024 provincial election.

REGINA - As the calendar turns to a new year and a looming provincial election in 2024, the focus of parties right now is on who their candidates will be.

The process of nominating candidates for the 61 provincial ridings is already well under way, with several candidates already in place and a number of incumbent MLAs confirmed to be leaving after the next election — either voluntarily or, in a few cases, involuntarily. 

But there are also a number of nominations still outstanding and still some big political names whose future plans have not been confirmed. Other things to consider is the fact that boundary changes come into effect for this election, which could make individual races more interesting. Another factor is speculation that Premier Scott Moe and the governing Saskatchewan Party might decide to go to the polls prior to the scheduled election date of Oct. 28 — the date already set by the fixed election law legislation.

While there has been some online rumblings that a provincial election could be called this spring, Premier Moe has denied it when asked about it by reporters, and the government has shown little inclination that they will be moving off the October date -- at least, as of now,

In any event, here is a look at how the nomination races stack up and what the outlook is for the 2024 vote.

Confirmed to not be running again

So far a number of sitting MLAs have confirmed they are not seeking re-election. From the Sask. Party, those not running again include Don Morgan of Saskatoon Southeast, Dana Skoropad of Arm River, Greg Ottenbreit of Yorkton, Ken Francis of Kindersley, Fred Bradshaw of Carrot River Valley, Delbert Kirsch of Batoche, and Greg Lawrence of Moose Jaw Wakamow.

For the New Democrats, two incumbents, Doyle Vermette of Cumberland and Jennifer Bowes of Saskatoon University, have announced they are not seeking re-election. 

Sask Party nomination races

The Sask Party has already nominated 34 out of 61 candidates to run for the upcoming election. For most of their sitting MLAs their nominations were a mere formality, with no opponents running against them.

Premier Scott Moe was the first to be nominated in Rosthern-Shellbrook. During the summer and early fall, several other names were confirmed to run again. 

Sitting Sask Party MLAs re-nominated by acclaim during that time include Lisa Lambert (Saskatoon Churchill-Wildwood), Muhammed Fiaz (Regina Pasqua), Jeremy Harrison (Meadow Lake), Lori Carr (Estevan), David Buckingham (Westview), Bronwyn Eyre (Stonebridge), Steven Bonk (Moosomin-Montmartre), Jeremy Cockrill (The Battlefords), Ken Cheveldayoff (Willowgrove), Gene Makowsky (Regina University), Alana Ross (Prince Albert Northcote), Christine Tell (Wascana Plains), Hugh Nerlein (Kelvington-Wadena), Marv Friesen (Riversdale), David Marit (Wood River), Doug Steele (Cypress Hills) , Gord Wyant (Saskatoon Chief Mistawasis), Daryl Harrison (Cannington) and Travis Keisig (Last Mountain-Touchwood).

More incumbents were renominated by acclaim in October through December, and those included Everett Hindley (Swift Current), Todd Goudy (Melfort), Warren Kaeding (Melville-Saltcoats), Tim McLeod (Moose Jaw North), Paul Merriman (Saskatoon Silverspring), Joe Hargrave (Prince Albert Carlton), Jim Reiter (Rosetown-Delisle) and Jim Lemaigre (Athabasca).

New candidates were also nominated with Eric Schmalz acclaimed in Saskatchewan Rivers to run against incumbent Nadine Wilson, who had left the Sask Party caucus and was now leader of the Sask. United Party. Later, Terri Bromm was acclaimed in Carrot River Valley to replace the retiring Fred Bradshaw.

But there were a few nomination races that were contested, including ridings especially impacted by boundary redistribution. One of those impacted was Martensville-Warman incumbent Terry Jenson. His old seat was effectively split in two between Martensville and Warman, so Jenson chose to seek a contested nomination in Warman against city councillor Shaun Cripps on Sept. 5, and won the nomination to run again in 2024.

Other incumbents were not so fortunate. On Oct. 17 at a nomination meeting in Canora-Pelly in which a reported one thousand people showed up, incumbent Terry Dennis was defeated by Sean Wilson who will run for the party in 2024.

