The Buffalo Party is Saskatchewan’s newest party, and, if it had its way, could lead to this province leaving confederation. But its platform doesn’t explicitly say that. Rather, the platform describes something more akin to sovereignty-association.
The party has 17 candidates registered across Saskatchewan, but nearly all are in rural Saskatchewan. They have no candidates in Regina, and just one in Saskatoon. Wade Sira is the party leader, and he was reached by phone from Martinsville on Oct. 16.
Sira said, “We need more effective government in Regina. We need an effective opposition to the Sask. Party. To give them full mandate, like we did last election, with only the NDP as an opposition party, we've seen how the NDP have failed to be actually an effective opposition in this province time and time again. They keep being a failed opposition.
“We, as Buffalo, want to be that opposition party. We will be effective and actually asking the tough questions. We can actually make government work. Just because we have 17 candidates, we don't form government, we don't form the governing party of the province, but we still form seats in Regina. We could be, we could form the Official Opposition. We can bring forth legislation to the floor and hold the Sask. Party to accountability that they haven’t been held at. We can actually make them vote on legislation. We can make amendments to their legislation. They can be either friendly or they can be even hostile.
He continued, “But government needs to be more effective instead of there's only two sides to it. It's either my way, or your way and there's nowhere in between to actually have that civil conversation to make government more effective.”
He added that since the Buffalo Party started on July 23, in the middle of the COVID pandemic, they have not been able to have a founding convention to form policies.
“I can't form policy as I go. As I'm not a dictator of this party. This party doesn't run as a dictatorship. We want people to be able to have that conversation with us,” Sira said.
Buffalo had previously been Wexit Saskatchewan, with “Wexit” being a take on “Brexit,” or the exit of Britain from the European Union. “Wexit” is the idea of Western Canada separating from the rest of Canada.
True western independence not in platform
While the Buffalo Party’s platform page has an “independence” page, the points on it are not hard-core separatism.
The six points include Saskatchewan managing all tax structures including national tax, and then sending Ottawa a monthly statement. They will replace the RCMP with a Saskatchewan Police Force. It would have Saskatchewan’s firearms commissioner “follow Saskatchewan laws.” Saskatchewan would control its own immigration and control all trade of goods from Saskatchewan. It would also take control of the province’s portion of the Canada Pension Plan.
But there are no points in the platform document on true separation from Canada, a declaration of independence, international relations like joining NATO or NORAD, borders or a military. Instead it talks of electing senators to the Canadian Senate in Ottawa (as well as electing judges and the lieutenant-governor).
Asked where independence went, because what’s in the platform isn’t independence, Sira responded, “We want the same deals as Quebec has in Canada, as a minimum.
“The first and foremost thing we have to do, we can’t be based solely on separation. If that’s all your platform runs on is full separation, and you lose, then your party ceases to exist. And that's not what Buffalo wants. Buffalo wants to be an effective, independent, free and prosperous Saskatchewan. We want at least the same deals Quebec has.”
The platform states, “We will bring forth legislation for a provincial petition website. This will give the People the ability for ‘recall election’ for any elected post within the province, giving the People of Saskatchewan the power to request a referendum.”
Sira explained, “We do have in our platform a referendum, so that people have the right to make that choice, whether they want to leave or stay within Canada. But the job would not end. If people want to leave, then we govern them, in that manner to leave. But if they want to stay, then we still have to govern them, but to have the same deal with what Quebec has.
“We have in our platform (that) we want the same as the control of full taxes, like Quebec does. They collect all their own taxes, then they send Ottawa’s share to Ottawa instead of Saskatchewan, (where) we submit all our taxes to Ottawa and Ottawa send us back our share. That's just redundant. It doesn't make sense. We need to pull those high quality jobs to Saskatchewan.
“We need to control our immigration, the same as Quebec does. We need to have our own police forces, the same as Quebec does.
“We have a lot of it built into our platform, to fully control our destiny in the province, and allow the people, which Scott Moe has already stated he will not allow a referendum in Saskatchewan. This isn't a dictatorship. This is a democracy. He doesn't have the right to pull that off the table, because that is a dictatorship. If people want it, then they have the right to have that vote. Just because you don't want to leave but you want to at least have that vote, because that's democracy, that's the rate of people that have that choice as well.”
A referendum would be brought forward on a plebiscite, which would call for a referendum. “Let’s make our own entity as a province, outside of Canada or inside of Canada. That’s what the referendum question has to be.
“It's like herding cats. If you tell them what you want to see, they will backlash against you. This is what people will do they will backlash. But what we need to do is we need to at least have that form of ability for people to decide, you know, what this is what we would like to see. And then let the people form that question, and we help them by guiding them on how to properly form that question, and then we will govern them in the way that the people want. So it's independence, whether it's in or out of Canada, that's what we stand for. It's a people's choices decide where they want to go.
He said there are no formal links with other provincial independence movement parties, nor the federal Wexit Canada party, now known as the Maverick Party.
Sira said Quebec started their own fight within their own province and got their own deal. He said the other parties are watching to see what happens in Saskatchewan on Oct. 26. “We feel we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Motivations for independence
Why do they want independence in the first place? Sira said, “All that happened in the 1800s is we traded London for Ottawa. We're still a colony. We're still taken advantage of by outside sources. We have no control over the reality what our province can handle.”
A big part of it is pipeline projects continually derailed by Ottawa. The federal carbon tax is another irritant. Taxes upon taxes are another.
If Saskatchewan were to become independent, how would a newly-landlocked country in a vast continent access foreign markets? Sira pointed to landlocked countries in Europe, who have trade negotiations for access to tidewater. He gave the example of recent rail strikes causing farmers to ship through Seattle.
“If you're not willing to give us access, then we're not willing to give you access across our province. And as far as I understand, the two major rail companies in Canada have to go through Saskatchewan. So, you're not willing to trade with us then you can't come through us either. We need to stand up for ourselves.”
After a successful referendum, he said the next step is negotiations, on leaving, on membership in NATO, on a military, and other matters.
Sira expects if Saskatchewan were to leave Canada, Alberta, and at least half of Manitoba, if not all of that province, and parts of British Columbia, would go, too.
The Buffalo platform does not mention “deficit” or “revenue” once. There is lots of talk about cutting taxes for seniors, for instance, but no talk of revenue.
Asked where the money would come from, Sira said “We’re going to reduce the size of government,” as former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein did. He said they could reduced the size of government by 15 per cent.
The equalization formula in Canada either has to change or be eliminated, he said.