2003 Saskatchewan General Election

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Oct 1, 2003

On November 5, 2003, Saskatchewan voters returned Premier Lorne Calvert and the provincial New Democratic Party to government, this time with a slight majority in the legislative assembly. The election win was the fourth consecutive victory for the NDP, and represented an improvement for the Party from the last general election in 1999. This article provides an introduction to the history, issues, party leaders and platforms, and results of the 2003 election.

Saskatchewan Electoral Backgrounder

Previous elections and pre-election party standings

2003 Saskatchewan Election Issues

Key issues and debates in the election

2003 Saskatchewan New Democratic Party

Leader and key policies of the NDP

2003 Saskatchewan Party

Leader and key policies of the Saskatchewan Party

2003 Saskatchewan Liberal Party

Leader and key policies of the Liberal Party

2003 Saskatchewan Election Results

NDP win a majority government

Links to More Information

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Saskatchewan Electoral Backgrounder

Previous elections and pre-election party standings

1999 General Election Results

Saskatchewan’s last general election was held in 1999. The Saskatchewan NDP split the seats with the opposition parties. Following the election, the NDP and the Liberal Party formed a coalition government, with the coalition falling apart in 2000. Since that time, the NDP have maintained power through the support of independent Members of the Legislative Assembly. Results of the 1999 general election are as follows:

Political Party

# of Votes Cast

% of Vote

Candidates Elected

New Democratic Party

157,046

38.73

29

Saskatchewan Party

160,603

39.61

25

Liberal

81,694

20.15

4

New Green Alliance

4,101

1.01

-

Progressive Conservatives

1,609

.40

-

Independent

422

.10

-

Total

405,475

100.00

58

Provincial By-elections (1999-2003)

Since the last general election, there have been eight provincial by-elections. The New Democratic Party won five of the by-elections, while the Saskatchewan Party took three.

For results of provincial by-elections between 1999 and 2003:

Pre-election Party Standings

Prior to dissolution of the provincial legislature, the NDP controlled the provincial legislative assembly through the cooperation of independents. Below are the seat totals for each party.

Party

Seats

Status

New Democratic Party

28

Government

Saskatchewan Party

26

Opposition

Independents

4

 


2003 Saskatchewan Election Issues

Key issues and debates in the election

Ideological Election

The 2003 general election will be a strong ideological battle between the main parties. On the one end of the spectrum is the social democratic New Democratic Party, with its mainly urban support. On the other end of the spectrum is the neo-liberal Saskatchewan Party, with a large rural support.

The core of this ideological battle centres on the government’s role in the province’s economy. Historically, the New Democratic Party has argued that the province’s small population and rural-based economy required a direct government role in managing the economy. This included state-directed investment and publicly owned corporations in key industries such as telecommunications and energy. The Saskatchewan Party advocates a minimal role for government in the economy, and a greater reliance on free enterprise as an engine for growth. This would involve privately directed investment (as opposed to government directed) and a reduced or even eliminated role for publicly owned Crown corporations.

The Saskatchewan Liberal Party is attempting to strike a balance between the two main parties. The Liberals argue that government can be activist, but can no longer be interventionist in the global economy. The Liberal Party would not privatize Crown corporations, but is committed to changing their focus.

The Liberal Variable

Like the 1999 general election, the result of this election looks to be tight. If neither the NDP nor the Saskatchewan Party wins a majority government, the Liberal Party could be in a position to decide who will form the next government. In 1999, the New Democratic Party became the government by forging a coalition with the Liberal Party. Current Liberal leader David Karwacki was a very vocal opponent of the 1999 NDP/Liberal coalition. He may therefore pass on such an offer this time around. However, there are strong ideological and policy differences between the Liberal and Saskatchewan parties, including the role of Crown corporations, government funding, and health care administration. A coalition between these two parties would involve major policy concessions by both sides – concessions that neither party may be willing to make.

NDP Cartoon Scandal

The New Democratic Party hit its first campaign glitch when an internal memo was leaked to the press. The memo, drawn by the former NDP communications coordinator, was a cartoon depicting Saskatchewan Party Leader Elwin Hermanson, dressed in a Nazi-style uniform, loading NDP sympathizers onto railcars. The cartoon was circulated among about 40 high-ranking government workers until it was leaked to the press. Premier and NDP leader Lorne Calvert fired one employee and accepted the resignation of the communications coordinator. Premier Calvert also publicly apologized to Mr. Hermanson and the Jewish community. Harry Meyers, campaign chairman for the Saskatchewan Party, said that the Premier should have taken stronger action, but he was willing to put the incident behind him.

