The Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan is hoping to put people’s interests at the forefront while holding true accountability to the ruling party.
The Buffalo Party was formed after the 2019 federal election, where Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party was re-elected to a minority government. This led to the creation of a new federal party and provincial parties in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and B.C., all under the name Wexit.
Interim leader Wade Sira said the public seems to attach a stigma to the name Wexit, thinking the party is solely for separatism. They chose to re-brand as the Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan.
The party is currently hosting meet and greets in some of the constituencies where they have candidates running in the provincial election, set for Oct. 26 — on Saturday, they hosted one in Melfort. About 30 people gathered at the Masonic Lodge to meet Sira and some of the candidates and engage in discussion.
Sira said the Buffalo Party will likely have candidates in 12 to 16 of the 61 constituencies for the upcoming election, but the party is looking to grow its support for 2024 and 2028.
“We just want to give people another option because right now we only have two,” said Sira.
The ruling Saskatchewan Party is “kind of just riding a wave right now,” he said, while the opposition NDP isn’t actually holding them to account. The only people challenging the Sask. Party are the media and lobbyist groups, he said.
“As the opposition party, you’re not always supposed to be against, to oppose everything that comes out from government because maybe it is what’s best for the province. To me, as the opposition, you give a firm standing of the other view,” he said.
Instead, said Sira, the Buffalo Party wants to enhance the ruling party’s plans.
He pointed to the 10-year, $4 billion irrigation project at Lake Diefenbaker that was announced at the beginning of July. According to the news release at the time, the province will more than double the irrigable land in Saskatchewan by irrigating up to 500,000 acres of land from the lake.
The release said initial estimates show the investment will result in a $40-80 billion increase in the province’s GDP over the next 50 years.
“Where is this number coming from?” questioned Sira, “because the water system we have now, there’s a lot of availability for people, but they’re not using it because it costs too much money.”
“This is a good plan they have coming forward, but to make it more feasible … reduce the rate of the water and draw more incentive for farmers and investment opportunity.”
Sira said the Buffalo Party needs to be realistic with the numbers. They’re only putting forward a handful of candidates, he said, and estimated that the Sask. Party will be re-elected as a majority government. Sira said that’s based off of them sweeping 51 seats in the previous election.
However, he said the Buffalo Party wants to take the time to put forward relatable candidates.
“We’re not going to run paper candidates because that takes away the validity of other candidates, who are really good candidates,” he said.
“What’s best for P.A. may not be what’s best for Swift Current, and the candidate for the constituency should stand up for the constituency first. Right now, the way our system is set up is that it’s just a party system and we do what’s best for the party.”
Sira said the Buffalo Party will not have candidates in Prince Albert running this year. The candidates announced so far, though, include Melfort candidate Dave Waldner and Humboldt-Watrous candidate Constance Maffenbeier. Both were at the meet and greet on Saturday.
Waldner grew up and continues to live on a farm north of Melfort and owns a trucking company. He said he likes the idea of “Saskatchewan first,” specifically in terms of jobs.
“My road down here, they crack sealed it the other year and it was all American trucks, so I’d like to see people from Saskatchewan work first and then hand it out.”
He added that he disagrees with the amount of taxes residents are paying. Putting more money into people’s hands, he argued, will cause them to spend more and enhance the economy.
Maffenbeier, who’s from Guernsey, has a background in policing, nursing and teaching. She said she got involved with the party because she’s seeing a movement in the government that’s not conducive to Saskatchewan people.
“The one thing that really makes me angry is having to pay sales tax on used vehicles. That sales tax was already payed once. So every time that vehicle resells, you get provincial sales tax, and that adds up a lot for the consumer,” she said.
“That was one of the reasons that I’m thinking ‘Okay, things have to change.’ We have to be more geared towards what’s best for the people.”
Rather than sending money to Ottawa in equalization payments and not getting much of it back, she wants to keep money in the province to put towards Saskatchewan projects and people.
Sira lives in Saskatoon, but was born and raised on a farm between Hanley and Kenaston. He was elected as a municipal council reeve in 2016, along with being appointed as a representative to the Saskatchewan Advisory of Municipal Assessment.
While it’s been to difficult to get the word out because of COVID-19, Sira is confident the Buffalo Party’s philosophy of putting Saskatchewan interests first — both on a provincial and federal level — will push the province in the right direction.
“Why don’t we have more control of our own destiny within Canada?” he asked. “Quebec has all that. They control their own immigration, their own taxes, everything is controlled within Quebec itself — why can’t we control our own? The precedence is set, they can have it. We need to just take it.”
Sira took over as interim leader last month after founding member Jake Wall stepped down. He said he’ll be serving as leader until the party is able to have a founding convention.
“People are already starting to talk — the Sask. Party’s gotten too big for themselves,” he said.
“It’s a massive amount of one party power and some people are searching for somebody else to give them a voice. We’re that voice.”