Rhino's Ramblings - A Spring Election?????
By Robert Thomas
Conventional wisdom will tell you the next provincial election is just under two years away, but what happens if there was a different scenario and it was much sooner such as this Spring?
You may call me crazy but there are some strong reasons and even some indicators out there which point to the possibility or maybe you could even say the practicality of a snap Spring Election call.
Momentum might be a key word in all of this and right now at least on the provincial level across Canada parties to the right are making headway. With changes in Ontario and the election of Doug Ford the right leaning side of the political spectrum is coming alive at least on the provincial level. It is something which might seem very attractive to Premier Scott Moe.
One needs only to look right next door to Alberta where there is a strong growing consensus the United Conservative Party (UCP) is about to oust Rachel Notley's NDP government. Given the long drawn out feud between the SaskParty and NDP governments with Notley's election it’s an opportunity which may be very tempting to Premier Moe to capitalize on a spill over effect.
It also is a little known fact that more than a few of the former NDP staffers at the Saskatchewan Legislature are now employed for Notley’s NDP in Edmonton. The battle is really on many ways a continuation of the fight from the early days of the SaskParty and the NDP here in the Legislature. But now the battle often crosses provincial boundaries ironically with many of the same protagonists still at it.
If this is indeed true then there are two strong reasons why Premier Moe may want to call a snap Spring vote.
A right wing momentum of a UCP victory in Alberta is something which might well be enticing for Premier Moe and his advisors to ride the wave to a strong majority. With a decisive UCP victory in Alberta there is likely to be a great media spillover into Saskatchewan.
Any attempts by the Saskatchewan NDP to paint Dr Meili as just an average farm kid who did well in the big city but nevertheless someone with strong rural routes could be lost in the shuffle.
That battle is presently reaching into the realm of addictions and the need for more treatment as Meth and Opiod abuse levels continue to grow in the Province. This is an issue right in Dr Meili’s backyard and it is one where the NDP in the last few weeks of this sitting is trying to make headway on.
By going in the Spring there simply won’t be enough time for the NDP to shift gears from its left leaning $15 per hour minimum wage platform to a more centralized policy initiatives geared to appeasing the soft centre voter. The need for the NDP to portray themselves as not leaning radically to the left many saw envisioned by Dr Meili’s leadership victory is still to some extent hanging in more than a few voter's minds.
The other major advantage of calling a snap Spring Election is it limits or even prevents the NDP from not only developing sound policy positions it limits their ability to react quickly.
The expected influx of experienced and dedicated election workers an NDP loss in Alberta would generate just would not have the necessary time to kick fully into gear with a snap Election immediately after Alberta's vote.
Another factor is on the federal scene with the NDP very weak at the present time apparently unable to gain any traction. By all appearances federally the NDP is about to be devastated with perhaps their worst performance in a generation. In many ways it’s a defeatist attitude even within their more soft partisan followers.
The big question here might be can the SaskParty play upon the perceived vulnerabilities of the federal NDP to garner votes on the provincial scene. Can the SaskParty successfully portray them or at least their leaders as one and the same?
True there might be those who will say within the SaskParty the austerity budget and the goals it has set out to do have not been accomplished but a good progress report card in this area might be enough for Premier Moe to make the move to go to the polls. Calling an election sooner than later might well be the way to go.
And here is another thing with the Provincial Budget, the deficit is expected to be larger than expected largely due to low oil prices and the inability to get oil to market due to the lack of pipelines.
If the SaskParty were to call an election now they could blame the Budget problems on pipeline foes and likely gather support from it. That would be a direct shot at a large chunk of Meili's base support and his not overly enthusiastic support for new pipelines.
If the SaskParty waits and gambles oil is going to go up and the economy rebounds they run the risk of being blamed if the economy sinks deeper. It is just what Premier Rachel Notley did next door in Alberta as she ran up Alberta’s debt in hopes there would be more pipelines and a resultant increase in Alberta crude prices and that hasn't occurred. If she loses the election a good part of the reason could be because that gamble has failed.
But what other issue is there which the SaskParty can base a campaign on and say it’s why an election is being called so early? What other issue can they use as a weapon against the NDP?
That issue is carbon or rather the Carbon Tax. With the cash back Trudeau was offering when it comes to the Carbon Tax, a move described as vote buying by some politicos, not yet taking effect this Spring it might be the right time to make the move to the polls.
But is there any evidence the SaskParty is moving towards at least being ready for a snap Spring vote?
Well yes there is.
That evidence can be seen in long term SaskParty MLAs already announcing they are not going to seek reelection for their seats. This two years in advance of an actual vote.
Also take a look at their nominations. The SaskParty is already started their nomination procedures. Candidates are being chosen well ahead of any other Party.
Meanwhile the NDP has yet to make much of a move when it comes to declaring candidates. There is a seeming advantage to the SaskParty when it comes to launching a campaign.
The NDP has been busy trying to win some battles in the Legislature and quite truthfully just starting to slowly expand it repertoire and set it’s own policy and pace when it comes to establishing it’s mark.
And finally although they are only bit players it seems in the entire election landscape, the PC Party, Liberals and Green Parties are nowhere near being ready for a general election having all selected new leaders.
Now it’s true there is an election law which is suppose to set the dates for the provincial vote but these laws can be changed. It’s something the NDP was asking just after selecting Meili as leader and that is for the new leader of the SaskParty to go to the polls and ask for a new mandate.
Given how a wedge issue such as the Carbon Tax does cross the political spectrum without apparent adherence to Party lines it’s something the SaskParty might see as a reason to go to the polls this Spring.
Certainly it means the NDP will pick up some seats but it also means the likely outcome will be another four year SaskParty majority government.
Now how likely is it for a snap election call is likely not going to happen this Spring but with that said it would not surprise me either.