The riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River covers the entire northern half of the province of Saskatchewan, an area of nearly 350,000 square kilometres, but with a population of just 68,000 people. The southern most part of this riding is primarily agricultural land. The largest urban areas are the city of Meadow Lake, and the towns of Spiritwood, La Ronge, and Carrot River. Representing this vast area is a challenge for any MP.
All three main political parties can claim credible chances in this riding, with the NDP holding it federally in 1997, and the Liberals and Conservatives at different points since then. Since 2008, it has been a Conservative seat, with the incumbent defeating his next nearest challenger (Liberal, David Orchard) by a sizeable 3,148 votes. This time, the Liberal candidate is Gabe Lafond. He lacks the name recoginition of Mr. Orchard, and I doubt he’ll do as well.
The NDP is running Lawrence Joseph, the former head of the Saskatchewan Federation of Indian Nations. Mr. Joseph has a long career in politics and the municipal and provincial levels and has very high name recognition. Of course, that name recognition isn’t always good, and Mr. Joseph hasn’t been free from controversy. But I expect he’ll do much better than the NDP’s previous candidate. This effect, combined with the apparent Orange Crush phenomena and the low-profile Liberal candidate, puts this riding into play. Adding together Liberal and NDP votes from last election would surpass the Conservative numbers. But that’s a tall order.
My prediction* – a Conservative hold.
* Nothing scientific here, folks, just my gut-feeling guess.