The Choice that Saskatchewan voters make will matter...

By David McGrane on Sep 19, 2008

 This article appears as  "Choice by voters in Sask. Will hold significant sway", Saskatoon StarPhoenix, September 18th, 2008, A11. 

When the Prime Minister called the federal election, the response of many people in Saskatchewan was undoubtedly: "What! Another election!" With two federal elections and one provincial election during last four years, a little voter fatigue is understandable. Nonetheless, we should not let our weariness allow us to fall prey to old, cynical arguments that we should not bother to vote because ‘all politicians are the same' and ‘your vote doesn't make a difference anyway.'  The votes cast in Saskatchewan on October 14th will be very important for the future of province and our country. The choice we make will make a difference.

With the probability that the Conservatives will pick up another 20 seats in Quebec, voters in Saskatchewan should start from the premise that the Conservatives are in striking distance of a majority government.  However, even with their extra seats in Quebec, the Conservatives will still need to retain all their seats in English Canada and add a few more to attain what will be a razor-thin majority. Therefore, it is paramount for the Conservatives to sweep Saskatchewan once again. If voters reject the Conservatives in a number of key ridings in Saskatchewan, that could be the difference between a majority and minority government. Indeed, the power is in our hands and the choice that we are about to make is an important one.

If you chose to vote Conservative, you must assume that you are contributing towards the election of a majority Harper government.  Putting all of that power into Stephen Harper's hands has a number of significant consequences for Saskatchewan. Harper would continue to spend heavily on the military, aggressively reduce the debt, and enact tax cuts targeted to his potential supporters in Saskatchewan such as small business owners and our province's truckers and farmers who use are heavy users of diesel. He would continue to a ‘go slow' approach on climate change would not throw Saskatchewan's oil and gas industry off balance. However, the Conservative's approach to climate change probably mean that Saskatchewan would continue to have per-capita greenhouse gas emissions that are three times higher than all other Canadian provinces with the exception of Alberta. With his axing of the Kelowna Accord, elimination of the universal daycare scheme, reduction of funding to women's programs, and cuts to arts funding, it hard to see Harper making large investments in social policy in Saskatchewan communities over the course of the next four years. Rather, Harper would probably run a lean government concentrated on maintaining Saskatchewan's current economic strength in the context of an economic slowdown in other parts of North America.

For Saskatchewan voters who reject the Harper agenda, they have three choices: Liberal, NDP, or Green.  There is a small chance of a Liberal minority government or the Liberal official opposition to a Conservative minority government so it important to look at the effect of their policies on Saskatchewan. The Liberals have bold carbon tax plan based on the lofty principle that the ‘polluter pays' and that we need to change consumer behaviour to truly combat climate change. Some observers, like Janice MacKinnon and Premier Brad Wall, have argued that Dion's Greenshift could adversely affect Saskatchewan through handicapping our resource-based economy and forcing us to cut the emissions while Eastern Canada gets the lion's share of the personal income tax and corporate tax cuts design to offset the impact of the new carbon taxes. So far, Dion has put all of his eggs into one basket in terms of Saskatchewan. Outside of their environmental plan, the Liberals have yet to announce other policies that would have a significant effect on Saskatchewan and announced policies, like banning semi-automatic assault rifles or investing in the modernization of the fishing industry, that are targeted at other parts of the country.   

With Dion's uninspiring leadership during the first couple of weeks of the campaign, even the Conservatives are admitting that Jack Layton is looking like the real leader of the opposition. With the NDP having the best chance to beat the Conservatives in most Saskatchewan ridings, many Saskatchewan voters may be considering voting NDP as the best way to deny Harper a majority government and provide a spirited opposition to Harper in Ottawa. With a large opposition caucus, the NDP would surely attempt to force Harper to pay more attention to social policy issues, like daycare, and call on the government pay attention to consumer issues like high ATM fees and price-gouging at the gas pumps. The NDP, who opposes carbon taxes on consumers, would also push a Conservative government to create a ‘cap and trade system' that would force large corporate polluters to either reduce emissions or pay heavy fines. Certainly, like the Liberals' Greenshift, the NDP's scheme would necessitate considerable adjustment on the part of companies in Saskatchewan's oil patch.

Finally, some Saskatchewan voters may be tempted to vote for the Green Party as a way to send a message to the established parties that are not happy with current state of Canadian politics and that they consider the environment to be the defining political issue of our times. As laudable as these intentions may be, Saskatchewan voters must also face the reality that a vote for the Greens will not elect the Green candidate in their riding and may end up taking away votes from Liberal or NDP candidates therefore allowing the Conservatives to win. Potential Green voters in Saskatchewan must ask themselves if sending a message to Canada's established federal parties is worth the risk of contributing to the election of a Conservative candidate whose party is the least likely to take dramatic action on environmental issues.      

On October 14th, voters in Saskatchewan have an important choice to make that will affect their own personal lives and the future of their province and country. We should all analyze the current political situation and seize this power to vote in the way that we believe is best for Saskatchewan and Canada. Your vote matters, use it! 

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Saskatchewan Votes

I really enjoyed your breakdown of the effects each party has and will have depending on election results, on the citizens of the province. I am not all that familiar with the issues facing the province so am not in a position to critique your stance. I do beleive that Mr. Harper has the best interests of Canada as a whole firmly in mind, and that Saskatchewan will not be adversely affected by a Conservative government.

I do admire your admonition to voters that every vote counts and no excuse is a good excuse not to vote. I believe people need to be reminded of the power of their vote, and that it does matter. Men and women died in order to give us this precious freedom of choice. We do them dishonor by refusing or neglecting to use it.

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