Federal election: He is the only Liberal MP in the province, a scenario that isn’t expected to change in this election
Ralph Goodale is used to being the sole Liberal voice from Saskatchewan in Ottawa.
And he’s expected to be the only one again after the Oct. 21 vote.
Polls indicate that while most of the province will vote Conservative, including in Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s Regina-Qu’Appelle riding, Regina-Wascana voters are likely to stick with Goodale. With just a few days left in the campaign, he hopes that’s true.
“The vote numbers seem to be holding,” he said.
“That’s certainly an encouraging sign.”
Goodale may represent an urban seat, but he is well known throughout the province and indeed the country. He is running in his 15th election and has most recently had the high-profile cabinet portfolio of public safety minister.
Previous stints as agriculture minister and finance minister, among others, make his name recognizable to most.
Four years ago, the Liberal party had breakthroughs in the West, but the government’s policies and messages haven’t resonated with farmers.
Goodale said it’s clear that the business risk management programs are a source of contention and must be tackled in consultation with provinces and farmers. Intergenerational farm transfers must be easier, too.
“Those two things are signalled in the platform,” Goodale said.
“The new government is going to have to take both of those things very seriously.”
The Liberals are also promising to expand and enhance Regina-based Farm Credit Canada through a working capital injection of $5 billion.
“It’s an off balance sheet transaction because there will be investments made by the corporation that will offset the capital commitment, so it’s a wash in terms of the overall balance sheet,” he said.
The party is also proposing the creation of a new Canada Water Agency that Goodale said would pick up where the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration left off when it was dismantled by the Conservatives in 2012.
“In many ways, the soils and water challenges that we’re facing now going forward are as serious or more serious than what we had to deal with in the 1930s that triggered the formation of PFRA in the first place,” Goodale said.
The agency would be headquartered in Western Canada and deal with water consequences — either too much or too little — from climate change.
Goodale has for some years talked about further development from Lake Diefenbaker to link it with the Qu’Appelle Valley, and he said the new agency would bring together stakeholders, including farmers, to advance that effort.
Increasing biofuel content, and making sure Canadian canola is used to do so, and trade issues are also on the Liberal agenda.
Goodale said despite what western farmers may think, Justin Trudeau is well aware of agricultural issues and wants farmers to succeed. The government would look at how farmers could be financially rewarded for storing carbon, he said, as well as for good farming practices.
His challengers are the Conservatives’ Michael Kram, NDP candidate Hailey Clark, Green candidate Tamela Friesen and People’s Party of Canada candidate Mario Milanovski.
University of Saskatchewan political science department head Loleen Berdahl said Regina-Wascana is one of the more interesting ridings because Goodale has his own personal brand. People will vote for him rather than the Liberal party, she said.
If Goodale is to be the only Liberal MP elected, it appears the NDP could find itself shut out in the province that was once a stronghold.
Some polls show the northern seat of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River and Saskatoon West are both toss-ups between the NDP incumbents and the Conservative candidates.
The third seat, Regina-Lewvan, was the subject of controversy during the last Parliament after NDP leader Jagmeet Singh kicked MP Erin Weir out of the party. It is likely to go to the Conservatives.
Sheri Benson, who is trying to hold Saskatoon West, said the battle is between her and the Conservative’s Brad Redekopp, but he doesn’t live in the riding , which may help her in the end.
“It’s not a cake walk, and there are still two weeks to go,” she said.
She believes that Singh’s performance in the last English debate indicated he is hitting his stride, and the party’s policies will resonate. Of the Saskatoon ridings, hers has the lowest median income, largest indigenous population and a lot of young voters and newcomers.
However, the NDP hasn’t fared particularly well in Saskatchewan for some time. It won two seats federally in 2000 and was shut out until the three wins in 2015.