On Election night, former NDP Finance Minister, Andrew Thomson made some interesting observations on the demise of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. He pointed out that prior to the resurgence of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1975 - 78, the Liberals were the sworn enemies of the New Democrats and that their main base of support was in rural Saskatchewan.
The NDP historically held sway over the Northeast part of Saskatchewan - commonly referred to as ‘Red Square.’
The Libs on the other hand held the large Liberal “L”
which extended down the western border of the province and along the southern border that fringes on Montana and North Dakota. The Libs generally won enough urban support in Regina and Prince Albert to win a few seats. They last formed government in Saskatchewan in 1964 - were re-elected in 1967 and then were severely defeated by Alan Blakeny in 1971.
With the re-emergence of the Progressive Conservative Party in the 70's, the Liberals saw an erosion of their support in rural areas. They managed to form the official Opposition in 1975 but lost that status by the end of the term when a number of Liberal Members of the Legislature jumped to the P.C.’s. The Libs never survived that fatal blow.
In the 1978 provincial election, they were wiped out for the first time since Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. They won one seat in 1991 and were completely shut out again in the 2003 election as well as 2007. (The Liberals SHOULD NOT be allowed in the Leader’s debate in the next election. They have not earned it).
Getting back to Thomson’s analysis on why this once great party has been relegated to the dumper, you need to understand where it is that they are currently seeking their support.
Modern Saskatchewan Liberals see themselves as an urban party. Unfortunately for Libs, that turf is held by the New Democrats with the Saskatchewan Party also now represented in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw. There is NO room for Liberal growth in the urban areas and the Saskatchewan Party dominates for the moment in the rural constituencies.
The second problem is that in the recent election, the Libs TOTALLY misread what was happening province wide. They incorrectly predicted that the New Democrats would be destroyed and they tried to convince NDP’ers to vote Liberal.
Most Saskatchewan Liberals predicted that they would win a number of urban seats. One well known blogger predicted victory in seats like Regina Rosemont and Saskatoon Meewasin, It was not to be. As Thomson said, the Liberals have forgotten their rural roots and thought that they could become an urban power. It is this inability to understand who and where they are that doomed them to winning no seats again!
Those few ‘dyed in the wool’ Liberals remaining in Saskatchewan are going to have to make a decision. By and large, most of them SHOULD be Conservatives or Saskatchewan Party supporters because they are essentially right of center and cannot move beyond their traditional hatred for New Democrats. The Liberal Party of Saskatchewan is DEAD! It is deader than a door nail! It is deceased! But like a group of political zombies that do not acknowledge their own demise, they wander the province, eyes vacant and without a soul.
I will shed NO tears for the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan! Good riddance!