We didn’t win the prize,” said Saskatchewan Party leader Elwin Hermanson, “but we sure surprised the winners.”
That statement pretty well sums up the mood of Saskatchewan Party members after the September 16 provincial election. While polls, pundits and the media loudly proclaimed the inevitability of another majority NDP government, the people of this province spoke even louder.
Premier Roy Romanow’s predicted majority ended up as a minority government – the first in Saskatchewan in over 70 years. Headlines in the Friday, September 17 issue of Regina’s The Leader Post, referred to a “razor-thin win.”
At the time the election was called, the NDP held 41 out of 58 seats in the legislature and, as of press time, the government of Roy Romanow now holds 29 seats – a loss of 12 members, including four rural cabinet ministers.
In terms of the popular vote, it was the Saskatchewan Party which won by an equally thin razor-edge. In spite of failing to form the government, Hermanson and his party captured 39.59 per cent of the popular vote compared to 38.70 per cent for the NDP, 20.19 for the Liberal Party and 1.52 for the New Green Alliance Party.
Although the Liberals were nearly written off by the media, the election of their leader, Dr. Jim Melenchuk, and two other candidates put them in the position of holding the balance of power.
In this election, the strongest voices for change came from the rural and farm sector. In a year described as one of the worst since the Great Depression, residents turned out to signal both their frustration and desperation, described by some as the feeling of “abandonment.” In addition, issues such as tax relief within the context of a balanced budget, funding for education, health care and highways became lightning rods for voter discontent.
For others, however, there was another important reason to express their desire for change. In a recent Campaign Life Coalition Saskatchewan survey, candidates from all parties were asked to state their views on abortion, euthanasia, and provincial laws providing funding for special interest groups and abortion procedures.
Of the 174 candidates polled from the three main parties (Liberal, NDP and Saskatchewan Party), all but five answered. Of those 169 who replied, 38 indicated either full or partial pro-life views, and of those 38, two were Liberals, one was NDP and the rest were candidates for the Saskatchewan Party. Results of this survey were published in Choose Life.
The security of this new government will depend largely on the ability of all parties to get along. Consultation and cooperation between Mr. Romanow, Mr. Hermanson and Dr. Melenchuk is seen as the only way to ensure that Saskatchewan voters don’t return to the polls prematurely. After a bitter campaign, it is difficult to envision such cooperation.