In December, after his Biggar-Saskatchewan Valley seat was carved up due to boundary changes, Speaker Randy Weekes became the second sitting MLA to lose his nomination after Sask Party members in Kindersley-Biggar nominated Kim Gartner, a school board trustee and local Macklin administrator.

The incumbent for Cut Knife-Turtleford lost his nomination in an unusual way: Ryan Domotor was booted out of the Saskatchewan Party caucus entirely after being charged with procuring sexual services. Domotor, who previously was renominated to run for a second term in Cut Knife-Turtleford, was instead stripped of that nomination by the party after his arrest and now sits as an independent.

This situation had immediate ramifications for what was a contested nomination race in Lloydminster. There, incumbent Colleen Young had faced a potential strong challenge from James Thorsteinson, former Sask Party president. But upon word that Domotor was removed, Thorsteinson withdrew from the Lloydminster race and announced he would seek the Cut Knife-Turtleford nomination instead, leaving Young to claim the Lloydminster nomination unopposed. A nomination meeting is still to be held in Cut Knife-Turtleford.

There are still more nominations left to go and a small number of prominent Sask Party MLAs have yet to be renominated, leading to some speculation about their future. Those MLAs whose Sask Party nominations have not yet been scheduled include Donna Harpauer in Humboldt-Watrous, Dustin Duncan in Weyburn-Big Muddy, Laura Ross in Regina Rochdale and Gary Grewal in Regina Northeast. 

If Duncan were to run again it would be in the renamed Weyburn-Bengough riding. He had indicated in a media interview last year his plans to run again, but in a more recent interview for Duncan said he hadn’t decided. 

There is also no word yet on whether Don McMorris, who represents Indian Head - Milestone, is confirmed to run again. A major issue is that his former rural riding was heavily carved up by boundary redistribution, which means he would have to run in essentially a new riding.

Blaine McLeod, who won last year’s Lumsden-Morse by-election, is set to be renominated by acclamation on Jan. 29.

In a few ridings where either the seat is without an incumbent or the Saskatchewan Party currently doesn’t hold the seat, there are some active nomination races happening. The new seat of Martensville-Blairmore has three candidates seeking the Sask Party nomination: Jamie Martens, Sunny Kals and M.S. Gill. 

In Batoche, where incumbent Delbert Kirsch is retiring, Pamela Wintrinham and Darlene Rowden are in the nomination race. That nomination will take place Feb. 5 in Wakaw.

The Yorkton nomination to replace Greg Ottenbreit is expected to be hotly contested, and seeking the nomination there are Darcy Zaharia, David Chan and Kaitlyn Kitzan.

In Saskatoon University-Sutherland, Dr. John Owodori, Ghislaine McLeod and Dale Hrynuik have announced they are seeking the nomination there. The race is also being contested for the new riding of Regina South Albert, with that nomination meeting set for Jan. 25 and nominations to close this week.

In Moose Jaw - Wakamow, Megan Patterson is seeking that nomination; that nomination is to be decided Feb. 1.

NDP nominations

The New Democrats have nominated about half of their candidates for the 2024 election, with many contested nominations happening in those seats they consider particular targets. 

To this point, NDP MLAs who have been officially renominated, or are otherwise confirmed on the party website to be running again, include Betty Nippi-Albright (Saskatoon Centre), Matt Love (Eastview), Erika Ritchie (Nutana), Nathaniel Teed (Meewasin), Vicki Mowat (Fairview), Trent Wotherspoon (Mount Royal), Nicole Sarauer (Douglas Park), Meara Conway (Elphinstone Centre), Jared Clarke (Walsh Acres), Noor Burki (Coronation Park) and the NDP party leader Carla Beck (Lakeview).

Boundary changes have played a key role in the decision of Regina University MLA Aleana Young to run in the newly configured Regina South Albert riding. A new and redrawn Regina University riding includes part of the old Gardiner Park riding currently held by Gene Makowsky. 

