The Reform Party of Canada arose over three decades ago when it became clear that none of the major national political parties were capable or inclined to represent the interests of Western Canada. Since Ontario and Quebec elect well over half of all members of parliament, parties that aspire to form a federal government must cater to the voters of those two provinces. That was true back then, and it’s still true today. There is no escape from this electoral calculation as long as the West remains within Canada.
The Reform Party is long gone, but the political forces that led to its emergence have returned with a vengeance. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals openly scuttle projects that would enhance the development of the West’s energy resources, while Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives seem to be cribbing Liberal policies and trying to paint them blue.
The result is that a political vacuum has opened in the West at the federal level, and the Maverick Party (formerly Wexit Canada) has arisen to fill the void. Its interim leader, former Conservative MP and federal cabinet minister Jay Hill, is articulate and experienced, and has brought a degree of credibility to the Western sovereigntist movement that was previously missing.
The party’s draft policy platform released on April 26 is short, but that is to be expected from a new party just getting off the ground. As these policies make clear, the Maverick Party is essentially a Conservative Party of the West. But unlike the Reform Party which said “the West wants in”, the Maverick Party says, to at least some extent, that “The West wants out”.
The platform does not really contain any surprises. The Mavericks want to repeal Trudeau’s efforts to block Western economic development such as the ‘No More Pipelines bill’ (C-69) and the ‘Tanker Ban’ (C-48). They want to make major revisions to the equalization formula, institute fiscal responsibility, reduce trade barriers within Canada, increase the exploration and mining of minerals, strengthen provincial autonomy, and introduce direct democracy. They also want to reform firearms legislation, give greater control of immigration to the provinces, and defund the CBC. These are all good ideas.
Perhaps surprisingly, the largest policy category in the platform covers environmental policy. This no doubt reflects the current preoccupation with climate change. It is the Liberals’ obsession with global warming that has led to their worst policies towards the West.
While opposing any form of carbon tax, the Maverick Party takes a more realistic approach to dealing with environmental concerns than the Liberals or Conservatives. It does not ignore climate change altogether, but instead advocates “for energy options such as nuclear, thermal, biomass, LNG [liquified natural gas] and carbon capture projects to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in western Canada.”
These are realistic ideas because the technology for producing clean energy using nuclear and liquified natural gas already exists. Both wind energy and solar energy, on the other hand, have severe handicaps such as their unreliability. With existing technology, wind and solar will never be able to replace fossil fuels. There’s no use pretending otherwise.
If fossil fuels are ever to be replaced by some form of clean energy, new technology will need to be developed for that purpose. The Maverick policy recognizes this fact and “supports tax incentives to private companies to continue their global leadership in the research and development of leading-edge technology development of clean energy.”
Despite all its supposed concern about climate change, Central Canada is dependent on oil for much of its energy needs and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, “The Maverick Party calls upon central and eastern Canadians to end the hypocrisy of being critical of the West’s ethical oil while importing dirty, unethical oil from other countries.” Central Canada has received considerable economic benefit from the West’s energy resources while viewing those same resources with disdain.
For some, however, it will be regretted that the Maverick platform seems to adopt Peter MacKay’s “stinking albatross” view of social conservatism. It states, “On issues including abortion, doctor-assisted suicide, and same-sex marriage, the Maverick Party and its MPs commit to not bringing forward party or private member’s legislation on these public policies that reflect Canadians most deeply held personal values.”
Like the Conservative Party, the Maverick Party wants the votes, donations, and campaign volunteer work of social conservatives, but also their silence. After the work is done, their place is at the back of the bus, with their mouths taped shut.
On the one hand, it is understandable that the Mavericks don’t want to be sidetracked by the kind of controversy generated by mainstream media when a candidate expresses conservative social views. But on the other hand, the proportion of social conservatives in the Western sovereignty movement is much higher than their proportion in the general population. The prohibition of social conservative private member’s bills will appeal much more strongly in places like Edmonton, where support for sovereignty is weak, than in places like Cardston, where support for sovereignty is stronger.
Nevertheless, the Maverick Party’s platform expresses policies that would be clearly beneficial for Western Canada. No other federal party puts the interests of Western Canada in the forefront of their priorities. The great experiment of fusing the Reform Party and PC Party has failed. The Maverick Party can do for the West what the Bloc does for Quebec: provide an unrepentant defender of its interests, and make the other parties fight for otherwise safe seats.
Westerners should begin to give the Maverick Party a serious look.
Michael Wagner is a Senior Columnist for the Western Standard