Moe faces political 'tightrope' after gains by Buffalo Party, political expert says
SASKATOON -- With the nascent Buffalo Party posting second-place showings in four Saskatchewan Party strongholds — beating out the NDP in the process — Premier-Elect Scott Moe may have to take a different approach during the next legislative session, according to one political scientist.
The Buffalo Party, which emerged from the Wexit movement and is heavily focused on the resource sector, picked up its biggest share of votes in the province's oil patch.
The strongest showing for the party came courtesy of Buffalo candidate Phillip Zajac, who picked up nearly 26 per cent of votes cast in his Estevan constituency.
The party's candidates also finished second in the constituencies of Cypress Hills, Cannington and Kindersley.
Buffalo Party leader Wade Sira said the election results didn’t surprise him as he assumed the party would have a strong showing in certain rural constituencies.
“We performed where we felt like we were going to perform,” Sira said.
Over the next few years, the Buffalo Party hopes to expand.
“We’re going to work hard on the outside, we’re going to continue building this party for 2024 and we’re hoping to run a full slate of candidates in 2024,” Sira said.
'WE WANT SASKATCHEWAN TO STAND ALONE'
Sira said Moe’s speech on Monday night touched on some of the same goals in the Buffalo Party’s platform, including independence for the province.
“We just don’t want to see [Moe] siding with the federal liberal party anymore. We want Saskatchewan to stand alone,” he said. “All together we can work great as a country, but we have to have our rights preserved as a province.”
University of Saskatchewan political scientist Greg Poelzer said the gains by the upstart party with separatist roots might have an effect on Moe's dealings with Ottawa as he hopes to shore up his party's base.
"I think it's going to actually shrink the maneuverability, the room to work for the Premier to work with Ottawa a considerable extent," Poelzer told CTV News.
"If he tries to be more conciliatory like Doug Ford has been in Ontario - and actually quite successfully, we saw some of the big investments the government made in Ontario - he'll be accused of selling out," Poelzer said.
In an interview with CTV News during the election, Buffalo Party Leader Wade Sira said he believes Saskatchewan has been "treated unfairly" under Confederation.
"Given where we are in the oil patch and the battles between Regina and Ottawa over the resource sector, pipelines and so on. That was resonating and I think it was a bit of a protest vote not only to Ottawa but also a signal to the Sask. Party," Poelzer said.
Former Premier Brad Wall, who first lead the Sask. Party to government in 2007, also suggested the votes cast for the Buffalo Party are something Moe and his colleagues should take notice of.
"I'm sure the Saskatchewan Party and the Premier and the elected MLAs will take some time after this to evaluate, because you know governments can always do better certainly, and I'm sure they'll be they'll be looking for some messages from voters on where they should improve," Wall told CTV News on election night.
However, Poelzer said there is danger in trying too hard to appease voters willing to throw their support behind the Buffalo Party.
"If he goes harder to the right and takes an even stronger anti-Ottawa approach to try and capture that Buffalo Party supporter then he risks damaging relations with Ottawa which also may not be good for our economy," Poelzer said.
"So Premier Moe is in a very difficult spot in that regard, he's got quite the tightrope to walk."
INDEPENDENCE NOT SEPARATION
At a media conference on Tuesday, Moe said the Saskatchewan Party and the Buffalo Party do share some objectives. He said those will be made clear within the coming weeks.
“This will be a government that will represent everyone in Saskatchewan and that includes those that may have supported [the Buffalo Party] in rural areas of the province,” he said. “They have some challenges with some of the initiatives that have come from our federal government. We are going to talk to those people.”
However, Moe made it clear that he does not support the idea of Saskatchewan separating from Canada.
“Saskatchewan is a strong and independent province, but we are also part of the nation of Canada,” Moe said. “To have Saskatchewan separating from the nation of Canada doesn’t really achieve some of the challenges that we have.”
He said separating from Canada won’t help build a pipeline across the country, fix transportation issues with railways or address sustainability issues and initiatives that exist in the province.
There are other initiatives Moe believes the province can work on to expand its independence.
“Separating from Canada does not achieve what I think many people believe it would set out to achieve,” Moe said.