During the election, it was unclear how the incident would impact the election. Voters may have simply written the incident off as an isolated one, especially considering Premier Calvert’s moral image as a minister. However, past examples exist where such incidents hurt a political party. Most recently, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader and then-premier Ernie Eves received a backlash for his repeated insults of Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty. In the 1993 federal election campaign, the Progressive Conservatives under leader Kim Campbell ran unflattering television ads aimed at Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. It was considered by many analysts to be a contributing factor to the near-elimination of the Progressive Conservative Party in Parliament.


2003 Saskatchewan NDP Backgrounder

Leader and key policies of the NDP

Leader of the Saskatchewan NDP

Lorne Calvert was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He attended university in Regina where he studied economics, then pursued theology studies in Saskatoon. Mr. Calvert was ordained in the United Church of Canada in 1976. He served as Minister of the Zion United Church in Moose Jaw from 1979 until 1986. He was first elected to the provincial legislature in 1986 for the riding of Moose Jaw South. Over the course of his political career, Mr. Calvert has served as Associate Minister of Health, Minister Responsible for the Wakamow Valley Authority, Minister Responsible for SaskPower and SaskEnergy, Deputy Chair of the Crown Corporations Committee, Member of the Legislature’s Standing Committee on the Environment, Minister of Health, Minister of Social Services, Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission, and Minister Responsible for Seniors.

Mr. Calvert was elected as the New Democratic Party leader in 2001, and assumed the duties of Premier on February 8, 2001.

Saskatchewan NDP Platform

The New Democratic Party platform focuses on four major commitments.

The first is building on the future for young people, which includes educational and funding initiatives to help young people build careers in the province. Specific initiatives include granting limited interest-free periods on student loans for graduates who establish their careers in the province, expansion of the bursary, scholarship and co-op education programs for students, increased funding for trade schools, regional colleges and primary and secondary education, and providing greater access to small business and farming loans for young entrepreneurs and farmers.

Another initiative centres on building a green and prosperous economy, which involves expanding the province’s economy in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. Specific policies include expanding the use of “green” or environmentally friendly energy in the province, supporting environmental protection and energy conservation, creating an even more competitive business environment, building on research, development and innovation, strengthening rural and northern development, and building infrastructure to support economic development and diversification.

A third commitment of the Party is to increase the quality of life for families in the province. Specific policies include the following providing the lowest-cost package of utilities; reducing property tax pressures; indexing tax credits and brackets to keep pace with inflation; providing responsible tax cuts that do not threaten social programs; reducing the cost of post-secondary education by increasing bursaries and reducing debt burdens; providing new affordable housing for seniors; and regularly reviewing and increasing the minimum wage.

Finally, the Party made the pledge to provide the best public health care in Canada. This involves a commitment to keeping the province’s health care system publicly funded and administered. Other policies in this context include reducing waiting lists by purchasing new equipment and hiring new staff; improving front-line care by expanding clinic, home and TeleHealth systems; training and recruiting more health care professionals; and providing greater spending on facilities, including a new University of Saskatchewan Health Sciences Complex.


2003 Saskatchewan Party Backgrounder

Leader and key policies of the Saskatchewan Party

Leader of the Saskatchewan Party

Elwin Hermanson was born near Beechy, Saskatchewan. Prior to entering politics he was a farm operator, and also served on the Board of Directors of the Full Gospel Bible Institute and the Beechy-Demaine Economic Development Committee. Mr. Hermanson first entered politics at the federal level. He served three terms on the Reform Party’s National Executive Council and was elected as the Member of Parliament for the Riding of Kindersley-Lloydminster in 1993. In 1998, Mr. Hermanson became the first elected leader of the Saskatchewan Party. In 1999, he was elected as the MLA for the Rosetown-Biggar constituency and leader of the Official Opposition in the Saskatchewan legislature.

Saskatchewan Party Platform

The Saskatchewan Party platform involves an aggressive policy of economic growth, social spending, and reform. The Party will look to expand the economy through broad and deep tax cuts, with particular emphasis on small businesses and investment. Resulting growth in the economy (and increased tax revenues) will be used to increase spending in areas of healthcare, post-secondary education, and infrastructure.

In the area of the economy, the Party has made the following commitments:

  • Establish “Enterprise Saskatchewan” to aggressively market Saskatchewan to the world and focus the government on growing the province’s population by 100,000 people over 10 years.
  • Reduce income taxes for all brackets and remove thousands of seniors and low-income families from the rolls altogether.
  • Encourage small business growth by eliminating small business taxes.
  • Encourage investment by reducing capital tax by half. Work with the federal government to establish an agricultural safety net program.
  • Introduce balanced labour relations legislation.

