NORTH BATTLEFORD - Polls close in Saskatchewan at 7:30 p.m. tonight, after which time we should know quickly what we are in for — whether Justin Trudeau and the Liberals will hold on to the government, or whether we might have a change of power.
Here in Saskatchewan, I am not expecting a lot of surprises or a lot of ridings to change hands.
In my previous election column, I had expected four Conservative-held ridings to possibly be in play. I now think it is really down to three:
Desnethe-Mississippi-Churchill River, where the Liberals’ Buckley Belanger and NDP’s Harmonie King each believe they can upset Conservative incumbent Gary Vidal;
Saskatoon West, where the NDP’s Robert Doucette is hoping a surge in NDP support and some vote-splitting by the People’s Party can topple incumbent Conservative Brad Redekopp;
Regina Lewvan, where the NDP’s Tria Donaldson hopes for the same thing in her bid to upset Conservative Warren Steinley.
I am not expecting Conservative Michael Kram to have any difficulties in Regina Wascana, despite any Liberal hopes for reclaiming the seat formerly held by Ralph Goodale.
The remaining ridings in the province seem to be solidly Conservative but you will want to watch the vote totals closely, particularly to see how the Mavericks and the People’s Party are doing in their ridings.
The real story in Saskatchewan in this election is turning out to be the People’s Party. There seems to be a lot of concern out there among Conservative supporters that the PPC could cut into the Conservative vote in Saskatchewan and possibly cost them some close races in places like Saskatoon West. In Saskatoon West, the PPC candidate is Kevin Boychuk, whose main claim to fame is that he almost beat Darren Hill in the city council election last year.
In fact, last week I was driving around Saskatoon trying to get a sense of how things were going. I was really surprised by the number of purple PPC signs that were up throughout the city, in particular in Saskatoon-Grasswood. These were on people’s lawns, too -- representing real voters. Meanwhile, I was looking around going "where are Kevin Waugh's signs?"
Recent polling has the PPC at around or over 10 per cent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which somewhat explains why PPC leader Maxime Bernier is staging his Election Night rally in Saskatoon at the Saskatoon Inn. In any event, watch the PPC vote totals tonight and see if they are causing the Conservatives’ any grief in any ridings. Also, watch how they are doing compared to the Maverick Party candidates, to see if perhaps the PPC might have grabbed a lot of potential Maverick votes as well.
Watch Saskatoon West closely. If the national race turns out to be a close one, this could be a race that the whole country could be watching as well. The NDP clearly believes this is a seat they can pick off, as evidenced by the fact that their leader Jagmeet Singh was actively campaigning in Saskatoon on the weekend. Notably, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s only Saskatchewan appearance was also in Saskatoon earlier in the campaign, presumably in an attempt to help defend Saskatoon West.
Also notable: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau almost totally blew off Saskatchewan in this election — only getting off the plane to show up at a brief event in Regina early on. That’s usually a sure sign of doom.
We’ll see how it all unfolds tonight throughout Saskatchewan and Canada.