Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More about By-Elections

The two recent by-election losses by the SaskParty to the NDP did not surprise me, but it does raise a few questions. To begin with Premier Brad Wall’s popularity rating is very high. He is a young, dynamic, common sense Premier who has gained recognition across the country and in the United States. Premier Wall and the SaskParty government have managed the province relatively well and our economy is second to none in the country. The SaskParty is not marred in any scandal or blatant mismanagement of the province. They have not flirted with any foolish extreme policies and have governed with relative modesty. The SaskParty government has not provided any substantive reason for Saskatchewan voters to turn against them. To the contrary, they have provided a positive atmosphere for Saskatchewan voters and made it difficult for voters to come up with rationale reasons to vote for any other party. So why did they lose two by-elections?

To begin with the margin of victory for the NDP was not that good in what has historically been two strong holds for the NDP. I believe the SaskParty failed right out of the gate when the popular Brad Wall made comments that lowered expectations for their hope of winning either of the two by-elections. Brad Wall should have put out a strong call to win and then followed it up with a strong personal involvement in the campaign to influence voters with his personal popularity. Did the SaskParty put forth their best candidates? I suspect not because good candidates return phone calls and I know that didn’t happen. The SaskParty cannot claim they were short of funds to run a strong campaign so that reason for losing is out the window. In short, they lost because they thought they would and they were right.

So where does that leave them? Well, in some trouble because Dwain Lingenfelter will give them their strongest opposition since they formed government. I have no idea why voters would support the NDP given the record of the SaskParty, but they did. Further, I have no idea why Saskatchewan voters would return the NDP to power, but they might. The SaskParty needs to reach out to new voters and known supporters and begin to build new dynamic urban policies that will attract urban voters. Failure to do so will be hazardous at best.