Regarding the operation of government, the Party committed to:

  • Government spending reforms, including prohibiting budget deficits by introducing balanced budget legislation, and introducing programs to make the government spending process more transparent.
  • Reform Crown corporations, including a focus on key businesses (power, gas, telecommunications, and insurance) with low rates for consumers, limit competition between Crown corporations and private businesses, and end spending by Crown corporations on investments outside of the province.

In the fields of health care, education and social services, the Saskatchewan Party promised to:

  • Build a new integrated Health Services Facility at the University of Saskatchewan to attract and retain doctors, nurses, and other health care providers.
  • Introduce a health Care Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
  • Strengthen the provincial emergency medical response system, including introducing an air ambulance helicopter service.
  • Establish the lowest income tax rates in Canada for graduating post-secondary students by providing an annual $7,000 tax deduction for four years after graduation.
  • Increase post-secondary funding by five percent annually.
  • Implement a workfare program to move employable welfare recipients from welfare to work.

Finally, in regard to communities and infrastructure, the Party made the following commitments:

  • Increase municipal transfers by $80 million over four years to keep municipal tax rates low and renew municipal infrastructures.
  • Reduce crime by establishing a boot camp for repeat young offenders and hiring 200 more police officers.
  • Spend $1.2 billion over four years to rebuild a safe and effective highway system.

2003 Saskatchewan Liberal Party Backgrounder

Leader and key policies of the Liberal Party

Leader of the Saskatchewan Liberals

David Karwacki grew up in Saskatoon. He graduated from the College of Commerce at the University of Saskatchewan in 1989. Prior to entering politics, Mr. Karwacki was founder and Chief Operating Officer of Stare Produce, Ltd., an international fresh produce distribution company. He has also served as President of the University of Saskatchewan Huskie Basketball Alumni Association, and as a board member of the University of Saskatchewan Athletic Endowment Fund. He was elected leader of Saskatchewan Liberals in October 2001, and would seek election to the legislature as the member for Saskatoon Meewasin.

Saskatchewan Liberals Party

The Liberal Party platform focuses on three key areas: economic development through a career development strategy, creating a better economic and social environment for families, and reforming government.

In the area of economic policy and career development, the Liberals look to strengthen the province’s economy by creating careers, not just jobs. They presented a strategic plan based on building successful, export-driven industry clusters in every region of the province. Specific policies include:

  • Implement an industry cluster strategy that includes diversifying the traditional economic base, sustaining a critical mass of local knowledge workers, and building entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Use Crown corporations to develop a skilled workforce and promote innovation and investment in key sectors of the economy, such as the energy industry.
  • Use the post-education system for knowledge production and transfer to the economy, and workforce development. This includes maintaining access for all to post-secondary education and providing incentives for graduates to stay in the province, including student loan reduction programs that have a residency requirement.
  • Increase investment in the province by establishing an Investment Partnership office that would match capital firms with new businesses, as well as enter into joint private/public investment ventures.

Regarding Saskatchewan families, the Liberal Party is committed to building a home for families by improving the province’s economic and social environment. Specific policies include:

  • Provide affordable housing through low-rent programs and provide access to home building capital for lower income families.
  • Provide a strong publicly funded education system with an emphasis on equality of access and opportunity and a student-centred focus.
  • Commit to a publicly funded, universal healthcare system with accountability and transparency programs.
  • Improve communities through youth crime prevention programs, accessible housing, and neighbourhood development strategies.
  • Improve the social and economic situation of First Nations and Métis peoples. This includes programs that provide access to housing, increasing funding for post-secondary education, the encouragement of culturally appropriate health promotion programs, and using Crown corporations to promote employment opportunities and skills development for Aboriginal and Métis peoples.

Finally, in the context of government reform, the Liberal Party is committed to building strong community leaders and government in the province. Specific policies and programs include:

  • Ensure transparency and accountability in government spending and the operation of Crown corporations.
  • Increase democratic participation through greater respect of the legislature, and empowering committees of the legislature to review public appointments and to initiate legislation.

2003 Saskatchewan Election Results

NDP win a majority government

Lorne Calvert and the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party managed to win a slight majority government on election day. The election win is the NDP’s fourth consecutive victory, and represents an improvement over its 1999 election results. The Saskatchewan Party came in second, forming the Official Opposition.

Political Parties

Popular Vote

Seats Won

Status

New Democratic Party

44.62%

30

Majority Government

Saskatchewan Party

39.35%

28

Official Opposition

Liberal Party

14.17%

-

-


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