The numbers from election night tell a fascinating story.
Well, if you find numbers from election nights fascinating.
Here are the overall results, taken from CBC Saskatchewan’s 2016 election dashboard:
Total 2016 turnout was approximately 427 000, compared to 402 000 in 2011.
That puts 2016 turnout at 57 per cent, but Elections Saskatchewan’s Michael Boda has taken great pains in explaining to us that way more voters were registered this year than in previous years, so the per centage would seem low.
However, compare the 2016 provincial turnout number to the approximately 554 000 Saskatchewan voters who cast their ballot only six months ago in the federal election – where were those 125 000 recently engaged citizens on April 4th?
I don’t really care what the reason is, 57 per cent is abysmal – how can almost 400 000 eligible voters in Saskatchewan be that disenfranchised?
That said, 57 per cent is almost exactly what turnout was in the last BC, Alberta and Manitoba provincial elections. So we’re not freaks or anything.
Much was made of the 2016 advanced poll turnout. 26 per cent of total votes cast were cast at the advanced polls, compared to 17 per cent in 2011. Historically, high turnouts mean voters want change, so the apparent surge in advance poll voters had the NDP quite excited, and trying desperately to perpetuate the change narrative over the weekend prior to April 4th.
It was moot, however, because comparing 2011 to 2016 was an apples to oranges thing. Previously to 2016 one couldn’t vote in Saskatchewan’s advanced polls unless they could prove they wouldn’t be able to on Election Day.
I know, me neither.
In 2016 anyone could vote at the advanced polls, so essentially what we had was almost a full week of E-Day and Get Out The Vote efforts from both parties. Elections Saskatchewan themselves also did an excellent job of marketing and publicizing the change.
So long story short, advanced poll turnout was decidedly not indicative of an appetite for change in Saskatchewan, and it felt kind of awkward, even misleading, when the NDP attempted to frame it as such.
While they both saw an increase in the number of votes they received four years ago, the Sask Party and the NDP nevertheless saw their percentage of the overall vote drop by 2 per cent from 2011. Victor Lau’s Green Party also lost one point. It appears the majority of those lost votes shifted to the Saskatchewan Liberals, who went from 0.5 a per cent in 2011 to 3.5 per cent in 2016. The Progressive Conservative party also made a gain, from 0.3 percent in 2011 to 1.3 per cent in 2016.
Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s about 20 000 votes, or the equivalent of four ridings, that opted away from the two main parties. Further, those shifts around the fringes resulted in some interesting, and unnecessarily tight races in a few ridings.
Consider some of the ridings I considered wild cards when I made my predictions before the vote.
In Regina Coronation Park, Sask Party incumbent Mark Docherty managed to hang on to his seat, which is awesome, because he’s a super guy who deserved a second term. Docherty only won by just over 2 per cent though, or 144 votes, compared to 10 per cent in 2011. The Liberal vote, which wasn’t a factor in 2011, was 245 votes.
In Regina University, the Sask Party candidate also beat out the NDP candidate by a margin less than the votes earned by the fringe parties.
Regina Pasqua, which used to be part of Bill Hutchinson’s riding, was retained by Sask Party candidate Muhammed Fiaz. He took 275 more votes than the NDP’s Heather McIntyre, but a whopping 1315 votes in that riding went to the Green, Progressive Conservative and Liberal candidates.
Similar deal in Saskatoon-University, where Sask Party candidate Eric Olauson beat out the NDP’s Jennifer Bowes by 322 votes, while 592 votes went to the fringes by way of the Green, PC and Liberal parties. University is a new Saskatoon riding comprised predominantly of former seats of Saskatoon Greystone and Sutherland. Both of those ridings had Liberal and Green candidates in 2011, who took about 300 votes in each, but both Sask Party candidates also won decisively by 1700+ votes.
Sask Party incumbent Jennifer Campeau narrowly edged out Vicki Mowat in Saskatoon Fairview by 194 votes, where the Liberal and Green candidate took almost 400 votes combined. Campeau won by a similar narrow margin over the NDP in 2011, but still by more votes than her Green opponent brought in.
When it comes to vote splits, Saskatoon Westview, where Cam Broten fell, is a whole other story. It’s going to be a separate blog post (and not the one I just wrote on Broten). And it’s going to be gooooood.
Finally, a word on why Thomas Sierzycki didn’t win the NDP’s northern Saskatchewan stronghold of Cumberland, despite the best efforts of the Sask Party’s central campaign, including a well-publicized visit to the riding by Brad Wall.
Historically, the bulk of the NDP’s support has been in the far north – Stanley Mission, Sandy Bay, Grandmother’s Bay etc – all indigenous communities who are understandably going to support the indigenous candidate. The Sask Party did enjoy increased support in La Ronge in 2011, but it wasn’t nearly enough, nor was there enough support to be mined, to secure a win for Sierzycki in 2016.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Sierzycki, though. He has received a decent amount of exposure over the last couple of years, both via his handling of the 2015 forest fires in Northern Saskatchewan, and through his campaign. If he’s truly been shoulder-tapped for Sask Party leadership, he can still run without an elected seat – as if the winner of that race doesn’t already have one, he or she can easily be dropped into Wall’s uber-safe riding of Swift Current in a by-election.
Okay, maybe ‘fascinating’ was a bit of a stretch.
The morale of the 2016 story, however, is that once again Saskatchewan saw vote splits – specifically, splits which one way or another impacted the constituency’s outcome.
Liberal splits, which dogged the Sask Party in 2007, but were virtually eliminated in 2011.
I mean, not that they matter – does anything matter when you win by landslides like these?
If you’re planning the long-term future of your party, these things definitely matter.
The Sask Party has had a Liberal problem since Day 1 – they’ve either got to reinforce their relationship with that faction of their party, internally or externally – or figure out a way to go forward as a right-wing party that doesn’t require support from centre.
SaskParty loyalists believe that increased Liberal votes are to the detriment of the NDP. Some NDP partisans believe the same, although they certainly do have an eye on the Green vote.
Left out of your analysis (although I know not deliberately) was that the Liberals ran only a handful of candidates in 2011, believing that a focused approach would help elect members like then-leader Ryan Bater. When that strategy backfired, they reverted to a full slate approach.
I believe the SaskParty braintrust perhaps has an eye on the Liberal vote but also how to stanch the bleeding in Regina. It’s not a gusher yet, but if it gets out of hand it will tip ridings like Coronation, Pasqua and others back into the NDP column. Unless of course we’re now the new Alberta pre-2015 and the opposition parties are now there for ceremonial purposes only.