NDP former-leader Dwain Lingenfelter and Sask Party Leader Brad Wall at the leaders debate Oct. 25. Photos courtesy Daniel Paquet.
by Lisa Schick
Forty-nine Saskatchewan Party candidates have seats in the Legislature after Monday night, 11 of which were wrested out of the hands of NDP incumbents.
The NDP were pared down to the lowest number of seats they’ve ever had (nine), and the Sask. Party collected the highest percentage of the popular vote ever in the province (64 per cent).
But how much did the leadership of these two parties have to do with the results?
In the current electoral system, the province is split up into ridings and candidates run in those ridings. The voters cast a ballot for the candidate they want to represent their riding.
But for a lot of voters it seems like they aren’t voting for the candidate so much as the leader of the party.
“I don’t even know who’s running, but I like Brad Wall and what he’s doing. I don’t even know who’s in my area to be honest,” said one young voter on election day.
A young man near a polling station agreed. “A lot of people vote for the leader, but I try to vote for the candidate… because I kind of want someone to represent me and I want to consider who that is,” he said.
Dwain Lingenfelter, leader of the NDP until Monday night, obviously thought leadership is a factor because he stepped down after losing his riding and making the concession speech.
“Well, I think that obviously as a leader when things go well, you share the credit. But obviously as a leader when you don’t succeed, that’s my responsibility, and I’ve taken full responsibility for that,” said Lingenfelter in an apologetic speech.
Lingenfelter was first elected to the legislature in 1978 and elected as the party leader in 2009 after winning the Regina-Douglas Park seat in a by-election.
The people seemed to feel the same. In a Praxis analytics public opinion poll for the Leader-Post released Nov. 4, only 13 per cent of people said Lingenfelter would make the best premier.
When people on the street were asked why they wouldn’t vote for the NDP, many of them responded that they just didn’t trust Lingenfelter, lining up with the poll results.
In that same Praxis Analytics survey, 83 per cent of people picked Brad Wall as making the best premier (the Green Party leader, Victor Lau, received 4 per cent.)
After the results came in, Wall said they won because voters appreciated the party’s platform. “People in the province are reasonable. They like the way the province is going,” he said to reporters.
But even the Sask. Party candidates said they think Wall’s popularity bouyed their chances as much as the platform.
“Absolutely, he’s a leader, he’s a true leader, and he’s an easy man to follow,” said Russ Marchuk, who unseated Lingenfelter with 52 per cent of the vote. When Marchuk was doorknocking he heard people talk about how they liked what Wall was doing.
Kevin Doherty won the Regina Northeast riding from the NDP with about 59 per cent of the vote. Doherty acknowledged that people “love” the premier and Wall leading his party was good for him. “With our team, the campaign that we ran, the popularity of the premier, the platform that he ran on… we were very comfortable that we were in a good spot going into the campaign… (the people said) we want the Saskatchewan Party, we want premier Brad Wall,” he said.
So with Lingenfelter out of the leaders seat for the NDP who will the party choose to take his place, and will he be able to stand up to the shining image of Brad Wall?