By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The right-of-center Saskatchewan Party was on course for re-election in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan's election on Monday, media organizations reported, following the country's latest vote during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saskatchewan Party was leading in 46 of 61 electoral districts, followed by the New Democratic Party's 15, based on Monday's count of ballots cast in advance, on the day of election and from personal care homes.
TV networks CBC and CTV declared the Sask Party winners of a majority government, even though final results are nearly two weeks away.
Mail ballots will be tabulated on Wednesday and a final count will happen on Nov. 7. The staggered counts were necessary because not all ballots were collected by election day due to the pandemic.
Saskatchewan's economy, which depends on farming, mining and oil extraction, suffered with other provinces from spring business lock-downs as the pandemic spread.
Premier Scott Moe, 47, said he plans to restore Saskatchewan's finances to balance by 2024.
The Saskatchewan Party has governed the central province since 2007 and with its latest win it ranks among those with the longest consecutive periods in office in Saskatchewan's history, said Tom McIntosh, professor of political studies at University of Regina.
"This is around the time when you would expect the 'It’s time for a change,’ mantra," he said.
Instead, the Sask Party continues to thrive partly on the legacy of popular former premier Brad Wall, who quit politics in 2018, and weak opposition, McIntosh said.
Saskatchewan has among the lowest numbers of active COVID-19 cases in Canada, although they are rising. Nationally, a second wave of infections is approaching the pandemic's previous peak in spring.
In British Columbia, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) was expected to form a majority government after Saturday's election there.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)