JUNE 1st, 2023 | DEVON KASH

Sixteen Years Later, The Sask NDP Remain Hopeless

Carla Beck's leadership hasn't inspired the party core.
When Brad Wall pummelled Lorne Calvert's NDP in 2007, voters in Saskatchewan were given a new vision for the province and hope of an economic resurgence was finally on the horizon. Ever since, the NDP's backwards philosophy has been rejected in every corner of the province, and voters haven't looked back. Sixteen years and counting, the NDP's hopes of winning government grow ever more gloomy.
When Ryan Meili won the NDP leadership in 2018, it ignited a brief surge in enthusiasm among the party's most faithful, following two consecutively awful election performances; one by Brad Wall's evil twin, Cam Broten, and another by the province's most stiff and painfully drab politician of recent memory, Dwain Lingenfelter. After Lingenfelter's historically bad performance reduced the NDP to 9 seats in 2011, the party reeled for years under the weight of hopelessness and lacklustre enthusiasm. When Meili showed up as an inexperienced fresher face, the party's core felt a short-lived jolt of excitement.
After Brad Wall's resignation in February of 2018, the NDP was ready to pounce. They were about to elect a new leader and Wall's replacement was going to be less popular and enough of a mystery to sow doubt in the minds of some voters. It was a tremendous opportunity and the NDP's spirits had finally been lifted, after 11 strong years of brilliant leadership and management by Brad Wall were coming to a close.
Unfortunately, for the NDP, enthusiasm for Meili's leadership fizzled out within a few short months. By fall of the same year, the NDP was polling below 35% and Moe's new Sask Party was building more trust with provincial voters. According to pollsters Mainstreet Research and The Canadian Perspective, by October, Meili's NDP were polling worse than they were prior to his election as leader.
In May of 2017, Mainstreet Research pegged support for the NDP at 49%, ahead of the Sask Party and in majority territory. By October 2018, only a few months after Meili's election to the party's leadership, the NDP were polling at 30%. It was a stunning decline.
Meili's catastrophic failure took the NDP to 13 seats in the 2020 provincial election, only three more than his predecessor, Cam Broten. Under Meili, the NDP expanded their popular support from the 2016 election by a mere 1.50%, while Scott Moe's Sask Party took a resounding majority of 60% and 48 of Saskatchewan's 61 seats.
Even now, under the leadership of Carla Beck, the NDP's possibilities look gloomy.
The only hope the NDP has in Saskatchewan is in two other right-wing parties, and a third centre-right version of the Progressive Conservatives, that could soften support for Moe. Nadine Wilson's new Saskatchewan United has crashed onto the scene, and the Buffalo Party, which finished second in a handful of ridings in the 2020 election, is still going strong.

Dividing The Vote

Following the failure of the Alberta NDP, there is a lesson for Saskatchewan. Alberta's 2015 election showed us what a divided right can do and how a socialist party with destructive economic policies can climb up the middle. Alberta's latest election showed us the power of a united right and how the NDP's 2015 victory was a one-off mistake. Despite media attacks, Danielle Smith was able to harness the power of unity and defeat Rachel Notley. Some may question whether the Alberta NDP really ever stood a chance at winning again.
When the right is united, the left has no hope.
Under Scott Moe's strong leadership, Saskatchewan's conservative factions can stay united. Parties like Sask United and Buffalo will only be able to succeed where Scott Moe fails. So far so good, but the entrance of Nadine Wilson has softened Moe's support, according to the most recent poll from Insightrix. Although her party's debut has been downplayed by media, Sask United has skimmed 2% from the Sask Party's bottom line, putting Moe's party below 50%. The Buffalo Party has held at 3%.
Other polls put the Sask Party above 50%, but we shouldn't underestimate the anger and hostility towards Ottawa and Justin Trudeau that has helped these alternative parties gain strength. Scott Moe has held strong against the Trudeau government, but even the smallest sign of weakness could draw support to Buffalo and Sask United. If the province's growing sovereignty movement smells blood in the water, it will attack.
The NDP should be expected to take advantage of any weakness on Moe's part and any strength among the “far right”. If Beck's NDP smells fear and weakness, they will harness it to their advantage by adding fuel to parties like Buffalo and Sask United. Look for secret money-funnelling schemes and covert activist groups receiving indirect money from NDP supporters. If NDP strategists are as cunning and manipulative as they were 20 years ago, they will find ways to divide Saskatchewan's right.
The only real way for the NDP to win in Saskatchewan again is by tearing apart the Sask Party. To do that, they'll encourage and antagonize anyone on the right who criticizes Moe's government. They'll throw money at obscure protesters and then use soundbites and footage to amplify the dissent. The NDP held a firm grip on Saskatchewan for nearly 20 years by doing just this. Through unions and activist organizations, the NDP used dirty tricks and deceit to stay in power.
They'll do the same, or worse, to get the power back in 2024.
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