Phil Tank: Sask. The party lacks subtlety with checks, call for by-elections

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Saskatoon Meewasin’s by-election could hinge on whether people like or feel insulted by the government sending out $500 checks.

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Nobody ever said that politics was called a subtle activity.

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But the Saskatchewan Party may have set a new standard for flagrantness by announcing it is sending $500 checks to eligible adults, then calling a by-election for the vacant Saskatoon Meewasin seat less than a week later. late.

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You have heard of a pre-election budget. Classify this as a pre-election budget adjustment.

Sure, politicians are often accused of buying votes or using taxpayers’ money to bribe them, but this seems to be reaching a new level, especially for a by-election.

Saskatchewan Party by-election candidate Kim Groff launched a Twitter account last month; As of this writing, the only message was a share of the Saskatchewan Party account advertising the “affordability check”.

And people view politics with cynicism.

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The Saskatchewan Party hopes people will forget that other provinces provided inflation relief months earlier, once it became clear that rising costs were hurting people.

This government waited to serve its own political interests before helping people.

But it might work, because people’s memories are short. Although only adults who have filed their 2021 tax returns by the end of October will receive the money.

Saskatoon Meewasin can be a tough seat to call, regardless.

The riding had been represented by incumbent NDP leader Ryan Meili since winning it convincingly in a by-election five years ago with 54% of the vote.

Then Meili barely retained the seat in the 2020 elections, with just over half of the vote. Support for the Saskatchewan Party has increased as its candidates received less than 40% of the vote in the 2017 by-election (Brent Penner) and 46% in the 2020 election (Rylund Hunter).

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It’s hard to avoid hanging on the decline in support for Meili and his inability to garner support while he was party leader, since Penner was probably better known than Hunter. Meili never kept his promise of victory in the by-elections.

The 2017 by-election was necessitated by the death of Saskatchewan Party MLA Roger Parent, who won the seat convincingly in 2011 and again in 2016 after a failed bid in 2007.

The key to Parent’s victory turned out to be the decline of the Saskatchewan Liberals.

Saskatoon Meewasin featured the province’s last three-way race in 2007, when Liberal Leader David Karwacki finished third with about 30%. Parent placed second and Frank Quennell of the NDP won with 35 percent.

In 2011, the Liberal candidate finished fourth, with less than 2% of the vote behind the Green Party candidate. The collapse of Liberal support seems to have benefited Parent.

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Prior to Parent’s victory, the NDP had held the seat since its inception in the 1995 election. The riding has a history as an NDP stronghold, but transitioned to the Saskatchewan Party prior to Meili’s victory.

Liberal Leader Darrin Lamoureux also ran in the 2017 by-election, but finished a distant third with less than 4%.

Now the Liberal leader is running again in Saskatoon Meewasin. This time it’s Jeff Walters trying to get the party started again; if he does well on Sept. 26, it will likely mean he has siphoned off support from the Saskatchewan Party, based on previous voting patterns.

There is also the Buffalo Party and its candidate, Mark Friesen, who hope to enlist the support of the disillusioned right by the Saskatchewan Party.

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It marks a departure for the Buffalo Party, which ran exclusively in the 2020 election in ridings where it could not be accused of splitting the vote and allowing the NDP to emerge victorious.

A good performance by the Buffalo party will embolden its supporters and present the Saskatchewan party with a dilemma: keep going right or appeal to the moderates.

The NDP, represented by Nathaniel Teed, must retain its seat, especially after losing the February by-election in Athabasca, a stronghold of the party.

But that vote can come down to whether people appreciate or are insulted by the $500 checks.

Phil Tank is the digital opinion editor at Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

[email protected]

twitter.com/thinktankSK

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