Saskatchewan is headed to the polls October 26, 2020. Western Standard Saskatchewan correspondent Lee Harding will examine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats each party faces in this election campaign. Our second in the series looks at the Saskatchewan NDP which has been the official opposition for the last 13 years.
Background: Grant Devine led the Progressive Conservatives to majority governments from 1982 to 1991. Bill Boyd led the party after Devine, but was one of four PC MLAs who joined with four Liberal MLAs to form the Saskatchewan Party in 1997. The PCs have run minimal campaigns since and not won any seats. Leader Ken Grey finished third in the Regina Northeast by-election in 2018.
Strengths: Ken Gray took over the party in 2018 and has made a concerted effort to bring the party out of dormancy. In the last election, the party ran in 18 ridings and finished third in 10 of them. This time around, the party is running 31 candidates and the Liberals are only running 3. Unlike the other parties without MLAs, the PC’s have more than a million dollars in their account. That’s enough to wage a respectable provincial campaign and target resources to winnable ridings.
Weaknesses: The PC brand was badly tarnished by leading the province to the brink of bankruptcy, then by an expenses scandal that encompassed many MLAs. By now however, the surprise voters may find as PC candidates knock on the doors is that the party still exists. It has not run a serious campaign since the Sask Party was formed and only earned 1.3 per cent of the provincial vote in 2016.
Many of the PC candidates are political rookies, and more than one-third of them will fight in areas with relatively new EDAs. That suggests a weak and inexperienced volunteer base. The party brands itself as “true conservative” and hopes to outflank the Sask Party on the right. A perusal of the PC candidates shows many are pro-life people of faith. Although Saskatchewan still has a social conservative streak – especially in rural areas – it’s hard to see that translating into a large base of support. What little room there is to the right of the Sask Party will also be contested by the Buffalo Party. Candidates who run in Regina and Saskatoon may face backlash from right-leaning voters who don’t want to see the boogieman of “vote-splitting”.
Opportunities: A recent Angus Reid poll showed that many voters want an alternative to the two main parties and a stronger opposition. That said, most of these want something in between the NDP and Sask Party, not to the right of them both. As well, out of decided voters, only 7 per cent were voting for a party besides the two leading parties, leaving a very small slice to be split between the Greens, PC’s, and Buffalo Party. Even so, the PCs will likely get the most votes they’ve had in 25 years.
Ken Grey has a shot at placing second in Regina Walsh Acres. Previous Sask Party MLA Warren Steinley vacated the riding when he became a federal Conservative MP. Sportscaster Derek Meyers will represent the Sask Party, while Kelly Hardy will run for the NDP in what will be the first election for each. The wildcard is independent candidate Sandra Morin, a former Minister of Culture, Youth, and Recreation who won the seat in 2003 and 2007 but lost to Steinley in 2011. Morin won the nomination for the NDP but leader Ryan Meili refused to endorse her candidacy in August of 2020 following a “confidential vetting process.” Grey’s riding is one of 24 where the PCs have a candidate and the Buffalo Party does not.
John Goohsen in Cypress Hills and Rose Buscholl in Humboldt will represent the PCs for the second time, but both will face opponents in the Buffalo Party. Goohsen finished third with 5 per cent of the Cypress Hills vote in 2016, while Buscholl finished fifth in Saskatoon University that year with 1.5 per cent of the vote. Frank Serfas will run in Moosemin, but in 2016 he led the Western Independence Party and got 23 votes in Last Mountain-Touchwood. Tony Ollenberger, candidate for Saskatoon-Fairview, was a founding member and president of the Alberta First Party and ran as their candidate in 2001.
Threats: If the PCs finish behind the Buffalo Party in the eight ridings where they face each other, the latter will gain momentum and become the favoured home for disillusioned Sask Party voters. Grey needs to have a strong showing in his riding upon which to build. If he finishes with just 142 votes (2.8 per cent) as he did in the 2018 Regina Northeast By-election, this party will continue in the political wilderness.
