What a waste of time that was.
The 44th Canadian federal election produced a result that was almost dead-on similar to the 43rd, with another Liberal minority government for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Results as of Tuesday stood at Liberals 158, Conservatives 119, Bloc 34, NDP 25 and Greens 2 — almost identical to 2019.
For all the talk about how this was an “unprecedented election” and so forth, the results sure echoed what went down in 1965.
In that year, Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson called an early election two years into his mandate in the hopes of winning a majority government. What ended up happening was a seat count that was pretty much the same as two years earlier, for all the parties running. The Liberals didn’t get their majority, the whole thing was deemed a waste of time and a few years later Pearson retired -- to be replaced by a guy by the name of Trudeau.
History repeated itself for another guy named "Trudeau" with the 2021 vote, which has produced an almost similar result to the 2019 vote in terms of both the popular vote and the seat count.
So much for all that talk from Justin Trudeau and the Liberals about needing an election because Parliament was broken. If Parliament was broken for the Liberals before, it’s just as broken now.
And so much for all the supposed anger from Canadians about an early election. We heard so much about how angry people were about holding an election when there were so many other priorities the government could have focused on, such as the pandemic or Afghanistan and so on.
Canadians could have used their disgust productively by producing real change at the ballot box, something which could have at least justified the whole effort. But the voters didn’t punish Trudeau the way Ontario voters punished David Peterson in 1990, or the way Alberta voters punished Jim Prentice in 2015, after they called early elections.
Instead, voters reelected pretty much the same folks that were in before. After all the negative TV ads, after all the division of pitting vaxxers against anti-vaxxers, of pitting region against region and after all that hot air, we got the same result we could have had if Parliament hadn’t been dissolved: a Trudeau Liberal government propped up by the NDP.
Canadian voters took the $600 million in taxpayer dollars spent to hold this election, and sent it straight to the wastewater treatment plant.
As for Saskatchewan, it was pretty much the result everyone expected, with the Conservatives winning all 14 Saskatchewan seats, again. By my count, that's roughly $25 million to the wastewater plant.
My assessment of Saskatchewan as a place where “not much is going on” federally turned out to be dead on. What surprised me was how almost totally ignored the province was during this election. The NDP leader Jagmeet Singh did show up a couple of times, but Erin O’Toole showed up only once, and Justin Trudeau barely even got off the plane at the Regina airport. In general, they were pretty much "MIA."
One national leader who did spend some time here was Maxime Bernier, who actually held his election night “victory party” at the Saskatoon Inn. That was yet another typical Bernier gong show we have come to expect in this province, with reports of people flouting the COVID-19 rules by not wearing masks and so on.
It was odd that Bernier opted to spend Election Night in Saskatoon, of all places, instead of in Beauce where he was actually running. Maybe he didn’t want to face the humiliation of losing his own seat, or all the seats, really.
We got a clear answer in this province to the question I had posed a day earlier of whether the PPC would play “spoiler” in the province’s close races. The answer was an emphatic “no."
In general, the vast majority repudiated “Mad Max” and his party's hard-line anti-lockdown, anti-vax policies. Maybe if they were a little less “mad,” they could have done better.
While there were PPC votes cast in the province, their best showings were in a number of rural seats like Souris-Moose Mountain (where they ran second) where they couldn’t do as much damage to the Conservative incumbents. In some rural areas they got upwards of 10 per cent of the vote.
The votes cast for the PPC in the competitive Saskatoon and Regina races ended up not being a factor, as Conservative incumbents like Brad Redekopp in Saskatoon West and Warren Steinley in Regina-Lewvan were able to fend off NDP challenges in spite of it.
Indeed, Saskatoon West and Regina Lewvan turned out to be the “races to watch” in the province, just as expected, except even in those ridings the races weren’t so close in the end. Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River didn’t turn out to be that close, as incumbent Gary Vidal easily held off the challenge of New Democrat-turned-federal-Liberal Buckley Belanger.
It’s remarkable how poorly the Liberals did in this election. They were a poor second in both the North and in Ralph Goodale’s old seat of Regina-Wascana, and were totally out of the race everywhere else. In Battlefords-Lloydminster, their showing was particularly humiliating as Liberal Larry Ingram landed in fifth place, behind both the Maverick and PPC candidates, with just 5.2 per cent of the vote.
The results continue to put Saskatchewan on the outside looking in on the federal scene, but the Liberals have no one to blame but themselves. It just tells you that if you keep on implementing policies that either decimate the local oil and gas/agriculture economy or disrespect the province — like when the government tried to remove the air traffic controllers from Regina Airport — you aren’t going to get votes. The Liberal Party is going to keep on being dead in Saskatchewan for a long time if they keep on with that.
And what an abject, total failure of a federal election it was for the New Democrats again in Saskatchewan. It’s hard to believe this is the same province that was once Canada’s cradle of socialism — the place that had produced Tommy Douglas and the Regina Manifesto. We are a long way from those days.
Yes, the national NDP’s policies on the carbon tax and making sure the rich pay their share were out of step with what voters in Saskatchewan cared about, but the NDP could have still found a way to win something. Heck, look at the number of MLAs and city councillors they still manage to elect in urban areas.
If you want my take, the positive and energetic national campaign of Jagmeet Singh was dragged down by all the negative energy expended by provincial New Democrats. Their hysterical reactions on social media to everything Premier Scott Moe does, on the pandemic response and everything else, is really tiresome and clearly a turnoff. The Saskatchewan NDP need a total rethink of what they’re doing, because it ain’t working.
On the flip side, it’s also remarkable how well the Conservatives did in Saskatchewan given all the chatter we had heard about how disgruntled Conservative voters were about leader Erin O’Toole, and about his stance on the carbon tax. We heard talk that these voters would take their votes to the Maverick Party, or to the PPC. In the end, only a small number of voters defected. The Conservatives still won their bedrock rural seats with something closer to 70 per cent of the vote, when they got closer to 80 per cent last time.
That’s still a resounding result for them in Saskatchewan, which tells you one thing — that the Conservative brand is still strong in western Canada and in this province, and that their policies in general are still in tune with what voters are thinking. Or perhaps voters simply saw them as the most viable alternative to get rid of Trudeau.
Whether the relationship stays strong in future elections remains to be seen, especially if Trudeau ends up leaving one of these days. But there is no question that in 2021, after this latest sweep, that Saskatchewan is indeed the most Conservative province in the country.