The federal election is tightening up in Saskatchewan.
The NDP is sitting just behind the Conservatives in the polls, although anti-Conservative sentiment is splitting the vote.
A poll released by Forum Research Sept. 25 pegged the Conservatives at 40 percent, the NDP at 31 percent and the Liberals at 25 percent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“The numbers haven’t really moved very much,” said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research. “The three parties have been pretty much where they are the whole time. Maybe the NDP are down a little bit.”
Joseph Garcea, a political science professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said the NDP has historically had a solid support base in Saskatchewan.
“In terms of being within striking distance of the Conservatives in most of the ridings … generally the NDP do quite well and better than the Liberals,” Garcea said.
The Conservatives won all but one riding in the province in 2011, with Liberal MP Ralph Goodale keeping his seat in Regina Wascana. However, the race between the Conservatives and NDP was close in several ridings.
Conservative Ray Boughen won by less than three percent over NDP candidate Noah Evanchuk in Palliser in 2011.
This time, redrawn boundaries put the Palliser riding largely in Moose Jaw-Lake Centre, where Boughen is not running for re-election.
At the time of the last election, Boughen had been the mayor of Moose Jaw.
The Conservative candidate for this election is Tom Lukiwski, who has been the MP since 2004 for Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre.
“(Lukiwski’s incumbency is) a double-edged sword,” Garcea said.
“On one hand, he has government experience. On the other hand, there’s a lot of people who don’t like what the government’s done, and may not like some of the things he’s done, either.”
The NDP candidate is Dustan Hlady, who is currently attending university for his teaching degree and doesn’t have as much of a profile as Lukiwski.
However, he has worked with municipal governments and interned in the Saskatchewan legislature.
The northern riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River has always been a close race. In the last election Conservative candidate Rob Clarke won by less than four percent over NDP candidate Lawrence Joseph. NDP MPs have represented the riding in the past.
Clarke is running for re-election, but in the past he has been criticized for not standing up for aboriginal rights, even though he is aboriginal.
Joseph is running for the Liberals in this election, which means former supporters may switch from the NDP to the Liberals.
La Ronge mayor Georgina Jolibois is now running for the NDP, which means she may be able to garner support from both the aboriginal and municipal sector.
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar was another close call in the last election with Conservative Kelly Block winning by less than two percent over NDP candidate Nettie Wiebe. The redrawn boundary has sent Block to Carlton-Trail-Eagle Creek, which means no incumbent is running in the new Saskatoon West riding.
Randy Donauer, who is a Saskatoon city councillor, is running for the Conservatives in Saskatoon West.
“(Donauer) has a very strong network, you know, people who have campaigned for him at the municipal level, so he probably has a fairly strong team, but the NDP tends to be very good at organizing in that area as well,” Garcea said.
He said the anti-Conservative sentiment has been a factor in this campaign, which may split voters between the NDP and Liberals.
One of the ridings to watch for this is Regina-Lewvan.
The Conservatives won quite comfortably in the last election with around 5,000 more votes than the NDP, but no incumbent is running there this time.
“All you need is 2,500 voters to switch, let’s say from the Conservatives to the NDP, to, well, win that one,” Garcea said. “The NDP has a really good shot at that one.”