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Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan

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The Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan is a right-of-centre political party in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Prior to 1942, it was known as the Conservative Party of Saskatchewan. Members are commonly known as Tories.


Early years, 1912–34

It nominated candidates for the first time in the 1912 election, seven years after the province of Saskatchewan was formed. The party emerged from the Provincial Rights Party after the retirement of that party's leader, Frederick W. A. G. Haultain.

The Conservative Party's best performance in the first half of the twentieth century was in the 1929 election, when it won 36% of the popular vote and 24 out of 63 seats. Despite having fewer seats than the Liberals, the Conservatives were able to form a coalition government with Progressive Party MLAs and independents. Conservative leader James T.M. Anderson became Premier.

The Tories were suspected of being in league with the Ku Klux Klan, which was a strong force in the province at the time, and railed against Catholics and French-Canadians. The Anderson government introduced amendments to the Schools Act banning French as a language of instruction, as well as the display of religious symbols in Catholic schools.

Political wilderness, 1934–75

The "Co-operative government", as it was called, was defeated in the 1934 election, and the Conservative Party lost all of its seats in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. This loss can be attributed to several factors:

  • the controversy over the government's School Act;
  • the government's inability to deal with the Great Depression dust bowl which wiped out the province's agrarian economy; and
  • the unpopularity of the federal Conservative government of R.B. Bennett.

With the rise of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, politics in the province became polarized between the Liberals and the CCF. The CCF became the "New Democratic Party" in 1961. The Conservatives were frozen out of the provincial legislature for decades.

No Conservative was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) until thirty years later when the party won a single seat in 1964 election. It lost that foothold three years later in the 1967 election.

Return to the Legislature, 1975–82

The Tories returned to the legislature in the 1975 election. The Progressive Conservatives won 7 seats to the Liberals' 15 and the NDP's 39.

In the 1978 election, the Liberals were wiped out, and the Tories became the Official Opposition with 17 seats to the governing NDP's 44.

Devine government, 1982–91

In the 1982 election, the Progressive Conservatives under Grant Devine formed a majority government for the first time, taking 55 out of 64 seats – still the second-biggest majority in Saskatchewan history. It was only the second Tory-led government in the province's history. They were re-elected with a somewhat reduced majority in the 1986 election, but were defeated in the 1991 election, due to large budgetary deficits, an unpopular imposition of harmonized sales taxes, and a scheme entitled "Fair Share Saskatchewan" to decentralize civil service functions from Regina and privatize crown corporations.

Expenses scandal, 1991–2005

In the years following their defeat, 14 Conservative MLAs and two caucus workers were convicted of fraud and breach of trust for illegally diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars from government allowances in a phony expense-claim scam. During inquiry into the scandal, many innocent party members were placed under heavy scrutiny. Jack Wolfe committed suicide when faced with the agony of possibly being scrutinized for wrongdoing himself, or having the testify against his former colleagues. Although one NDP MLA was ensnared in the scandal, the Tories' image was badly damaged by this scandal and has never recovered. Although they managed to win five seats in the 1995 election, this total was less than both the NDP and the resurgent Liberals.

Most former members and supporters (including then-leader Bill Boyd) joined the Saskatchewan Party in 1997. The new party was derisively called the "Saska-Tories" by Premier Roy Romanow and others who saw it as a repackaged version of the Tories--a perception that was attached to the Saskatchewan Party for several years. However, the Progressive Conservative Party was not dissolved because the party was believed to retain a substantial amount of money, which it would forfeit to the provincial government if it ever became de-registered. Because the party needed to run at least 10 candidates in each general election to keep its registration, a hand-picked group ran paper candidates in the next two provincial elections to ensure that the party stayed alive.

In the September 16, 1999 election, the party nominated 14 candidates, who collected 1,609 votes, 0.4% of the provincial total. Its best result was in Saskatoon Nutana, where Patrick L. Smith received 518 votes (7.6%). In the November 5, 2003 provincial election, the party nominated 11 candidates, who received a total of 665 votes, which was 0.16% of the provincial total.

Attempted resurrection, 2005–present

In June 2005, the party announced that it was taking applications for new members, and that it would hold a meeting of members to decide the future of the party.[2] In the meantime, changes to provincial electoral laws were passed during the previous Legislature decreased the number of candidates the party needs to run in general elections from ten to two. Some have argued that the NDP passed these changes because they saw it as being in their best interests to help the PC party stay alive in hopes of splitting the centre-right vote.

On May 27, 2006, the party held a weekend convention. Forty-two delegates attended the convention in Saskatoon and voted to resurrect the Progressive Conservative Party. Delegates elected Lori Isinger as party president, and picked Rick Swenson, a minister in the Devine government, to serve as interim Leader. The next order of business would have been to use the money that was put into a trust before the party was effectively put into hibernation. The party had trouble regaining access to this money, and accused the trustees of conspiring with the Saskatchewan Party so the PC party wouldn't be able to run many candidates or a serious campaign, and thus not compete with the Saskatchewan Party for votes in the next election. The party sued the trustees and the Saskatchewan Party to get at their funds.

The party ran five candidates in the 2007 election. Swenson and other party members kept a relatively low profile but did some modest campaigning. The party collected 832 votes (0.18% of the total). Its five candidates in the 2011 election won a total of 1,315 votes (0.33% of the total).