CONROY: Alberta women fight back against attackers
Beginning at the end of 2020, a string of attacks have been occurring around Alberta, mainly in Calgary and Edmonton.
A recent string of attacks have made Alberta women resort to their own devices to protect themselves.
A string of attacks have been occurring around Alberta beginning at the end of 2020, mainly in Calgary and Edmonton. Many attribute it to factors such as COVID-19 restrictions making people stir-crazy, mask mandates allowing for greater anonymity in offenders, and even simply the large population growth experienced by Calgary, Edmonton, and other Alberta cities in recent years.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, the attacks are still happening — two new reports were submitted to Calgary Police Service of yet another perpetrator sexually assaulting women in Calgary while riding his bike around the southwest earlier this week.
The man – identified as Richard Catholique – has been charged with two counts of sexual assault but as of Friday June 18 is still at large.
The largest awareness campaign against these attacks has been fuelled not by mainstream media, but by social media, with women across Alberta posting warnings to each other of attackers and creepy men watching or following them across the city.
As a result of this rise in gender-targeted attacks, women in Alberta are feeling increasingly unsafe in their own cities.
Speaking from personal experience as a 22-year-old watching the increasing awareness campaign on social media regarding these attacks has at the least been alarming. It seems obvious from the testimony these attacks are targeted towards women, but no one seems to be doing anything.
A handful of reports have been filed with the police, but there has been little to no convictions.
The cases ranged from women being followed, having pictures taken of them, or experiencing unwanted sexual advances, to women driving alone and men attempting to break into their car at red lights.
I’ve found sometimes the best way to raise attention to an issue is to do so yourself.
I spoke to an ex-work colleague currently in high school who, along with her friends, has experienced a mental shift within the city. Jade Park expressed multiple times she and her other female friends now view the world differently, and have begun acting accordingly after the attacks went viral on social media.
“After hearing about all the recent issues, I’ve definitely viewed the world differently. I feel safe, but [only] to an extent. I don’t feel safe to walk in the early morning or after, say 8-9 p.m. Just in case no one is on the same street as me. I would go to the store with my friends but not after 10 p.m.,” Park said.
“I don’t feel comfortable walking down an alley at anytime of the day, and going somewhere like downtown is a terrifying idea due to the recent events.”
Park’s sentiment makes sense considering a disturbing alleged attack of a woman being pulled into a downtown alley and raped by multiple men.
“I know a lot of different girls, including myself, who have been followed and stared at by men in Calgary lately. They’ve been talked to in demeaning ways, followed, or sometimes had pictures taken of them without their consent,” she said.
Some precautions Park and her friends have been taking since the attacks began consist of “dressing safely or being more on alert to anyone who could be watching or following.”
In a very telling statement to the current environment, Park goes so far as to say “me and every single woman I know have started carrying something to be safe in case of an emergency, even it it’s simply a little can of hairspray or a small pocket knife. Anything we can do to protect ourselves if we have to go into a widely male-populated area.”
Park also expressed a widely shared sentiment that the police simply aren’t doing enough to make women feel safe in their own cities, so women are taking matters into their own hands.
“With instances that my friends have reported men following them, the police have simply taken a note and nothing has happened. I think women are finally feeling confident enough to cover the news of what’s happening, and OK to speak up about this whole issue.”
The Calgary Police Service refused a request for interview but in a written statement said:
“We can’t speculate on whether masks are making people more brazen when committing crimes, or whether COVID restrictions may contribute to the increased rates.
“We’re seeing increased reporting compared to this time last year and investigators are working on files.
“With respect to messaging, we’re in the process of transitioning our public safety messaging to include information on what consent means and more of a focus on targeting offenders and bystanders. We started this a few months ago (here is an example) and will evolve as we work to ensure best practices.
“We believe all women should be able to feel safe to live and work in our city.”
CPS also stated “… the majority of the offences reported to us are situations where the offender is known to the victim.”
