SASKATOON -- A panel of political experts that convened as part of CTV News’ election night coverage attributes the NDP’s loss to its lack of focus on the province’s rural areas and the fact that the party has become more left-leaning compared to previous years.

As of 1 a.m. Tuesday, the Saskatchewan Party was leading with 50 seats to the NDP’s 11 seats in the legislature. There are a total of 61 constituencies.

Sask. Party Leader Scott Moe has won his seat in the  Rosthern-Shellbrook riding.  It is still unknown whether NDP Leader Ryan Meili has held  his seat in Saskatoon Meewasin.  As of 11:15 p.m. Monday, with the majority of polls in his constituency reporting, Meili trailed behind Sask. Party candidate Rylund Hunter by 83 votes. 

Panelist Jim Farney, head of politics and international studies at the University of Regina, pointed to the fact that Saskatchewan is Canada’s most conservative province and that the NDP “ran as a much more robustly social democratic party” than it did in the two previous elections and even when it formed government in the 1990s under Roy Romanow. 

“You’ve got to work a lot of political magic to produce a different result out of that context,” Farney said.

Panelist Kathy Young, former Sask. Party chief of operations and communications, agreed with Farney, adding that Meili may have taken that approach in order to win over people who may choose to vote for other left-leaning parties like the Green Party. 

“Those who are voting Green Party and others aren’t coming from Sask. Party votes, they’re coming from NDP and I think he’s trying right now to shore up the solid base that used to be a solid base that is no longer a solid base,” she said. 

Young said another challenge the NDP has faced in this election is garnering rural votes. 

“They haven’t done a lot in rural Saskatchewan and I again think that’s on purpose because they are trying their best to hang on to the urban seats and build from there and hoping to expand at that point.” 

Young also pointed to how the Sask. Party has managed to “satisfy” rural Saskatchewan residents over the years by including them in everything it has done. 

That is in stark contrast to when Romanow was in government and rural Saskatchewan felt like it took the brunt of the cuts, she said. 

“They have really long memories. And the new NDP or the people who were in the NDP Party after that fact have not gone back to rural Saskatchewan and you need to have rural Saskatchewan on your side or you’re not going to form government.”

Panelist Winter Fedyk, director of Sylo Strategy Inc., agreed with Young, adding that Meili had a lot of time to try and appeal to rural areas, but that his efforts came too late. 

She also noted that with the Sask. Party entering its  fourth consecutive term,  it is also bringing with it a lot of baggage. 

“Still, the NDP can’t break ground so that tells me there’s something about the NDP brand that they need to work on.”

In Meili’s concession speech, he told the people who did vote for his party to remain hopeful. 

“There are thousands upon thousands of people across Saskatchewan who voted for change tonight and I want to tell you, this is not the end, this is the beginning. Do not give up because in Saskatchewan, we can do so much better than what we’ve seen.”

Meili also said he called Scott Moe to congratulate him on remaining Premier. 

“I offered him, as we are both in service of the people of Saskatchewan, where we can agree, where we can work together, I’m always here. And where we disagree, he knows well, that I will be straight with him and the people of Saskatchewan about those different visions.”

In Moe’s victory speech, he also shared a few words about Meili. 

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Meili on running a very strong campaign. We obviously have our differences when it comes to policy but I have never doubted Mr. Meili’s love for this province. I have never disputed his commitment to making Saskatchewan a better place to live. I know his party will continue to serve Saskatchewan well.”