Here are ten ridings outside Regina and Saskatoon to watch as the provincial election campaign unfolds:
Kindersley, which suddenly has become one of the most interesting races in the province. The Sask. party’s Bill Boyd has held this seat, with one break, since 1991, winning it in 2011 with 79.7 per cent of the vote. But the high-profile cabinet minister has been the subject of considerable controversy, ranging from smart meters to a land sale at Regina’s Global Transportation Hub to use of government aircraft. Jason Dearborn, who held the seat for the Sask. Party from 2002-2007, is running as an independent. Also in the race are Charles Jedlicka (NDP), Darren Donald (Liberal) and Terry Smith (Progressive Conservative).
Meadow Lake, which was one of the last NDP rural strongholds. NDPer Maynard Sonntag held it for four terms before losing in 2007 to Jeremy Harrison — by only 36 votes. In 2011, Harrison grew his margin, getting 62 per cent of all votes, vs. 36.7 per cent for the NDP. This time, Harrison is being challenged by the NDP’s Dwayne Lasas, who has served two terms as vice-chief of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council. Also in the race are Eric Schalm (Green Party) and Eric McCrimmon (Liberal).
Moose Jaw Wakamow. Not so long ago, Moose Jaw regularly sent two NDP MLAs to the legislature. In this riding, which covers the city’s working and middle class south hill, 2011 saw the Sask. Party’s Greg Lawrence defeat New Democrat Deb Higgins (now the mayor of Moose Jaw) by only 201 votes, with 345 votes divided among other candidates. This time, he’s facing the NDP’s Karen Purdy, the Greens’ Shaun Drake and Liberal Terry Gabel. Will the Greens and Liberals keep their support this time around? Or will those votes shift to the NDP?
Moose Jaw North has been another close-fought riding in the recent past, often held by the NDP. But in 2007, the Sask. Party’s Warren Michelson defeated veteran New Democrat MLA and cabinet minister Glenn Hagel by only 33 votes. Michelson widened his margin over the NDP to 1,797 votes in the 2011 election, with only 399 votes going to other parties. This time, Michelson faces New Democrat Corey Atkinson, Liberal Brenda Colenutt and Green Caleb Maclowich.
The Battlefords, which is little changed from the seat of the same name won by Herb Cox of the Sask. Party in 2011 with 51.06 per cent of the vote. In the same campaign, the NDP got 35.83 per cent and the then-leader of the Liberals, Ryan Bater a hefty 11.76 per cent. Can this election’s Liberal candidate, Dexter Gopher, get as many votes? If not, where will they go? Also in the race are Josh Hunt (Green Party) and New Democrat Rob Feist.
Prince Albert Carlton, where the Sask. Party’s Darryl Hickie took the riding in 2011 with 60 per cent of the vote. It’s hard to say what will happen this time around: back in 2007, there were only 61 votes between Hickie and the NDP candidate. Also, Hickie isn’t running this year. Instead, the Sask. Party candidate is Joe Hargrave, who’s running against the NDP’s Shayne Lazarowich, Liberal Winston McKay and Asia Yellowtail of the Green Party.
Prince Albert Northcote, where the Sask. Party’s Victoria Jurgens beat NDP incumbent Darcy Furber by less than 200 votes in 2011. Local issues have included the long-running clamour for a second bridge across the North Saskatchewan River near the city. NDP Leader Cam Broten recently visited the city to flag what he sees as Sask. Party vulnerability on this issue, plus health care and government job cuts. Can this be exploited by Nicole Rancourt (NDP), Liberal Jonathan Fraser or Tracey Yellowtail (Green Party)?
Cumberland, a sprawling northern seat where the Sask. Party’s Thomas Sierzycki faces off against the NDP’s Doyle Vermette. Vermette is a veteran MLA who got 63.2 per cent of the vote in the 2011 election; Sierzycki has the profile that comes with being the mayor of La Ronge and got his nomination almost two years ago. Also contesting this seat are Mick Taylor-Lessard (Green Party) and George Morin (Liberal).
Rosthern-Shellbrook, where the NDP’s Rose Freeman faces off against incumbent Scott Moe of the Sask. Party — plus Orrin Murray Greyeyes (Liberals) and Jade Duckett (Greens). Historical twist: the Sask. Party’s Dennis Allchurch held this riding from 1999-2011, when he lost a nomination meeting to Moe, who went on to get 65 per cent of the votes vs. vs. 31.8 for the NDP. Freeman is the president of the Shellbrook Chamber of Commerce.
Saskatchewan Rivers, which covers the area to the north and east of Prince Albert. In it, Saskatchewan Party incumbent Nadine Wilson faces the NDP’s Lyle Whitefish. Though the NDP has held this seat in the recent past, in 2011 Wilson notched 66 per cent of the vote vs. the NDP’s 31.2 per cent. Brenda McKnight (Liberal) rounds out the field.
Finally, watch any rural seat where a long-sitting MLA has retired. By coincidence, all were previously in the Sask. Party category: Wood River (D.F. “Yogi” Huyghebaert), Melville-Saltcoats (Bob Bjornerud), Estevan (Doreen Eagles), Cypress Hills (Wayne Elhard), Kelvington-Wadena (June Draude), Canora-Pelly (Ken Krawetz) and Moosomin (Don Toth).