Dead Grits!

Two years ago, I began speculating about the political prospectives of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. I spent a lot of time looking at polling numbers and historical performance, and in the end I went ahead and predicted a gloomy result for that party in the 2011 provincial election: less than 5% of the popular vote.

Undoubtedly this will now come to pass, but I feel somewhat cheated by the manner in which it will. For the Saskatchewan Liberal Party has decided to run just nine candidates in the 2011 election. It is essentially impossible for the grits to obtain higher than 5% of the popular vote with only nine candidates. Indeed, a far lower result is now likely. But will the Liberal vote play a spoiler role in the few ridings they will contest?

Here’s the stats from Liberal leader Ryan Bater’s riding in 2007:

Party Candidate Votes %
NDP Len Taylor 3,296 43.82%
Saskatchewan Party Herb Cox 2,983 39.66%
Liberal Ryan Bater 1,005 13.36%
Greens Reid Steward 180 2.39%
Western Independence Gordon Elias 57 0.76%
Total 7,521 100.00%

As you can see, it’s all uphill for Bater. But if he can maintain much of that vote, he can likely continue to prevent the SaskParty from claiming it. However, others are predicting this riding to go SaskParty this year.

Perhaps the most interesting side-effect of this decision has been to cede third-party status to the Saskatchewan Green Party, who is running a full-slate of candidates.

I’m curious as to why the Liberals decided to run any more candidates than simply their leader. And none of the candidates they are in fact running are “star candidates.” It’s a curious compromise between a full-slate and a leader-only campaign. I can’t help but assume that the decline of the federal party is impacting grits at the provincial level here in Saskatchewan. As I mentioned after the federal election, the federal Liberals took a financial beating in Saskatchewan, with only Ralph Goodale qualifying for an Elections Canada rebate. At the very least, this level of performance has to be demoralizing to the provincial wing, and further acerbating the organizational atrophy besetting them since at least Karwacki’s departure.

For what it’s worth, you can find the Liberal election platform here.

Here’s the track-record of the provincial Liberals over the past forty-five years or so:

2011: ?? (Bater) (edit: Liberal results for the 2011 election were <0.56%)
2007: 9.4%
2003: 14.18% (Karwacki)
1999: 20.15% (Melenchuk)
1995: 34.70%
1991: 23.29% (Haverstock)
1986: 9.99%
1982: 4.51% (Goodale)
1978: 13.78% (Malone)
1975: 31.67% (Steuart)
1971: 42.82%
1967: 45.57% (Thatcher)

You’ll note that the previous low for the party was under Ralph Goodale in 1982. No Liberals were elected that year (Goodale came a close second behind an NDP candidate), but they were still able to garner more than 20,000 votes – a feat unlikely to occur in 2011.

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