April 5, 2016 / 3:07 AM / 4 years ago

Canadian province Saskatchewan re-elects right-leaning government

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Saskatchewan, stung by collapsing prices of key products potash and crude oil, re-elected its right-leaning Saskatchewan Party government on Monday.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall (L) speaks during a news conference with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the First Ministers' meeting in Ottawa, Canada November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Brad Wall, the province’s charismatic leader since 2007, led his party to its third straight victory, a result that was expected but a first for a Saskatchewan conservative party.

The Sask Party was set to form a majority government in the western Canadian province, after it was elected or leading in 50 of 61 ridings late on Monday, with more polls still to be counted, according to official Elections Sask figures.

Saskatchewan New Democrats (NDP), led by Cam Broten, won or were leading in 11. In 2011, the Sask Party won 49 of 58 ridings, or electoral districts.

“Saskatchewan has done quite well, it feels alive, and has become a province that Canada and other parts of the world are paying attention to,” said Joe Garcea, professor of political studies at the University of Saskatchewan, in an interview before the results.

“And No. 2, they have a leader who exudes confidence and has not really made any major mistakes politically.”

Most provincial governments in Canada are left-leaning and the Conservative party lost power nationally last year to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

The campaign focused on who was best-positioned to run the economy, Garcea said, with the Sask Party tying the province’s growth to its management, and the New Democrats arguing that Wall failed to capitalize on strong economic conditions.

Wall entered office amid high commodity prices, allowing him to run surpluses even when a slowing global economy dragged other provinces into deficit. But this year, Saskatchewan forecast a C$427 million ($327 million) deficit, its first in two decades.

The Sask Party government pledged to return to surplus by 2017/18. During the campaign, the party promised to spend billions on highways and improve health care.

Wall has consistently polled as Canada’s most popular premier, capitalizing on an outgoing personality and his fierce defense of his province. He recently sparred with Quebec over its lack of support for TransCanada Corp’s proposed Energy East pipeline, which would move oil from Western Canada to the East Coast.

Saskatchewan is the home base of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, and rivals Mosaic Co and Agrium Inc also operate potash mines there.

Wall’s government has begun a review of its complex potash royalty system.

Additional reporting by Amran Abocar in Toronto; Editing by Ryan Woo and Joseph Radford

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