A key to take out of that are the words “reported to us.” The overwhelming majority of assaults – especially within vulnerable populations such as women – are not reported for a multitude of reasons.
Logically, one is able to provide a full name and potentially other information about someone you knew previously, versus lacking that basic knowledge for a stranger. It makes sense why the majority of reported perpetrators are known to the victim.
CPS also stated: “In terms of the rate of sexual assaults, in 2020 we had fewer reported incidents compared to higher rates in 2017, 2018, and 2019, due to the advent of the #MeToo movement. This year we are seeing an increase of roughly one-third of reported sexual assaults compared to the same time last year. Again, in most of those cases, the victim is known to the offender.”
Once again a focal point of this statement should be “reported.” Hospitals like the Foothills have come out and said since COVID-19 began, people are less willing to come to hospital even when they medically need to because of fear surrounding COVID-19. It’s realistic to conclude the changed social environment we are currently living in as a result of COVID-19 may be playing a part in victims under-reporting.
Attention should also be given to the claim “in most of these cases, the victim is known to the offender.” Again, it makes logical sense that known offenders are being reported much more than strangers because by the very definition a stranger is someone you don’t know.
Unless you’re able to get a very clear description – which is not only required by police to move forward with a report, but is difficult to get at the best of times, much less in stressful situations – reporting a stranger to the police is difficult.
Park pointed out the issue isn’t exclusive to young women:
“Me and the other women I’ve talked to about this range from 16 to 30, and we’re all upset and scared for the city.
“I think this whole issue needs more coverage and more recognition from people in authority positions: schools, transit drivers, and the police. Everyone needs to work a little bit harder to ensure women feel safe and men are dealt with who think trying to harm women or make them uncomfortable is a good idea,” said Park.
The harassment experienced by Park and her friends is a beacon of why more women often don’t go to the police in these situations – it was enough to make them feel fearful and uncomfortable. The way laws are written often ties the hands of law enforcers to the point they’re often unable to open a case – much less prosecute – when situations like these occur.
After realizing how widespread this issue was, I began reaching out to people on Reddit who claimed to have experienced the attacks, and the changing social environment that accompanied them.
A Reddit user with the handle Pistachiopuddingg replied to my request for an interview with some very disturbing experiences of her own.
She described a night when she was walking her German Shepherd dog – who is trained in personal protection – and five grown men began following her.
“It was around 10:30 p.m. … when I got to the crosswalk at the end of the path … I noticed a group of five men standing on the riverfront pathway. I didn’t think anything of it … [but then] I heard the men whispering and realized they were walking a few meters behind me,” she recalled
Pistachiopuddingg’s dog began giving her signals that they were in trouble, so she tried to cross the street to get away from them.
“As I crossed the street, the five men also followed. I felt a pit in my stomach and crossed again back towards the Simmons building. The five men followed me yet again.”
As her fight or flight instincts kicked in, Pistachiopuddingg started running and the five men ran after her. Looking for any sign of someone to help, she found she was alone.
“I scanned the entire pathway and saw nobody. No one near the gardens, no one near the playground, no one by the dog park nor the pond. I was completely alone.”
Thankfully, a guardian angel appeared.
“I looked down at my phone for two seconds to try to call for help and when I looked up a woman stood before me. I have NO CLUE where this woman came from. She stopped me and asked for directions. As I talked to her I looked to my left and saw the five out of breath men standing near the bridge staring at me. The woman I was speaking to also looked over at them and glared long enough to make them feel uncomfortable.”
When asked if she considered involving law enforcement in the incident, she replied: “To be honest I didn’t even consider calling the police because I knew I was probably going to have to give a statement to a male officer who would end up gaslighting me into thinking I overreacted.”
Pistachiopuddingg specified she didn’t believe the usual scapegoats for incidents like these were responsible.
