Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Battle for Saskatchewan


There's a preconception that many Canadians have about the people of Saskatchewan. We think there's a provincial statute that requires all men to wear John Deere hats, all kitchen tables to be covered in red-and-white checkered tablecloths, and all life to stop whenever the Riders hit the field. Once they get old enough to realize they won't be the brother to inherit the farm, we expect them to move to Alberta and get real jobs. There's no culture, save the occasional banjo jamboree. Nobody lives there if they have any other choice. And they're borderline socialists.

Well, as far as the people of Saskatchewan are concerned, we can keep thinking that way, and stay out of their province - leaves more room for them.

The realities of modern Saskatchewan are quite different. They have a vibrant cultural scene, Saskatoon is one of the fastest-growing cities on the planet, they're benefiting from oil and natural gas exploration, and people are moving from Alberta TO Saskatchewan for jobs. They also recently elected a right-of-centre provincial government, led by Premier Brad Wall. They're decent, hard-working people who are starting reap the benefits of years of effort and sacrifice, and while they still hold their "prairie values" - help your neighbour bring in his crop, because it's the right thing to do - they're starting to trend towards wanting to protect what they've built there over the past decades, as they transition from a "have-not" province to one rich with oil, gas, alternative fuels and a rapidly growing tech sector.

In 2006, 12 of Saskatchewan's 14 seats in the House of Commons went to Conservatives. Of the 2 that went Liberal, one was to then-Minister of Finance Ralph Goodale, and the other was a squeaker won by Gary Merasty by a grand total of 67 votes. Merasty stepped down in 2007, and the riding was won in a by-election by the Conservatives.

In a nutshell: Don't look for too much to change on October 14th. Ralph Goodale will still be the member of Parliament for Wascana - no matter how bad Liberal fortunes get in the rest of the country, Goodale is as safe an MP as they have (the closest anyone ever came was in the year 2000, and they were still 2000 votes behind Ralph). The rest of the province will be shaded blue (yes, even Gerry Ritz's seat - schmuck. What's funnier than tainted food supply, public health emergencies and dying people? HILARIOUS!).

Don't let that blue colour fool you, though... the people of Saskatchewan are far from the country bumpkins you see on Corner Gas. They've elected some of the smartest and most visionary leaders in the history of this country. They're not voting out of fear, or ignorance, or a mis-placed sense of loyalty. They're going to vote for the Conservatives because they feel the Tories will screw them, and their burgeoning energy-based economy, the least. They're proud of what they've built, and they want to protect it.

And after 100 years of banjo jokes, can you blame them for wanting to feel that pride a little longer?

Riding of interest: Merasty's former riding of Desneth√©—Missinippi—Churchill River. Won by a Liberal (just barely) in 2006, and won by a Tory (not by much) in the 2007 by-election. It's the only one that might be closely contested, plus you've got the added intrigue of the fact that the Liberal candidate is David Orchard, former leadership hopeful for the now-defunct PC's, who was replaced in this riding by a hand-picked Dion "star candidate" in the by-election (who lost) and who is the Liberal who feels more jilted by Peter MacKay than even Belinda Stronach.

No comments: