Rhino's Ramblings - Blue Saskatchewan After Weir

By Robert Thomas - Opinion/Commentary

It came with a lot of reaction but none of it unexpected as Erin Weir decided to, for the benefit of the progressive voices in Saskatchewan, to not seek re-election in the upcoming federal election this October.

Weir, who was ousted from the NDP caucus due to allegations of sexual harassment, took one for the cause but sadly in the minds of many local NDP stalwarts it does not seem to be enough.

See Weir’s Statement Here.

Hardcore NDP supporters I have spoke to locally told me it does not look good here locally and province-wide with the October federal election quickly approaching.

We need to remember that Weir once was in the running for the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP after being endorsed and drafted by former Moose Jaw MP Dick Proctor. Weir was running a highly organized campaign but would eventually bow out endorsing Ryan Meilli. Yes Mr Weir is very popular in the NDP here in Saskatchewan.

“I just hope whoever gets in it is a minority government,” one lifetime union CCF - NDP supporter told me before going into a verbal diatribe of Jagmeet Singh the NDP’s federal leader. The key thing he went on to add in the upcoming election he will not be voting for his beloved NDP and there are a lot more people who are going to follow.

“I am voting for Mr Trudeau,” he proudly told me.

The polls point for the province to be painted Conservative Blue - Courtesy 338Canada.com

The polls point for the province to be painted Conservative Blue - Courtesy 338Canada.com

It all has to be worrisome for the NDP and Singh who was in Saskatoon this past Thursday hoping to bolster support for the NDP federally and also to announce Saskatoon-West MP Sheri Benson is the party’s new deputy leader.

“We're looking forward to having a strong campaign across Saskatchewan and particularly where we've held seats before, we're looking to regain and keep those seats," Singh is quoted in a CBC article on his Saskatoon visit.

Now personally have I met Mr Singh? No I have not but I have watched his speeches and personally do not view him as a bad man. He may have just burst onto the federal electoral scene at the wrong time - the wrong time in a party with divisions in the left and right spectrums.

But if you take a good look at the polling numbers and the underlying discontent Singh’s outspoken confidence is hiding what should be a lot of concern.

For instance if you take a look at the last election results for Saskatoon West a key factor were the Liberals and what some are calling the fawning of Justin Trudeau’s hair. The Liberals managed to pick up over 9,000 votes in areas they did not do well in the previous provincial election.

What the NDP needs is to pick up the expected loss of Liberal votes in October. The biggest question is where is she going to find the support and the issues to do this?

The answer so far has been pushing on the provincial agenda with the hope things such as the loss of the Saskatchewan Transportation Corporation (STC) will blur over to the federal sphere and any anger voters in Saskatoon West have against the provincial government spills into support for the former United Way CEO.

If you take a look at the latest polls though it does not look good not only for Benson in Saskatoon but also for the NDP across Saskatchewan. With that said if there is a seat which can stay with the NDP in Saskatchewan come October it has to be Saskatoon West. Expect to see Mr Singh make more pit stops in Toon Town to help bolster the numbers.

According to one of the top poll tracking sites in the country - 338Canada.com - things do not look good for the NDP provincially with the Conservatives predicted in picking up or leaning to pick up every seat in the province including the lone Liberal seat held by Ralph Goodale.

The NDP may also find itself crowded out when it comes to the progressive vote at least on a more national scale as I heard firsthand at the AGM of the local federal Liberal riding association. Those in attendance were told the Liberals were emphasizing a more left and progressive tilt one may very well appeal to a lot of disaffected voters in the province.

Will it lead to Liberal wins in Saskatchewan? It is highly unlikely they can capture more than one seat but it could very well help out Ralph Goodale in Regina win perhaps for the very last time. There has been a lot of high ranking Liberals making the visit to Evraz Steel over the last little while to make annoucements they could make in Hamilton.

Weir is out in any re-election bid - media handout photo

Weir is out in any re-election bid - media handout photo

With that said I have a disclaimer here I have met Mr Goodale on many ocassions and yes I will even run the risk of being flamed on this but personally I like the man. Now am I endorsing the Liberals in the federal run? No I am not endorsing anyone simply pointing out Ralph is not a bad guy despite what his opponents are likely to start painting him as.