“People always blame the Drop-In Center for the increase of crime in the area, but I never felt unsafe nor was I ever disrespected by the homeless population in the neighbourhood. One hundred percent I don’t currently feel safe as a woman in Calgary. I’m always alert and aware of my surroundings.”
She also hinted at some possible causes behind specific downtown attacks.
“My previous office was on 12 Ave., a couple blocks away from the safe injection sites where a handful of these assaults would often happen. The building had to spend thousands on security measures and women did not feel comfortable walking out of the building alone.
“I don’t think the RCMP or CPS have handled these types of attacks properly. I don’t believe either organization prioritizes training their staff on the appropriate way of handling these types of situations and/or the victims.
“Most women won’t report these types of situations because we know it won’t be taken seriously by the male officer that will show up to take an official police report.”
Pistachiopuddingg also shared her thoughts on whether or not she believed the attacks have been connected or are a string of random events.
“I think they’re connected in the sense that these perpetrators know they have a good chance of not being caught and getting away with it. I also think that these situations have increased in downtown Calgary since the… closing of the police station in Victoria park. The police presence has diminished significantly since they closed that police station.”
Pistachiopuddingg said she is now taking even more precautions.
“I do not walk my dog in the evening alone anymore … I have changed my car’s unlocking settings so that when I press the unlock button once, only my door opens. I know many people that have also changed the way they live their lives because of these types of attacks, especially women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“If people are around I feel safe. If I’m out alone I feel unsafe and I feel a type of hypersensitivity to things around me, even just listening to people’s footsteps if they’re walking behind me. My biggest fear lately has been taking an elevator alone.
“CPS has to have a larger presence in the downtown core in general. So much crime and so many attacks happen, and I believe it’s correlated to the lack of police presence.”
Many women in Alberta have taken to crafting to combat the problem. Dozens of online businesses selling variations of self defence key chains – a collection of self defence tools such as window breakers, dog spray, personal alarm devices, and pocket knives, to name a few – have popped up seemingly overnight.
An Instagram search for “self defence” brought up more than 20 different profiles of new small businesses – started within the last year – selling self-defence key chains. Some are based out of America and will only ship domestically, but a surprising amount are based directly in either Calgary or Edmonton.
A woman who goes by the handle SelfDefenceBabes on Instagram who’s new Edmonton-based self-defence key chain business has grown so popular that in order to buy one you’re put on a waiting list, was able to provide some insights.
“About two-three years ago I had my own scary encounter in downtown Edmonton. I was the designated driver for my friends. After dropping them off I decided to stop for food on Whyte Ave.,” she said, asking her true identity not be revealed.
She said it was a weekend evening with large amounts of people milling about in the area. After grabbing her food and walking back to her car, she was approached.
“A group of four guys saw me walking and decided to follow me and ask: ‘Where are you going? The party is the other way’ and ‘The night is young, come hang with us.’ I explained I was just there to pick up food and go home.”
But the men weren’t taking no for an answer.
“They kept following me. I got nervous and had to hold my car keys in my hand ready to use in self defence because I felt uncomfortable. I was trying to stay calm and act nice while they kept a conversation going.”
Even after she made it to her car, the men didn’t let up.
“The one guy pushed me into my car while his three friends moved in closer. I was frozen and just so scared.
“Luckily, a couple saw what was happening and they pretended to know me yelling ‘I thought you already went home! Come hang with us!’ I quickly ran to them. The four guys walked away.”
These good Samaritans employed one of the most common and useful techniques in dangerous situations like these. Not only did the couple provide her with power in numbers, but the couple feigning a knowing connection with her signaled to the men they were not just random people. They had a vested interest in her, and would make it a lot harder for the men to do something to her without repercussions.
Selfdefencebabes said harassment is also happening to her friends and customers.
“Not only my own personal experience but friends who have experienced it too. One friend was sexually harassed by an uber driver.”
Selfdefencebabes highlighted the role of social media.
