The byelection race for Saskatoon-Meewasin is ramping up in the last lap.
The reigning Sask. Party and opposition New Democrats are now in a dead heat, according to a poll conducted by Mainstreet Research on Feb. 23.
“We’ve seen quite the turnaround for the Saskatchewan Party in this contest,” said David Valentin, executive vice-president of Mainstreet Research, in a news release Saturday.
Sask. Party candidate Brent Penner polled 39 per cent support, a slight edge over New Democrat Ryan Meili who garnered 37 per cent.
The frontrunners overlap within the poll’s margin of error of ± 4.71 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Mainstreet Research surveyed a random sample of 430 eligible voters in the riding by calling a combination of landlines and cell phones.
Valentin pointed out the Sask. Party saw weak results in the previous poll, conducted Feb. 6, due to low support among voters under the age of 50 – an age group that registered high undecided rates.
The latest poll found the number of undecided respondents dropped from 23 to 15 per cent.
“It looks like those voters have made up their minds and decided to stick with the government they know,” Valentin said.
While the Sask. Party name is recognizable, the poll found 50 per cent of the riding either hadn’t heard of Penner, or has no clear opinion of him.
Penner did, however, see an eight percentage point boost in favourability to 34%, while Meili’s rating fell four percentage points to 42%.
Valentin said more significantly, Meili’s unfavourability increased by nine percentage points to 34% – while Penner’s unfavourability remained steady at 15%.
He added that on the surface, the NDP has an advantage since the Sask. Party leads among the 18-34 voting set – who are least likely to cast a ballot in these contests.
“Given the margin of error and byelection turnout, we will truly have to wait until election night to see what happens,” Valentin said.
Other candidates in the running include Liberal Darrin Lamoureux, 3%; Progressive Conservative David Prokopchuk, 0%; and the Green Party’s Shawn Setyo, 5%.
The Saskatoon-Meewasin seat was held by Sask. Party MLA Roger Parent before his death in November 2016.
Advance polls opened Friday, ahead of the vote on March 2.