Dead Grits – Part Two

An earlier post of mine discussed the collapse of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party vote in a recent by-election. My ultimate prediction was – and remains – a <5% popular vote for this party in the 2011 provincial election.

Recent discussion at the federal level about a pre-election-coalition/merger between the NDP and Liberal party has sparked my interest once again in reviewing the Liberal performance in Saskatchewan’s last federal election.

The results from the 2008 federal election in Saskatchewan were 13 Conservatives elected and 1 Liberal.

A closer look reveals the dreadful state of the Liberal brand in these parts.

Popular vote:
53.7% – Conservative
25.6% – NDP
14.9% – Liberal

In fact, the NDP came second place in every riding but two. Those two ridings were ones where the Liberal candidate had a personal brand to rely on: Ralph Goodale and David Orchard, with Goodale being the only non-Conservative to win a seat in Saskatchewan.

If we discount all the votes in Goodale’s and Orchard’s ridings, we arguably get a better view of the standard, normalized support for the federal Liberal party in Saskatchewan: 10.9%.

Under that scenario, the Conservative Party seems to gain the most.
56.2% – Conservative (+2.9%)
27% – NDP (+1.4%)

As far as an official election coalition between the Liberals and NDP goes, in Saskatchewan it wouldn’t make very much difference. Indeed, the Conservatives won 10 of their 13 seats with more than 50% of the vote in that riding. And in only one riding (Goodale’s) did they receive less than 40% of the vote. In the remaining three ridings they received 44-46% support.

Hypothetically, merging the Liberal & NDP support might only garner 3 more seats. But it is unlikely that such support would transfer one for one. There are really only a few seats in Saskatchewan that are in play, regardless of a Liberal-NDP alliance. Goodale’s seat isn’t one that is in play, so while its possible they might increase their popular vote, they won’t be increasing their number of seats. But a liberal candidate can – and has – won in Orchard’s northern riding. And the NDP came very close to winning in two others. Losing three seats isn’t much of a loss – except that the Conservatives are in a minority situation across the country, and need ever seat they can get.

Still, Liberal support at the federal level is dangerously low in Saskatchewan. Lower here perhaps than in any other province. It’s hard to explain why. Although a moribund provincial branch and a highly-successful provincial NDP are likely the main factors. The distribution of political support at the provincial and federal levels in Manitoba appears very similar to Saskatchewan’s. But with a larger centralized urban population (Winnipeg) there are more seats in play for the NDP. The provincial Liberals in Alberta do better than their provincial NDP opponents – but not significantly so.

7 thoughts on “Dead Grits – Part Two

  1. That is an excellent write up.

    “It’s hard to explain why. Although a moribund provincial branch and a highly-successful provincial NDP are likely the main factors.”

    it should be noted that the federal and provincial Liberal parties have entirely different voting bases, since they are very different parties in their outlooks…so even if the Sask Liberal Party wasn’t dead, it wouldn’t improve the fortunes of the federal Liberals very much.

    Otherwise, you are spot on the money.


  2. You’re right about the voting bases, of course. Many people do not vote for the Liberals provincially and do vote for them federally – with the provincial Libs receiving far less support than their federal brethren.

    Nevertheless, it’s my understanding that the membership of the two parties – in Saskatchewan, at least – is the same (but I think I recall some discussion about splitting these up). Which makes it difficult for potential members to join if they do in fact support another party provincially.


  3. The two parties are now completely separate, including membership wise. but even before the split, lots of people supported the provincial Liberals, and held their nose by holding a joint membership, me included.

    As for more people supporting the federal Liberals now than provincially…it wasn’t always that way. In fact, it is a very recent phenomena. In any case, I don’t foresee a rebound of the provincial Liberals in Saskatchewan, not in their current incarnation.


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