With the federal by-election for Battlefords-Lloydminster now called for Dec. 11, the scramble is now on by the political parties to get their candidates nominated.
The four main parties, the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Greens, had no candidates nominated as of the by-election call on Sunday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
But that was expected to change by the end of the week.
The indication from candidates was that the federal Conservatives would hold their nominating meetings for Battlefords-Lloydminster on Friday and Saturday, with voting by party members at three different venues.
The first meeting was expected in Unity on Friday, and the second and third meetings were scheduled for Lloydminster in the afternoon and then in North Battleford on Saturday evening. The North Battleford meeting is scheduled for the Tropical Inn beginning at 6:15 pm.
A deadline of 11pm on Tuesday night was set for anyone to purchase a Conservative party membership to be able to vote at those meetings.
The winner of the Conservative nomination race will be the overwhelming favorite to win the by-election to replace Gerry Ritz, who has captured in excess of 60 percent of the vote in the last three federal elections.
The race has been a hotly contested one to this point, with several candidates expressing interest or declaring their intentions. Candidates have spent the past number of days lining up support and holding events.
Lloydminster business owner Aron Klassen had already announced a number of meet-and-greet events for a two-week stretch from Nov. 7 to 16th. Among those was an event at Porta Bella’s in North Battleford at 7pm Thursday night.
The by-election call threw a wrench into those plans, but the indication from Klassen on Monday was the Porta Bella’s event would go ahead as scheduled on Thursday, just one day before the start of voting.
The other Lloydminster-based candidate in the race, Rosemarie Falk, a social worker and former political staffer, was touting a growing list of endorsements. Her latest came on Monday when Lloydminster MLA Colleen Young announced she was supporting Falk’s bid.
Falk’s campaign has also touted endorsements from MPs Arnold Viersen (Peace River - Westlock) and Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park - Fort Saskatchewan). Falk had scheduled an event in Macklin Monday night and for Frenchman Butte and Unity later in the week.
Richard Andrew Nelson, a farmer and business owner from Prongua, held his own meet-and-greet event in North Battleford last week at Porta Bella’s. He also attended a meet-and-greet event at Neilburg Family Restaurant a few days earlier, according to his campaign Facebook page.
North Battleford-based Ken Finlayson, whose background includes the ranching and rodeo areas, was actively campaigning in the western portion of the riding in the days leading to the by-election call.
Among the venues Finlayson visited, according to his campaign Facebook page, was the Stockade Roundup in Lloydminster on the weekend.
On Monday, the field of declared candidates grew even larger as Kindersley administrator Bernie Morton formally announced the launch of his campaign.
“As the Chief Administrative Officer in Kindersley I have worked tirelessly to improve the community as well as working regionally on projects like the regional landfill and new bylaw court for west central Saskatchewan,” Morton said in a statement.
“Politics is a passion of mine, and good government is my forte. It is time for me to continue to put my experience, my knowledge, my energy and strong work ethic to work for the people of west central Saskatchewan but this time as their Member of Parliament.”
Morton’s website also touts endorsements from the Hon. Peter MacKay, former MP Carol Skelton, Kindersley mayor Rod Perkins and Kerrobert mayor Wayne Mock.
A sixth name entering the race is John Hildebrand, mayor of Langham, who confirmed on Facebook this week that he is running. However, Hildebrand had been expected to make a bid for some time.
There have been rumors of even more candidates entering the Conservative race in time for the nomination vote. One big name that had been much-rumored over the past number of weeks had been Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison, himself a former federal MP.
Harrison had dropped out of the SaskParty leadership race around the same time that Battlefords-Lloydminster MP Gerry Ritz had announced his resignation, fueling speculation Harrison might seek Ritz’s seat. But Harrison has stayed out of the nomination contest to this point.
The other major parties were still getting themselves organized. The word from the NDP’s Facebook page was that they would hold a nomination meeting soon and were finalizing details.
Whether the party will once again turn to their 2011 and 2015 federal candidate Glenn Tait is unclear. Tait is currently in an election campaign for director of SaskWheat.
There had been no word yet of nominations for the Liberals or Greens as of Monday.
It is possible some fringe political parties could also field candidates. One party that has openly expressed interest is the satirical Rhinoceros Party.
According to a draft platform sent to the News-Optimist by party organizer Robert Thomas in October, their ideas include “move the Rocky Mountains to Lloydminster to give Calgary an ocean front view then put them right on the border to give Lloydminster some decent and ultimate border markers,” “employing 1,000,000 unemployed on a bucket brigade to move the oil to market,” and “instituting a hot air tax on all politicians.”
UPDATE: There has been late word that Ken Finlayson's candidacy has been rejected by the Conservative Party and he will not be on the ballot at their nomination meetings this weekend. Stay tuned to the News-Optimist website for further details.