The leader of Saskatchewan's New Democratic Party lost his seat by 232 votes in Monday's election as the province's right-of-centre party waltzed to its third consecutive victory.
The NDP's Cam Broten collected 3,634 votes in his Saskatoon Westview riding, losing to the Saskatchewan Party's David Buckingham, who raked in 3,866. The Liberal candidate attracted 235 votes, according to preliminary results on Elections Saskatchewan's website.
The Saskatchewan Party, under the leadership of Brad Wall, won 51 seats in the election. The NDP secured the remaining 10.
"This isn't quite the night that we were hoping for," Mr. Broten told supporters in Saskatoon before it was clear he would not be returning to the legislature. "But in a democracy, elections belong to the voters."
It is unclear whether Mr. Broten will continue to lead the party. He took over in 2013, making Monday his first election as leader.
Mr. Wall is a popular force in Saskatchewan, governing since 2007. The third-term premier, however, is expected to see his most difficult as the province's economic fortunes have softened. Saskatchewan's coffers are highly dependent on resource industries – oil, natural gas, potash, uranium and agriculture. While these resources diversify Saskatchewan's revenue, particularly compared with Alberta, global forces largely dictate the province's prosperity.
The government will post a deficit this fiscal year, breaking from its original plan to post a surplus. The Saskatchewan Party campaigned on running another deficit in the next fiscal year and balancing the books the year after that. Mr. Wall ruled during boom years, posting seven straight years of balanced books. Mr. Broten argued the government mismanaged the province's finances by having nothing to show for the good years. The criticism never stuck.
The Saskatchewan Party leader spoke to loyalists in Swift Current before Mr. Broten lost his riding.
"We did not win anything tonight," Mr. Wall told supporters gathered at the Palliser Pavilion at Swift Current's Kinetic Exhibition Park Monday night. "We have been given an opportunity to serve."
Mr. Wall, dressed in suit, tie, and sporting a cream pocket square, walked into his victory to Andy Grammer's Back Home. ("See, we won't forget where we came from, the city won't change us.")
Dozens of party members gathered here, drinking Bud Light and Pilsner. They waved election lawn signs, banged noisemakers, and cheered when results favouring their party appeared on two big screens at the front of the room.
Mr. Wall, 50, used his victory speech to pitch potential investors.
"You can expect low taxes. You can expect royalty stability. You can expect continuity in economic policy," Mr. Wall said. "You can expect effective but competitive regulations. You can expect a government that's going to continue to invest in infrastructure. A government that will create the right environment for diversification and for innovation. And you can expect a government that will stand up for Saskatchewan's interest, every sector of the economy, every time it is challenged.
"You can expect a government that is proud of oil and gas in this province," he added, pausing for cheers. "You can expect one that is proud of mining, proud of modern agriculture, proud of crop science."
Swift Current is about 245 kilometres west of Regina. Mr. Wall's campaign said he was flying to the provincial capital Monday night to join election celebrations there.
Longtime NDP legislature member David Forbes, who was re-elected, was upbeat as he spoke to supporters in Saskatoon.
"You know it's not easy to take down an incumbent government, but we are no strangers to hard work," he said. "That's because of the leadership of Cam Broten who really sees the future of our province. We want a stronger, fairer, kinder province here in Saskatchewan and we will keep fighting for that."
Mr. Wall made few promises during the campaign, saying that was wise given the weakened economy. The Saskatchewan Party, for example, expects its six key campaign promises to cost a collective $31.4-million in fiscal 2016-17 and $30-million of that is on highway repairs.
The NDP ran an unfocused campaign and was unable to carve out a defining issue, experts said. The party tried to argue Mr. Wall mismanaged the province's money, blowing through cash during a boom and now running deficits. The NDP, however, struggled to gain traction with its stream of criticism.
"You can't just constantly attack everything," Dionne Pohler, a professor at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan, said before the election. "You lose a bit of credibility then."
Mr. Wall did not release a budget prior to calling the election and the NDP, while critical of this decision, was unable to effectively make this a ballot box question across the province.
"That's a really critical issue that they could have stayed more on point with," Ms. Pohler said.
The Saskatchewan Party expects to run a deficit of $427.2-million this fiscal year, compared to its original plan to generate a surplus of $106.8-million. It expects a deficit of $259-million in fiscal 2016-2017, and then a surplus of $50-million the following fiscal year.
Mr. Wall's key election promises will cost $28.9-million in 2017-2018; $31.4-million in 2018-2019; and $13.7-million in 2019-2020, according to the party's platform.
Saskatchewanians cast ballots in 61 ridings Monday. There were 58 seats in the legislature going into the election, and the Saskatchewan Party held 49 of those. The NDP controlled the remaining nine seats.
Mr. Wall first formed government in 2007 and increased the party's number of seats in the 2011 election.
With files from The Canadian Press