This column is an opinion by Kory Teneycke, a former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper. He managed the recent Ontario PC Party Campaign, and is a partner at Rubicon Strategy. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.
The Saskatchewan Party was re-elected Monday night with levels of support that would make a North Korean dictator blush. Based on initial results, the governing party secured a number of electoral records, including winning 60 per cent of the popular vote for the third consecutive time, and winning the popular vote in every region of the province.
This in itself is hardly big news. Going into the campaign, the Saskatchewan Party had a commanding lead in the polls, and Premier Scott Moe’s personal popularity had been tracking above 50 per cent since his election as party leader.
More importantly, they had a strong record to run on. The province’s finances have been well managed, the provincial unemployment rate was the lowest in the country, and their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic compared favourably to other jurisdictions.
However, hidden within the predictable Saskatchewan election results is the latest indicator that a new populist movement is on the rise.
The Buffalo Party raised eyebrows with the surprising levels of support it garnered. And that could be bad news for Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party of Canada in the next federal election.
If you haven’t heard of the Buffalo Party, don’t feel bad. It is one of a spate of “Wexit” parties that have spontaneously formed from the ether over the past several years to advocate for the concept of Western separatism.
Its leader, Wade Sira, is a truck-driver, class 1A driving instructor and a municipal reeve. The party fielded candidates (with equally low public profiles) in only 17 of the province’s 61 ridings. The party had virtually no existing ground organization and virtually no money to run its campaign.
Despite these limitations, the Buffalo Party finished third overall in the popular vote and scored strong second-place victories in four bedrock Conservative ridings.
On election night, Premier Moe used his victory speech to solemnly talk directly to Buffalo Party voters: “I want to say I hear you. And I want to say this government hears you. We share your frustrations. And we share many of your objectives. We are not happy with the federal government either.”
Moe and the Saskatchewan Party have little to fear electorally from the Buffalo Party and the larger Wexit movement. But that isn’t the case for the federal Conservatives. There are winds blowing more strongly in favour of Wexit at the…