Don Martin: The canary that choked in the Prairie coal mine
Driving through Liberal candidate Ralph Goodale's riding in Regina on Monday, I noticed his re-election signs were nowhere which meant the signs of what was coming were everywhere.
Hours later came a surprisingly epic defeat as a senior cabinet minister with 26 years of uninterrupted service saw a 10,000-vote victory cushion in 2015 collapse into a 7,000-vote defeat.
With that, Saskatchewan's red canary croaked in the Prairie coal mine.
But this single seat loss was much more than an MP who overstayed his welcome to tempt the fickle fates of the ballot box.
Ralph Goodale's hard fall creates multiple craters to complicate navigation through the next Trudeau mandate.
For starters, Goodale was a stabilizing force of experienced adult supervision in a cabinet filled with rookie mediocrity. And as Public Safety Minister, he projected an unflappable we've-got-this voice when natural disasters struck or terrorist threats surfaced.
But the geopolitical void he leaves behind is more urgent and more difficult to fill than that of wise cabinet counsellor.
Even his opponents argue Goodale had the pulse of Saskatchewan and ensured it was felt on Parliament Hill. And who better to deal with a restless Alberta than Goodale, who gave now Alberta Premier Jason Kenney his first job as his scheduling assistant.
With Goodale's ouster along with a trio of underwhelming Liberals from Alberta, silence fills the cabinet table seats where two important provinces used to be heard.
Justin Trudeau may need to get creative to get a credible voice into his head from the Prairies. Picking an independent Senator is problematic for a partisan position. And elevating a mayor like Calgary's Naheed Nenshi or Edmonton's Don Iveson would likely infuriate voters in their respective cities and undermine their value in cabinet.
The chatter about Goodale becoming the prime minister's chief of staff is interesting, particularly given the gravitas it would add having someone who was first elected to the House when Trudeau was three years old.
But no offer has been made so it seems likely Monday may have been the final curtain call for a Broadway show addict who gambled on winning one election too many.
Goodale's keen instincts, mentoring skills and western sensibilities will be missed more than ever in the next Parliament.
Of course that's the ultimate cruelty of electoral life.
Just when you think you’re at your most indispensable, the voters will prove you wrong.
That's the Last Word.