Dead Grits?

There have been three byelections since the 2007 general election in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Liberal Party has only fielded a candidate for one of these byelections. That candidate was Eileen Gelowitz, who ran in the 2007 election for the Saskatchewan Party in an adjacent riding. In 2007, Gelowitz earned  2182 votes for the Saskatchewan Party (34.2% of the vote) – but in this week’s byelection she garnered exactly 107 votes (2.6%) for the Liberal Party.

A recent article in the Star Phoenix by reporter James Wood explores the byelection loss and the possible implications for the Liberal Party.

It is clear that the Liberal Party has failed to carve out place for itself in the narrow Saskatchewan political spectrum. Former leader David Karwacki failed to get a single Liberal candidate elected in two general elections and several byelections. And he saw the popular vote share of his party decline to 9.4%.

The new Liberal leader (who was acclaimed) Ryan Bater has decided to take the Liberal Party down a different road, emphasizing personal and economic freedom (a libertarianism-lite?) and is a stark departure from the policies established by Karwacki and his team. And while there is nothing inherently off-putting in Bater’s new messages, his changes have weakened his party’s visibility. The lack of consistency further undermines these listless liberals.

Looking at the popular vote numbers in Saskatchewan, it seems clear that a third party can only surge when an established party is in decline. The CCF/NDP arose at the expense of the Progressive Conservatives in the 1930’s. The Progressive Conservatives reemerged at the expense of the Liberals in the 1970’s. The Saskatchewan Party emerged at the expense of the Liberals in the 1990’s (indeed, the emergence of the Saskatchewan Party occurred through a violent hemorrhaging of the Liberal Party). With strong base support for both the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP, it is unlikely that the Liberal Party (or the Greens or any other party) will be able to mobilize enough voter and monetary support to manage to elect any candidates in the near future.

My prediction is that Liberal Party support will sink to near all-time lows (<5%) in the 2011 election. But that’s two years away – and that’s a very long time in politics.

Liberal popular vote levels in Saskatchewan general elections:

2007: 9.4%
2003: 14.18% (Karwacki)
1999: 20.15% (Melenchuk)
1995: 34.70% (Haverstock)
1991: 23.29%
1986: 9.99%
1982: 4.51% (Goodale)
1978: 13.78%
1975: 31.67%
1971: 42.82%
1967: 45.57% (Thatcher)

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9 thoughts on “Dead Grits?

  1. Great post! I totally agree with what you have written. I like how you have pointed out that the Liberals are trying a libertarian bent and failing. The problem is that the Liberal leader has accepted bunk information from a group of fools in Regina.

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  2. Lord High Commishoner: people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. You sound like a Sask Party socialist retard to me.

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  3. Atomic Robot: this is one by-election result. You are premature in your predictions. The Saskatchewan Liberal Party is struggling to be sure, but it is not dead. As for the future, we shall see what we shall see.

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    1. the observer:

      Yes. One by-election alone does not relegate any party to future irrelevance. Things are more fluid than that.

      Or not.

      I’m not the first person to suggest that there may not be enough room for three political parties in Saskatchewan. Assuming that is true – and the weight of history seems to support this – then the Liberal goal must be to displace either the Sask Party or the provincial NDP.

      The Liberals haven’t elected an MLA since 1999.

      You can’t displace another party by *not* winning by-elections.

      I’m just stating the obvious here.

      The Liberals did go 8 years or so without an MLA (late-70’s to early-80’s) before Goodale was elected. The party’s fortunes picked up following the collapse of the PCs. So resurrection is possible.

      At the heart of the issue is the prov Liberal party itself – its membership and leaders. I’ve observed a steady drain of talent out of the party over the past decade. So far, nothing Ryan Bater has done is bringing them back.

      *If* Ryan Bater can bring them back – then my prediction of the demise of the provincial party will indeed have been premature.

      That’s a big “if”.

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  4. What’s funny is the amount of former Liberal staffers that are elected elsewhere. Jason Kenney is an MP in Alberta, and Jonathan Dennis is an MLA, also in Alberta.

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