The Saskatchewan Liberal Party is proposing a name change in hopes of re-attracting their centrist voter base.
The suggestion for the name change came from a party member, and it is to be presented and voted on at the party’s annual general meeting scheduled for March 25.
Jeff Walters, a sessional lecturer at the University of Regina and the current leader of the Saskatchewan Liberals, says that the party has been at a great decline with voters and that a name change could reintroduce itself in modern Saskatchewan politics.
“What we’re trying to be here is the new fresh thing that the public can actually get engaged in in a positive way that could try and actually change Saskatchewan to where we think it should be,” Walters said.
After placing a distant third in the Saskatoon-Meewasin by-election in Sept. 2022, Walters noticed that liberal-aligned voters either felt more inclined to vote for either the Saskatchewan Party or the Saskatchewan NDP because of them being the only two parties holding seats in the legislature.
“Liberals don’t vote liberal anymore provincially because they’ve moved on. They just don’t think it’s viable and they want their vote to count,” Walters remarked.
Walters notes that the downfall of the party boils down to history.
The Saskatchewan Liberal Party was a leading provincial party in its early days, spawning six of Saskatchewan’s first seven premiers. Its decline started with the rise of the Saskatchewan Party in the late ’90s, when four liberal MLAs joined forces with four MLAs from the former Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan to establish the dominating centre-right party.
After receiving 9.4 per cent of the overall vote in the 2007 general election, the Saskatchewan Liberals started generating less than 1 per cent of the overall vote in elections.
Jeff Walters also recognizes a disconnect between the people of Saskatchewan and the federal liberal party impacts the reputation of the provincial liberal party, despite the provincial liberals being independent from the Liberal Party of Canada since 2009.
“Because our name is tied to (The Liberal Party of Canada) we get the backlash for what happens,” Walters said. “You would be surprised about how much of my personal time was spent fielding questions for people that are wanting to engage with our federal counterparts that don’t have an outlet because theres no communications here (in Saskatchewan).”
Walters continued, “I spend more time doing that (responding to questions about the federal liberal party) than trying to be leader of the provincial party. If I can’t spend quality time on what helps my party, then that’s a problem for us.”
Walters hopes that the the prominence the Saskatchewan Liberal Party used to have is regained in the future. He notes that the party’s objective is “having a centrist party who both progressives and some red Tories can come together in common cause.”
Jeff Walters has been leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party since 2021. He is unsure of whether his leadership will continue if the party goes through with a name change.
Featured Image: Jeff Walters, leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, in his teaching office in the classroom building at the University of Regina. Photo by Cat Zens.