REGINA – Hopes of a major NDP breakthrough in the province where the party was born were dashed as early numbers rolled in Monday night.
While the New Democrats jumped out to an early lead in Saskatoon West, the Conservatives led in other urban Saskatchewan seats the NDP had hoped to take.
Many rural ridings were considered safe for the Conservatives, but the NDP entered the 2015 federal campaign believing a revamped electoral map might improve its fortunes.
The new boundaries didn’t add any seats to Saskatchewan but they dramatically changed the previous ones in Regina and Saskatoon. The old riding used to look like slices of pie, each with a corner of the city and then a large chunk of the rural countryside. The new electoral map boasts five urban-only seats.
The NDP had its sights set on three of those – Regina-Lewvan, Saskatoon West and Saskatoon University.
While the party was showing well with candidate Sheri Benson, a CEO with the United Way, in early returns in Saskatoon West, newcomer Trent Fraser was leading in Regina-Lewvan and Conservative incumbent Brad Trost was ahead in Saskatoon University.
Flash back to the year 2000, when Lorne Nystrom took Regina-Qu’Appelle for the New Democrats. That was the last federal victory for the party in Saskatchewan. Nystrom lost in 2004 to Conservative Andrew Scheer and the Tories have held a stranglehold on the province ever since.
Liberal Ralph Goodale has been the only exception. He has held his seat consistently since 1993 and won again this time.
The other hotly contested riding was in the northern half of the Saskatchewan.
Conservative Rob Clarke won the sprawling Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River seat by 794 votes over NDP candidate Lawrence Joseph in 2011.
Joseph, a well-known aboriginal leader, put his name forward for the Liberals this time around. His NDP challenger, Georgina Jolibois, has served four terms as mayor of La Loche, one of the larger communities in the constituency.
Clarke jumped out to a lead in early returns Monday night.