“Social media has been highly active in showing recent attacks. Just a few months ago, there was an incident of a female who was being harassed by a male in the transit station in downtown Edmonton. I did my research to find and reach out to the individual and donated a keychain set to her. I got to speak to her about the incident and how scared she was. She was also incredibly grateful for me reaching out to her.
Finally, I had the chance to sit down with Alexi, a self defence keychain business owner based in Calgary. She expressed that a large reason behind starting her business was due to the recent attacks, and that she and her loved ones no longer feel safe in Calgary.
“Especially when I’m out alone as I see myself as an easy target. I try to limit going out by myself. Even just running simple errands like to the grocery store or Dollarama. I do have a lot of training so I’m pretty confident if I got attacked I’d have a decent chance of getting away. But I know that’s not the case with most individuals.
A sociological concept called the “crime funnel” can easily explain the juxtaposition of low numbers in police reported cases and rising victim experiences. The crime funnel refers to an upside down triangle looking figure that attempts to explain why reported cases seldom match the actual problem.
This “funnelling” through the criminal justice system illuminates just how few crimes are truly reported to authorities, and how even fewer ever incur repercussions.
Even if one is able to overcome the fear of going to the police with an incident, the anxiety about an attacker coming back if they find out you went to the police, and the plain inconvenience of filing stacks of paper work, the crime funnel shows even reported cases are more often than not quickly dropped, not pursued, and never prosecuted.
The onus should not always fall on the victims. When I was fifteen someone I met online sent me a threatening message along with a picture of the back of my house. Petrified – and home alone – I called the police. It took them almost two hours to get to my house, and when they finally did they took a few notes and left. They didn’t offer to check around my property to see if the person was still near, they didn’t offer to file a report in case anything else happened until I asked.
That day I was told that “if he comes back again or if he physically hurts you, call us back”. It was at fifteen I realized that unless it gets to the point of being much too late, police aren’t able (or willing) to do much to help.
NEXT: Conroy takes a self-defence class and offers tips for women on how to keep safe
Jackie Conroy is a Correspondent for the Western Standard
Alberta’s cross-border quarantine gong show
What she experienced, and shared in an interview with the Western Standard, is not something Jen wants to happen again.
Jen thought it would be a breezy five-hour drive from Montana back to Alberta last Saturday.
She could not have been more wrong. Instead, it was what she called “one gong show after another.” Her name has been changed and the name of her hometown and small manufacturing business withheld.
After what she went through, she wants no cause for further hassle at the border. What she experienced, and shared in an interview with the Western Standard, is not something she wants to happen again.
SIX MINUTES BECAME TWO DAYS
When Jen pulled up to the border crossing at Sweet Grass, Montana just days ago, she didn’t expect any problems. She had taken the border crossing, 100 km southwest of Lethbridge, a few times before without incident.
“I’m a trucker and I can bring my product back across the border. An import number and licence gives me the ability to do that as often as I need without having to have the testing done and the quarantine,” Jen said.
The process normally takes six minutes, but not this time. When the border guard found out the Canadian woman had been in Montana for ten days, she decided that was too long, and declared her a non-essential traveller.
“I asked her what the time limit is so I know for next time, and she said, ‘Well there really isn’t one.’ …That was at her discretion.”
The border agent sent her to the nurse. Jen had not done a COVID-19 test within the previous 72 hours because essential travellers do not need to do so. Having been arbitrarily denied that status, she now had three choices.
“One option was to go back to the United States and get a COVID test and wait and then re-enter. My second option was to do the quarantine hotel. And my third option was to claim non-compliance, in which case they would come to my home and give me a $5,000 to $10,000 fine. So I chose the hotel.”
Jen recalled how the nurse laughed and said: “’This is so ridiculous. I can’t believe I have to make you do this, but I do.’
So she gave me a little square of paper and it said, ‘Go directly to the airport.’ The address was on it for the airport in Calgary, drive to Gate 17…Do not exit your vehicle. Phone this number, someone will come. They’re waiting for you. And they will escort you to the quarantine hotel.”
