A new conservative-leaning federal political party spawned out of the so-called Wexit movement aims to give voice to Western Canada.
The Maverick Party dubs itself “The West’s Federal Party” and plans to run candidates in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut in the next federal election.
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo is the third riding in B.C. to have a Maverick Party board formed.
Catherine Martinoff, interim president of the party’s Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo electoral district association, has been in Kamloops for two years and is planning to grow the local association before moving to Kelowna in the coming months.
No local candidate has thus far been named. She said that the party evolved out of the Wexit movement, which advocated for separation of Western provinces from Canada.
The party’s interim leader, Jay Hill, was previously a Reform Party member. Hill was also a Conservative MP for Prince George-Peace River and retired about a decade ago.
The Maverick Party was previously known as the Wexit Canada Party.
Last September, Hill spoke to the CBC about the name change.
"We just thought that it hit perfectly what we're endeavouring to do with this new political party in promoting more autonomy for Western Canada and, failing that, actually promoting an independent nation,” Hill said.
Martinoff told KTW the party is seeking to have the West given the proper amount of power in Canada.
“We’d like to see constitutional amendments that support Western Canadians because we are the economic powerhouse of the country,” Martinoff said. “And our industries have been depleted and the transfer payments going to Eastern Canada are breaking us, and we’re getting nothing back from the East.”
The party currently has its most significant presence in Alberta, where 14 constituency associations have been formed. A handful of candidates have thus far been announced for the next federal election, including Mark Wilcox in Alberta’s Red Deer-Mountainview riding, Dave Robinson in Alberta’s Calgary-Rocky Ridge riding and Dave Jeffers in B.C.’s Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding.
Meanwhile, the party has plans for growth. Martinoff said the party has identified 49 ridings it wishes to represent in the West.
“They are strategically placed, so we would never, ever split the vote with the Conservatives and elect a Liberal or NDP member,” she said. “They are Conservative strongholds and we are growing. We are growing so fast, it’s unbelievable.”
Apart from the issue of Western representation, the party has yet to hold a policy convention and thus far does not have positions on many issues, including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, climate change, carbon taxation, immigration or pandemic response. It does, however, consider current taxation and spending of the Liberal government to be “out of control” and wants to stay away from “issues of moral conscience,” Martinoff said.
“We don’t want anybody to paint us as extremist,” she said. “Because that’s not on our radar, that’s not what we are about — at all.”
Martinoff said the party’s goal is not to form government, but to force Ottawa into constitutional amendments that put Western Canada on parity with Eastern Canada.
“Look at what the Reform Party did back in the early to mid-90s,” she said. “We became the balance of power in Canada. We made a lot of progress when we were just represented by Western members of Parliament.”
Past parties have previously pledged to speak for the West, but fizzled out. Asked how the Maverick Party will be different, Martinoff said the party will not be going past the Ontario-Manitoba border.
“If we can grab the balance of power and become official opposition, maybe we can change the way things are done in which there is more equality,” Martinoff said. “That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for equality.”