Few surprises expected in western Canadian races

Political analysts keep an eye on a few Liberal candidates on the Prairies, and the NDP might be in trouble in one riding.

Political analysts keep an eye on a few Liberal candidates on the Prairies, and the NDP might be in trouble in one riding

Liberal representation on the Prairies was reduced to four Manitoba members of Parliament two years ago and the chances of that changing are slim, political scientists expect.

Alberta elected 33 Conservatives and one New Democrat in 2019, while Saskatchewan elected Conservatives in all 14 of its ridings and turfed its lone Liberal government representative, Ralph Goodale.

Tom McIntosh, a University of Regina political scientist, said there is on off-chance that Buckley Belanger, who recently left his position as an NDP MLA in Saskatchewan to run for the Liberals in the northern riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, could win.

“Northern politics are more focused on the individual than the party,” he explained.

A Belanger win would be his win, not Justin Trudeau’s, he said.

In Goodale’s former seat of Regina-Wascana, which he held for 26 years, his long-time aide and campaign worker Sean McEachern is trying to regain the riding for the Liberals. Two years ago there was a strong effort to get rid of Goodale that might not be there this time.

McIntosh said it appears the McEachern campaign is focusing on his relationship with the now high commissioner in London and that he knows the riding well.

“Given how handily (Conservative Michael) Kram won the seat it’s probably their best strategy,” he said.

In Manitoba, observers are watching whether Liberal Terry Duguid holds on to Winnipeg South, a riding that tends to vote for the national winner.

“Winnipeg South has been a very clear bellwether riding for the national outcome,” said University of Manitoba adjunct professor of political studies Christopher Adams.

Jim Carr is considered a safe win in Winnipeg South Centre, he said, while Dan Vandal in St. Boniface-St. Vital is also expected to hold against 21 other candidates.

Winnipeg North is a riding to watch. Liberal Kevin Lamoureux is strong on the ground, Adams said, but he is facing a strong NDP candidate in Melissa Chung-Mowat, who has been gaining a profile during the campaign.

Adams said if the Liberals are to pick up a seat in that province it could be Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley where the former MP Doug Eyolfson is running against Conservative Marty Morantz.

The People’s Party of Canada could be a fly in the ointment there if the candidate draws enough votes and the Morantz-Eyolfson race is close, he said.

One other Manitoba riding to watch could be Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, where New Democrat Niki Ashton could be in some trouble.

In Alberta, Liberals are unlikely to be elected.

University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper said Conservative voters who are disappointed with leader Erin O’Toole may simply park their votes. The Maverick Party and People’s Party of Canada offer some alternatives but Cooper said probably not in sufficient quantities to change results.

Although the Maverick Party is running only in the West, Cooper said it is far different from the Reform movement that drew more attention.

“Preston (Manning) ran on the West wants in. The direction of these guys is the West wants out,” he said.

McIntosh said the Mavericks are running to make a statement and the People’s Party will appeal to some on the disaffected right, but the question for both these parties will be whether they register enough with voters to be around for the longer term.

“Reform had a much clearer set of long-term policies and objectives that I don’t see yet in those parties,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Green Party, which could have been poised to say this is a climate change election, is in internal disarray and it’s not clear how candidates will fare anywhere, he said.

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