Because the drive was three and-a-half hours, Jen was given four hours to get there. Any later than that, and she would have faced penalties for non-compliance. She made it in time, but five attempts at the phone number gave the same message: ‘This number is not in service.’ Was it because she had an American phone?
At some risk of defying the rules, she walked out of the car and into the airport where she found 10 police officers assembled. She explained her problem and they phoned on her behalf. The number worked for them, and it was the Red Cross. They told her to return to her vehicle and someone would pick her up.
Fifteen minutes later, a man in a large black van rolled up and asked for her name.
“Then he said, ‘Follow me.’ You know, my mama taught me not to follow strangers in a van, but whatever. So I followed this gentleman. We pull up at a hotel. Now this is very odd. There was no markings on this hotel whatsoever.
“This is now 11:30 at night in a rainstorm. There’s three men dressed in full PPE. They had a mask, they had goggles, they had a shield, they had rubber gloves, they had booties on their shoes, and they had a white gown. And I get out of my car, and they say, ‘Get whatever you need out of your car put on this cart because you will not be allowed out of your room after this point.’”
The hotel looked like a work in progress.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a project that is they’re going to be sanding or something and so they mask everything off and there’s plastic everywhere. And that’s what the hotel was like. You go in a back door escorted by two men, and it’s a very sci-fi movie – sneaky, everything’s sneaky, sneaky … I couldn’t have found my way out of that hotel if I would have tried because it’s like a haunted house. Everything masked off and broken.”
A Red Cross employee got an item from the front desk, took her to her room and put the item on the metal doorframe of the door. When she asked what it was, he claimed it was a colour-coded item that clarified the age category in each room.
“I said, ‘That one’s green. What category is green?’
“‘Oh, middle aged.’
“I said, ‘How old am I?’
“‘Well, I don’t know that.’
“That doesn’t make any sense. Like what’s that? Clearly your b.s.’ing me to death.”
She took a picture of it and sent it to her son who is a sheriff.
“He says, ‘Oh, that’s a sensor so that when you open the door, it’s sending somebody a signal that you’ve opened your door.’”
She made a phone call of her own for a COVID-19 test. The company would only serve her if she named the hotel she was at. “You got to choose your meals for the next day on the menu and really tiny print is the name of the hotel.” Having told them, a COVID-19 test was scheduled for 4 p.m. the following day.
Door sensor or not, Jen said she got calls every 45 minutes to confirm that she was still in her room.
“They don’t even put like latches on windows. The windows don’t open. No getting out of there.”
Although staff got close enough to take her temperature, they wouldn’t come in the room.
“When they bring you your food, it’s in a brown paper bag and they just set it on a plastic bucket outside this green tape square and bang on your door. And then they leave and then you can come out and get your food.”
Jen had bad experiences with nasal swabs in the past, saying she “sounded like I had snorted fiberglass.” When someone arrived to do her test on Sunday, she chose the throat swab instead. During the interview on Tuesday, her throat was still sore.
“My throat is, it’s like cut. And I’m gargling with salt water. I don’t know what are on those swabs, but there’s something horrible on them.”
COVID NEGATIVE AND STILL CAPTIVE
Sunday night turned to Monday morning.
“I have all my test results back the next morning at 7 a.m. Now you’d think you would be able to go, right? My tests are negative? No, you can’t go. So when you get your tests, you phone this Red Cross number. So I phone the Red Cross number I start phoning at eight o’clock. No answer. Leave messages. But all circuits are busy. I must have phoned 15 to 20 times.”
Jen had had enough.
I thought I’m going to cause a nuisance until they let me out of here. So I just went out in the hallway. The guard stood up and he came at me and he said, ‘Get in here. Return to your room immediately.’
“I said ‘No, I will not actually. My test results come back and I need to leave now.’”
The guard tried to phone the Red Cross.
