Saskatchewan’s new government

By: Sandford BorinsWhat are the implications of the election of the Saskatchewan Party? As my title suggests, we can expect a complete rebranding of the government's Web site, emphasizing the Saskatchewan Party colours and logo, and boosting the political content of the home page. Also expect to see “eye candy” and advocacy Web pages touting the new government's priorities, and a more up-to-date premier's page, probably with an active video blog.One contentious issue is how pointedly the new government will try to present its narrative as “cleaning up the mess left behind by the NDP” and, if so, whether the public service will resist, arguing that such partisanship is not appropriate for a government Web site.When Grant Devine's Conservative Party took office in 1982, they instituted a massive purge of the senior public service. Brad Wall would be well advised not to go there. He could take a lesson from Stephen Harper who, despite commenting during the 2006 election campaign that Ottawa had a “liberal civil service,” once in power has been able to work well with that civil service. The truth is that the civil service in Canada is neither liberal nor conservative, but professional.To win power, the Saskatchewan Party became more centrist over the last four years. What are the implications of this policy shift for federal politics? Canada's new government is pleased to have a political ally take power in Regina. Beyond that, it demonstrates that federal Conservative Party strategist Tom Flanagan's vision of a more moderate centre-right political party has some validity. The failure of the NDP's attempt to convincingly paint the Saskatchewan Party as a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing is reminiscent of the federal Liberals' failure to make the same message about Stephen Harper stick at the national level.The electoral results tell an illuminating story. The Saskatchewan Party won 51 per cent of the popular vote, but only 64 per cent of the seats. (Compare this to last month's Ontario election, in which the Liberals won 66 per cent of the seats with only 42 per cent of the popular vote). The Saskatchewan NDP did relatively well, winning 37 per cent of the seats, exactly matching its 37 per cent of the popular vote. The reason is that the NDP kept most of its urban seats in close races, while the Saskatchewan Party won its rural seats with large majorities.One of the issues in a first-past-the-post system is the size of constituencies. Canada permits rural constituencies to have fewer voters than urban ones. If we required all constituencies to have the same population (as is the case in the United States House of Representatives), we would have more urban and fewer rural constituencies, and so the seat count in the Saskatchewan legislature would have been even closer. My preference is for equal population for all constituencies: I can't see any reason to give more clout to voters who have rural route addresses.Finally, Saskatchewan Liberal leader David Karwacki ran a spirited campaign, winning 10 per cent of the popular vote, but no seats. That is an unfortunate outcome of first-past-the-post. Those who prefer proportional representation can point to this as one election where that system would have delivered both a majority for the leading party and representation in the legislature for the third party.

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