For all the fuss and both created by this recent by-election campaign in Saskatoon Northwest, it isn't likely that it will be part of the battleground in the 2011 provincial election campaign.
The Sask. Party has demonstrated in the recent by-election campaign that it has a strong base of support in Saskatoon Northwest, notwithstanding the controversy created by past MLA Serge LeClerc. It's also important to note that the NDP hasn't actually won this seat since 1995.
In fact, it's no longer simply a case of looking at the suburban areas of the two major cities to identify where the battleground of the next provincial election will be. Sure, some suburban seats will be hotly contested. But other such seats like Saskatoon Northwest, Silver Springs and Southeast and even Regina Wascana Plains have emerged as solid beachheads for the Sask. Party. So where will this battleground be? Well, no one can say with complete certainty, but perhaps the best way to guess is to simply look at the 10 closest races in 2007. Here are those 10 closest races from the last general election:
Moose Jaw North, (33 votes): After Sask. Party backbencher Warren Michelson squeaked out his 2007 win, he's done little to distinguish himself. That said, Sask. Party insiders actually like their changes in this riding in 2011.
Prince Albert Carlton, (61 votes): Daryl Hickie won in a squeaker on a campaign to keep the mill open. Adding to the intrigue will be his demise then re-emergence into cabinet.
Meadow Lake, (64 votes): Sask. Party Municipal Affairs Minister Jeremy Harrison (the young former Conservative MP) knocked off NDP minister Maynard Sonntag. Sonntag won't be running here and the NDP may have to deal with the fallout from the NDP membership fiasco in its leadership race.
Regina-Qu'Appelle Valley, (204 votes): Premier Brad Wall has tried to enhance Laura Ross's profile by putting her in cabinet, but this could be a tough fight. The Battlefords, (212 votes): Incumbent New Democrat Len Taylor may have a fight on his hands _ especially given the presence of Liberal leader Ryan Bater who may split votes.
Regina South, (255 votes): This time, former Regina city councillor Bill Hutchinson will be running as a Sask. Party minister. However, he will be running against Regina lawyer Yens Pedersen who also increased is profile as an NDP leadership hopeful.
Saskatoon Sutherland (269 votes): This race may be even more interesting. The Sask. Party has a strong candidate in Paul Merriman, director of the city's food bank and son of former Sask. Party MLA Ted Merriman. He'll be running against Anwar Naveed whose strong showing in the NDP's hotly contested nomination forced NDP leadership hopeful Ryan Meili out of the race.
Saskatoon Meewasin, (299 votes): New Democrat and former justice minister Frank Quennell is running again. However, Quennell won't have the advantage this time of former Liberal leader David Karwacki splitting votes with the Sask. Party.
Saskatoon Greystone, (308 votes): The NDP and the unions seem determined to pull out all stops to beat former Sask. Party labour minister Rob Norris. And the big advantage the NDP may have is likeable and well-known former MLA Peter Prebble as its candidate.
Saskatoon Eastview, (310 votes): Once an NDP stronghold, veteran Judy Junor may be in for a tough battle to hold on to her seat.
While only two are rural seats, two come from the small cities, four from suburban Saskatoon and two from Regina. Interestingly, seven of the 10 closest seats are now Sask. Party seats. This includes the four closest ridings won by the Sask. Party by a grand total of 362 votes.
Looking for the battleground in the 2011 election campaign? Here would seem to be a good place to start.