“So this went on three times. I had to go out in the hallway three times and upset the guard. Finally someone from the Red Cross phoned me. She said, ‘Listen, the quarantine officer who has to sign off to let you out is at the airport. And she’s busy because three airplanes full of people have just come in internationally and she needs to deal with all of them. So it could be up to 48 hours before she can get here.’”
The idea of a detention until Wednesday for a Saturday trip did not sit well with her.
“I got a little upset and caused some grief and this made a nuisance of myself because I thought that’s how I’m gonna get out of here. And so I’m about four hours after that someone knocks on my door and I don’t know who it is. They say we’re so and so with the Red Cross. The quarantine officer can’t leave the airport. So she sent us to just get a picture of your results to text to her.”
After two hours pass, Jen created another hassle and called again. Someone knocked on her door with signed discharge papers and orders to self-isolate for 14 days.
“Doesn’t say anything about taking any more tests. And it says, ‘To remain from getting bored, we suggest getting your neighbor or friend to bring you sidewalk chalk so that you can doodle on your sidewalk inside of your property or make an obstacle course in your backyard.’”
Monday night at home gave way to Tuesday morning.
“I get a phone call this morning at 7:30, which I don’t answer because it comes up on my phone as spam. And the message says, ‘This is the Alberta Health District whatever, blah, blah, blah. You are required to answer our phone calls and you are required to take a test on day eight.’
“Well you didn’t give me a test. You gave me a discharge paper with nothing in it except making an obstacle course in my backyard!”
AMERICA, LAND OF THE FREE
Back in Canada, home sweet home is not so sweet now. America has spoiled her.
“I’m Canadian, I’m but I had just come from Montana. And I spent six months there in the winter time, and it’s just so free and open and their numbers are almost nothing. So to come from that back to this. There’s just such a, like it’s opposite. Night and day. People’s attitudes are different. I mean, just five days ago, I was sitting at a ballgame in a ballpark with 90 other people watching a ballgame, not one mask. I was in a band concert with 500 other people, no masks and then you come here and you can’t get out of your car without fully masking outside.
“I know the truth. And it’s good. It’s sweet. You can talk to people in the grocery store because they don’t have their masks on. Yeah, and you never hear of a vaccine. Nobody talks about it, nobody. I don’t know anybody that’s gotten it there. I know lots of people here but I don’t know one person there who’s got it.”
The contrast between Canada and the U.S. is something she still struggles to get over.
“There’s no COVID rules there. It’s as if COVID didn’t exist, there’s no masks. There’s no rule. There’s nothing. It’s 100% open, has been for about four months now. And the COVID numbers drop about 10 to 15% a day, and they have almost zero cases now. So you go there and you’re free to live your life, morally, right up until that border. And then two feet past that, you’ve got to mask up, gown, up. COVID is everywhere. It’s gonna kill you. You’ve got to go in these quarantine hotels.”
Getting to the land of the free may not be smooth. Jen has advice for those crossing the 49th parallel.
“Be prepared for anything because it all depends on who you get at the border. There are no rules that go steadfast.
“If it wasn’t for that one woman who initially stamped my paper [that] I’m non-essential, it would have been a breeze and a wonderful experience. And I would be on my merry way and doing my job now.”
Harding is a Western Standard reporter based in Saskatchewan
ANALYSIS: New seat projection shows big shake-up in Alberta
Martin & Kioussis’s projection shows the UCP facing two battles: one against the NDP in the big cities, and another against Wildrose in the countryside.
A new poll conducted by Mainstreet Research for the Western Standard shows Alberta’s political landscape quickly evolving toward a three-party system.
If an election were held today, the NDP would likely form a majority government, the UCP reduced to official opposition, and the Wildrose Independence Party would be on the cusp of entering the Alberta Legislature.
In the poll of 1,010 Albertans, the NDP had the support of 35% of respondents, and the UCP 28%. Support for the Wildrose has risen from 9% in January to 16% of decided and leaning voters.
