The first major change made by the now former Wexit Party under the interim leadership of Jay Hill has been to change the name of the party to the Maverick Party. This was a wise move.
Branding is critical in politics and the merit behind the name “Wexit” has always been questionable at best. Wexit was a somewhat clever play on the UK’s “Brexit” movement and it served its purpose well at the time. Western Canadian angst was (and remains) at an all time high following the re-election of Justin Trudeau in the fall of 2019. Peter Downing emerged on the scene and began gathering frustrated Westerners by the hundreds of thousands under the Wexit banner. It made news across the nation and built the foundation for provincial and federal political parties across Western Canada. It is time for the parties to leave that name behind now as they pursue change on the electoral front.
The Wexit name comes with some baggage and causes come confusion. Some of that baggage comes from some of the questionable statements and leadership of Peter Downing who has since moved on from the party. The confusion comes from multiple parties and a non-profit group all working under the Wexit name. Now that Alberta’s provincial Wexit Party merged with the Freedom Conservative Party into what is now the Wildrose Independence Party, and the federal Wexit Party has changed it’s name, only the Wexit Movement remains. As a non-partisan group promoting Western independence, the Wexit Movement will be better placed to distinguish itself from the parties and continue their work.
Maverick Party is an interesting name. In popular culture, it brings to mind the old TV series by that name or a character from the 80s film Top Gun depending on the age of the person thinking of it. The dictionary definition characterises it best though.
Maverick: an unorthodox or independent-minded person.
That name certainly fits the party and the type of people involved with it. It may seem odd right now, but it will grow on people. The name states the mindset of the party but is still broad and ambiguous enough to keep them from being pigeonholed.
Purists within the independence movement often call for parties to wear their pursuit of Western independence right in their names. The sentiment is understandable as it makes it harder for leadership to water down the message in the name of political pragmatism. Putting independence right into a party name ensures that the party will remain single-issue and unelectable. The Separation Party of Alberta demonstrated this when they garnered a dismal 0.5% support in the 2004 Alberta election. The pursuit of independence is a long game and parties will need flexibility.
The Maverick Party still has a long and tough road to travel. They have a large membership base but desperately need ground organization and advanced communications. They are on the right track now that they have the rational and experienced leadership of Jay Hill and have refreshed their brand.
Erin O’Toole would be well placed to keep a eye on what is developing in the West as he focuses his attention on the support of Quebec and Ontario. Western voters will not let themselves continue to be taken for granted by the Conservative Party of Canada. The Maverick Party is providing Western voters an increasingly attractive home for their support. It will be interesting to say the least how they fare at the polls when given the next opportunity which may very well be soon.
Cory Morgan is a columnist for the Western Standard