The 20th anniversary of the formation of the Saskatchewan Party on Tuesday comes at a time when the party needs “renewal” to regain public support after an unpopular budget, CBC polls analyst Éric Grenier says.
On Aug. 8, 1997, the political landscape in Saskatchewan changed when the new party was created to challenge the governing NDP.
It would be another 10 years before the party formed its first government in 2007. In the years after they were elected, Grenier said, the party’s leadership was credited for economic success in the province, and Premier Brad Wall maintained his popularity with voters.
But now, 10 years since the elation of its first year in government, Grenier says the party is facing its biggest challenges to date.
“It’s starting to catch up to them and all the decisions that they’ve had to make, the budgetary problems that they’ve had this year where they brought forward a budget that was very unpopular. And now the party is in need of some renewal,” said Grenier.
Eight men and women
In 1997, four Liberals and four Progressive Conservatives joined to form the Saskatchewan Party. MLAs Bill Boyd, Dan D’Autremont, Ben Heppner and Don Toth were the four former Progressive Conservatives, while Bob Bjornerud, June Draude, Rod Gantefoer and Ken Krawetz made up the former Liberal contingent.
‘The party now needs to find somebody to replace [Brad Wall] if he decides not to run in the next election.’
– CBC polls analyst Éric Grenier
Former Saskatchewan Lt.-Gov. Gordon Barnhart, who is also a political historian and the former clerk of the Canadian Senate, remembers the chain of events that led to the formation of the party. Barnhart is now writing a book about how it was founded.
He said while some members of the Liberal Party were dissatisfied with the leadership at the time, the main motivation behind the creation of the new party was to oust the NDP.
Liberal leadership, vote-splitting concerns behind new party
There were concerns that vote-splitting was allowing the NDP to stay in government even when their support was going down.
“I think there were a lot of people in both the Liberal Party and the [Progressive] Conservative Party that could show statistically that if you added their support together in most of the elections they would have formed government if they were one party,” Barnhart told host Garth Marterie on CBC Radio’s Blue Sky.
It took 10 years, but the party did…