According to a Leger poll conducted at the end of April, Alberta’s provincial government is the least popular in Canada. Jason Kenney’s approval rating has dropped from a high of 63% in July 2020 to just 30% in May 2021.
Our modeling at LeanTossUp.ca projects how this all would break down into seats if the poll was translated into an election today.
Due to the large NDP gains from 2019, it now completely sweeps Edmonton, including winning many exurban ridings, and makes deep gains into Calgary. Our model projects the NDP is likely to win four seats in the communities surrounding Edmonton, and will expand their current Calgary caucus from three members to 18, more than enough to secure a majority government.
Even traditionally “safe” conservative seats in Calgary are now in play. Jason Kenney’s own constituency of Calgary-Lougheed, has tightened considerably, as his lead has slipped to only 17.2%, down from his 41.2% win in 2019.
The UCP is facing challenges on two fronts, with the NDP pressuring them in the cities and suburbs while the Wildrose have become serious alternative in rural and small-town Alberta. The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively positioned the UCP as a centrist party within Alberta’s political landscape, with one side believing COVID-19 restrictions were too lax, and the other side believing the restrictions went too far.
The same Mainstreet Research poll for the Western Standard showed 52% of Albertans supported continued lockdowns, and 45% said that they should end immediately, however, the intensity of those opposed to lockdowns was more than twice that of those in support.
The UCP attempted to walk a tightrope between the two sides, and essentially pleased no one, which is reflected in its low approval rating.
The Wildrose is building a sizeable base of support without a permanent leader in place. The party has announced it will hold a leadership campaign from June 5 to August 27. The final vote is scheduled for August 28, 2021. Once a new leader that people can identify is in place, the party should continue to see more gains.
Under Alberta’s first-past-the-post electoral system, third parties need to target specific ridings where they can win first place. By averaging out the historic performance of the old Wildrose Party from 2012 and 2015, and smaller right-leaning parties in 2019, we were able to forecast how the Wildrose Independence Party might perform in different regions of the province today.
Our results point towards success in Medicine Hat, the rural south, and Fort McMurray. The following map shows the best and worst ridings for the Wildrose, respectively. The ridings are shaded by rank for the Wildrose: its best riding is the darkest green, while the worst is the darkest blue.
Highlighting the best and worst ridings for the Wildrose shows their main competitors are the UCP, as the ridings that are strongest for the NDP (Edmonton, Northern Calgary) are among the worst for the Wildrose. Additionally, the Lethbridge and Red Deer seats are on the weaker side for the Wildrose, while the NDP currently only hold one of the four of them. In 2015, the NDP won all four. This shows while there are many UCP/NDP battles — the universe of UCP/WIP is also large — but are being waged in completely different constituencies.
Using the Mainstreet Research numbers, we project the Wildrose would win Brooks-Medicine Hat – currently held by Michaela Glasgo of the UCP – in a near-tie, with 35% of the vote. The Wildrose would also take over 30% in Chestermere-Strathmore, Drumheller-Stettler, and Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills. That would be sufficient to win a three-way race, but these are the most conservative ridings in the province, where the NDP is expected to win only around 10% of the popular vote.
In order to send multiple representatives to Edmonton, the Wildrose will need to pull even more conservatives away from Kenney’s UCP.
Based on our analysis, that will start happening once 20% of decided voters support the Wildrose. Then more than a dozen ridings across the province would start to become competitive. Additionally, 20% of the vote is when local effects can start to matter. If the new party leader has a strong following and runs in a riding we’ve highlighted as being strong for the Wildrose, it’s very possible they would, even at current levels of support.
The two-party system heralded by the 2019 election that saw all parties but the UCP and NDP shut out appears to be headed for an end if current trends hold up.
Guest Column from Robert Martin & Nikos Kioussis
Robert Martin is the Founder and CEO of LeanTossUp.ca
Nikos Kioussis is the Communications Director of LeanTossUp.ca
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