© Provided by Leader Post Both polling and historic numbers suggest will be nearly impossible for Scott Moe (seen here winning the Saskatchewan Party leadership in 2018) to lose the 2020 election.
For Saskatchewan New Democrats, numbers are like bathroom scales in our houses: No matter how much you wish they would, they just don’t lie.
This is certainly true of today’s polling numbers that show the NDP at 13.7 per cent compared with the Saskatchewan Party’s 28.8 per cent . When considering only those voters who would disclose or knew their voting intention, those percentages of support are 25 and 53, respectively. Such numbers this close to the Oct. 26 vote reveal how hopeless governing prospects are for New Democrats.
Of course, a small sampling of 400 people with 45 per cent not showing their hand offers the NDP some solace. Moreover, numbers can always change by the time we vote 41 days from now.
Saskatchewan New Democrats will gleefully ignore the lost-cause, mostly rural seats the Sask. Party won by 2,500 votes or more in 2016. Instead, they will focus on the dozen or so urban seats where they have a chance, which will, admittedly, be more interesting to the media.
But what gets lost is how important all those bedrock Sask. Party seats are to forming a majority government and — from a historical context — how nearly impossible it will be for the NDP to win any of them.
As per Leader-Post reporter Arthur White-Crummey’s story today, the key number is 31 . That’s the number of seats a party needs to win power in the 61-seat Saskatchewan legislature. For the current 13-member NDP caucus that means adding 18 seats.
White-Crummey’s story identifies two paths for the NDP to accomplish this: (a) win the closest 18 Sask.
Party seats in 2016 which range from Regina Coronation Park (a 147-vote loss) to Saskatchewan Rivers (a 2,574-vote loss), or; (b) virtually sweep every seat in the four major cities and north (which the NDP did in all five general elections from 1986 to 2003).
It may sound plausible, but the historic numbers illustrate how close to impossible it would be to accomplish this.
“Sweeping the cities” now means the NDP overcoming vote margins from the 2016 election of 1,000+ in 11 seats and 2,500+ in six seats, including Saskatoon-Dakota-Grasslands (a 4,294-vote Sask. Party win) and Saskatoon Willowgrove (a 4,407-vote Sask. Party victory).
There have been been 1,703 MLAs elected in Saskatchewan since 1905 — 1,582 in general elections and another 121 in by-elections. Never has a candidate taken a seat his party lost by 4,000 votes in the previous election.
Sure, some candidates have won big in seats their party previously didn’t hold. In Grant Devine’s 1982 upset, seven Progressive Conservative MLAs won by 2,500 votes or more in seats previously held by the NDP. But usually when such a seat flip occurs, it’s in a seat that was relatively close in the previous election.
In the entire electoral history of Saskatchewan, on only six occasions has a party ever lost a seat it won by 2,500 votes in the previous election. That’s a mere 0.35 per cent of all electoral races ever held in Saskatchewan. (Interesting, Devine’s PC candidates did it four times in 1982 by knocking off NDP heavyweights including Roy Romanow. Before that, it happened once in 1938 and once in the Tommy Douglas sweep of 1944.)
The easy route for Meili’s NDP would be win the closest seats in 2016, but that would still require NDP taking seats it lost by more than 2,000 votes including The Battlefords (2,036), Regina Rochdale (2,215), Batoche (2,357), Saskatoon Silverspring-Sutherland (2,479), Saskatoon Northwest (2,510) and Saskatchewan Rivers (2,574).
Sure, it’s possible, but such a gigantic upset would surely require momentum the NDP isn’t seeing in today’s pre-election poll.
And according to the historic numbers, no incumbent governing party seeking re-election has ever held the advantage the Sask. Party now holds.
That advantage also begins with the number 31. It’s the number of seats (mostly rural, but also some city seats) that the Sask. Party won in 2016 by 2,500 votes or more. Again, only six times in history has a party lost a seat it won by 2,500 votes in the previous election.
Essentially, the numbers suggest the Sask. Party starting this campaign as if it has a 31-seat majority in its pocket. For the NDP, winning is nearly impossible.
Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.