Former long-time MLA Belanger won't return after federal campaign bid

·2 min read
Former Opposition NDP MLA Buckley Belanger won't return to the provincial legislature after placing second in his bid for a federal riding in northern Saskatchewan.  (Matt Duguid/CBC - image credit)
Former Opposition NDP MLA Buckley Belanger won't return to the provincial legislature after placing second in his bid for a federal riding in northern Saskatchewan. (Matt Duguid/CBC - image credit)

After resigning from the Saskatchewan NDP Caucus in early August, Buckley Belanger fell short in his federal campaign bid seeking a seat in Ottawa for the Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River riding.

Despite that, the former long-time MLA says he doesn't plan on returning to the provincial legislature.

Belanger resigned from the NDP Caucus' electoral district of Athabasca in northern Saskatchewan in August 2021 after a 26-year stint with the party.

"I've moved on from the provincial perspective of politics," Belanger told CBC News' Olivier Daoust.

"To use a hockey analogy … I played on one team and now I got traded to the other team," he said.

Belanger said when he departed from the provincial party, there was a "mutual respect," and said he'll be working closely with the successful candidate filling his role.

"We're sorry to see Mr. Belanger leave our caucus and are grateful for his service as Saskatchewan's longest-serving Indigenous MLA," the Saskatchewan NDP said in a statement on Aug. 10.

"Our focus now will be making sure there is a strong voice for Northwest Saskatchewan in the legislature."

'We should not have a Conservative MP'

Belanger said he was disappointed by his federal loss, but is trying to take it in stride "like a champion" as he says his northern constituents would want.

He does strongly believe that northern Saskatchewan doesn't want a Conservative MP, and insisted that he wasn't making excuses when he pointed to the voter turnout in the nation's 44th election.

There were 20,654 votes cast in the riding, according to CBC's interactive vote tracker. The riding makes up the northern half of the province as the geographically third-largest federal riding in the provinces (more than 340,000 square kilometres).

Belanger received 27 per cent of the vote, topped by Conservative incumbent Gary Vidal who received 49 per cent.

There were 27,257 votes cast in the region in the 2019 election, according to statistics from Elections Canada.

"We should not have a Conservative MP … Indigenous people do not vote for Conservative," Belanger said, noting the region's population is two-thirds Indigenous. "Just because more Conservatives showed up to vote for a variety of reasons doesn't make it so," he said.

Belanger also argued that the northern riding should be split into two ridings to better serve the northern communities' unique needs.

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