Makowsky is nominated by the Sask Party to run in the redrawn Regina University seat; meanwhile there are currently three candidates seeking the NDP nomination to go up against him in the election: Reid Hill, Deb Nyczai and Sally Housser.

In Cumberland, where NDP incumbent Doyle Vermette is not seeking re-election after many years in office, La Ronge town councillor Jordan McPhail was acclaimed as the NDP candidate seeking to hold that longtime seat for the party.

In Prince Albert, former MLA Nicole Rancourt was acclaimed in Prince Albert Northcote, hoping to take back the seat she had narrowly lost last time to the Saskatchewan Party’s Alana Ross.

Meanwhile in Prince Albert-Carlton held by the Sask Party’s Joe Hargrave, Carolyn Brost Strom won a contested NDP nomination over Troy Parenteau, who had run for the party in 2020. 

In Regina Rochdale, Joan Pratchler was acclaimed to seek the seat currently held by the Sask Party.

In Saskatoon, Tajinder Grewal won a contested nomination in Saskatoon University-Sutherland over Melissa McGillivray and Jeffery Klyne. That seat is open in 2024 with the area’s NDP incumbent Jennifer Bowes not seeking re-election.

In another urban riding expected to be hotly contested at election time, Keith Jorgenson won a contested nomination in Saskatoon Churchill-Wildwood to take on incumbent SaskParty MLA Lisa Lambert.

Other NDP candidates nominated include Tom Kroczynski in The Battlefords, Michael Woolard in Canora-Pelly, Lorne Schroeder in Kelvington-Wadena, Thera Nordal in Last Mountain-Touchwood, Tammy Pike in Martensville-Blairmore, Melissa Patterson in Moose Jaw Wakamow, Jacqueline Roy in Regina Northeast, Bhajan Brar in Regina Pasqua, Brenda Edel in Rosetown-Delisle, Don McBean in Saskatoon Chief Mistawasis, Darcy Warrington in Saskatoon Stonebridge, Grady Birns in White City-Qu’Appelle, and Lenore Pinder in Yorkton.

Some more key ridings set to hold nominations soon include Moose Jaw North on Jan. 13 where Cheantelle Fisher is seeking the nomination; Saskatoon Riversdale on Feb. 26, where 2020 nominee Ashlee Hicks is in the race again this time as is Kim Breckner; and Saskatoon Willowgrove where Shawn Bennett and Alana Wakula are seeking the nomination to face off against the SaskParty's Ken Cheveldayoff.

More big name provincial candidates waiting in the wings?

Rumours have swirled about possible big name or star candidates potentially jumping into the provincial race. There has been rampant speculation online that either Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark could run for the NDP in Saskatoon, or that Regina Mayor Sandra Masters might run for the Saskatchewan Party in Regina.

There had been some suggestion that Clark could run in Riversdale, however there are other contenders seeking the nomination there at the moment. So far, there has been no indication from either Clark or Masters that either of them are interested in making the move to provincial politics, and the election speculation could well be based more on wishful thinking than reality.

What's more, neither Clark nor Masters have confirmed whether they are seeking re-election for Mayor, either, with 2024 being a municipal election year.

Clark recently told CBC News he planned to talk to his family before he came to a final decision on running for re-election as mayor. Masters recently told CTV News she expects she will make her final decision later in mid-2024. 

Other parties' plans

Both the Sask Party and NDP are far ahead of the smaller parties — Sask United, the Greens, the Buffalo Party, the Progressive Conservatives and the Saskatchewan Progress Party - in having candidates in place for 2024. 

Information is sketchy on what those parties plan to do. It is widely expected that the Sask United Party will run leader Nadine Wilson who is the incumbent in Saskatchewan Rivers, and deputy leader Jon Hromek again in Lumsden-Morse, but that is not confirmed as yet. Recently, the party has put out a call for those interested in starting a Sask United constituency association in 2024.

In December, the Buffalo Party confirmed they had nominated Michelle Krieger to run in Cannington, a riding where the party had finished second in 2020.