These trips by the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs are there to bolster Goodale just as much as Singh was in Saskatoon to hopefully prop up Benson. Will they be successful? If I were to take a tertiary look I would have to say Ralph with his campaign experience and name recognition should reclaim his seat as for Benson well…

SEE RELATED - Federal Liberal AGM

It seems the same all across the province with Weir’s very slim win in Regina-Lewvan making it hard for any NDP candidate to step in and win the seat “back” for the NDP. It is an area where the Liberals put in a lot of time both provincially and federally as they sought to win in both races but came up dry.

The NDP may pick up something because of the provincial goverment’s austerity program but if you take a look at the re-distributed results the big factor in the new riding was the 13,000 votes going to the Liberals’ Louis Browne in the Trudeau resurgence. It is something the polling numbers so far show not returning. Browne was more of a Blue Liberal if anything.

This is a seat where the seemingly massive rise in the Green Party of Canada’s fortunes could play a major role. If the Greens are invigorated and run a strong campaign and candidate here they may very well be the spoiler by taking away the NDP’s hopes of picking up lots of more left progressive votes.

And here is a little tidbit of information you may not be aware of but the former Green Party of Saskatchewan leader, Victor Lau, is working in Weir’s office after Weir was kicked out of the NDP caucus. Does this help the Greens?

Did it help Weir?

Undoubtedly Victor Lau is one of the most compotent political people out there who has never been elected. Smart, articulate, empathetic, hard worker and a great listener he is the one former Green candidates who in my opinion should be in the Legislature.

Erin Weir (second from left) with Victor Lau (third from the left) - Submitted Photo

Erin Weir (second from left) with Victor Lau (third from the left) - Submitted Photo

With the newly re-invigorated Elizabeth May even offering to assist the Liberals if needed for a coaltion government you may have massive push by the Greens to win as many votes as possible for their renewed call for democratic reform based upon proportional representation.

Even the northern riding of Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River now held by the NDP is presently predicted to be a safe Conservative Party win according to 338Canada.com polling projections.

The Liberals recruting a star candidate like La Ronge First Nation chief Tammy Cook-Searson is bad news for the NDP.

My own personal thoughts are I would not be surprised in this riding if the polls are wrong and the Liberals pick this one up. I have met Ms Cook-Searson at two seperate events and she speaks with a confidence whch may very well attract a lot of votes for Justin Trudeau. She is a very likable and hard working individual. It is also a riding which has a consistent swing to the Liberals in more than one election.

Locally the Moose Jaw - Lake Centre - Lanigan riding appears to be a shoe-in for the Conservatives with Tom Lukiwski set to win re-election.

The key for the NDP to win here locally is somehow win at least one poll - they failed to win any polls in the 2015 election - as well as somehow attract voters from rural areas who are still none to keen on voting NDP. The rural areas continue to be a Conservative bastion and with things like the Carbon Tax and the Conservatives opposition to it, it is going to be tougher for the NDP than it already is.

And here is a point which may come back to haunt any potential NDP win in Saskatchewan when the Greens took a by-election win in BC Singh immediately took the knee jerk reaction to overnight oppose a liquified natural gas project for British Columbia which could have helped create much needed jobs in northeastern BC by allowing the gas fields there take advantage of higher priced Asian markets.

It is a move not likely to ring out very well in Saskatchewan with our province’s fortunes tied to commodities such as energy. And with the overall Green movement now targetting agriculture as a main producer of carbon in the atmosphere any swing by the NDP into that area where the Greens are eating NDP traditional support alive is not going to help win votes in rural Saskatchewan. This at a time when the Liberals are squeezing in from the right.

Even the local NDP candidate might be strapped to shore up support by enticing the Green leaning progressive vote to instead vote NDP to stop the Conservative wave. He is on the record taking a shot at the Conservatives for their attack on Mr Bernier and the creation of his People’s Party of Canada and the potential split it may cause there. He saw more voices and people free to vote their conscience on the right and the left as a good thing for democracy will it ironically come back to bite him??

SEE RELATED - Letter To the Editor

Lots can change in the next five months as we head into the election but then again at the same time unless there are some radical changes out in the electoral landscape it is highly possible the entire province - including right here in Moose Jaw - is going to be Conservative Blue.

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