There was not much surprise among Foothills candidates and voters when the federal election writ was dropped Aug. 15.
The federal election will take place Sept. 20.
Josh Wylie announced his candidacy for the Maverick Party in the Foothills Riding in July in anticipation of a fall election.
For the 14-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, who calls the Millarville area home, there’s no better time than the present to have an election.
“There was a lot of rumours flying around and, for me, my personal opinion is the sooner the better,” he said. “I believe we need to get regional representation for the West in parliament. I believe the Maverick Party is the only political vehicle that can offer that and I think we have a really strong case to make.”
As a new party, with its founding convention and policy platform hot off the press this summer, Wylie said the awareness factor is going to be addressed through the campaign.
“Ultimately people have a decision to make and I trust the people of the Foothills riding that they’re going to give it some thought and look into their options,” he said. “I think a lot of our policy platform and quite frankly the incentives we have, only running in the west, are really going to appeal and resonate with the voters in the Foothills.”
In speaking with voters over the summer, Wylie said the feedback has been about changing the monopoly the Conservative Party has had over Alberta and the West with the issue of vote-splitting also coming up in discussions.
“People are certainly open to an alternative,” he said. “And the way that I put it to people is the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan did our job in 2019, we swept both those provinces with the Conservative Party the only option at the time. And all we got for it was Erin O’Toole and a carbon tax in the Conservative Party platform.
“So this isn’t representation and that’s our competitive advantage, we have one stakeholder and it’s western Canada and we’re the only party that can say that.”
On the vote-splitting front, Wylie said the Maverick Party is only running in ridings with conservative supermajorities where there’s no risk to splitting the vote.
Since its establishment after electoral boundaries were redistributed in advance of the 2015 election, the Foothills electoral district has voted overwhelmingly for the Conservative Party with MP John Barlow earning 75.7 per cent of the vote in 2015 and 82.1 per cent in 2019.
“The other thing to point out here is Trudeau will win this election,” Wylie added. “The question is whether he has a minority or majority. So given that’s as close to a fact as you can get, who do you want representing you for the Foothills riding? Someone who’s only stakeholder is the people of the Foothills of western Canada or do you want a backbencher who can’t speak out against a carbon tax, who can’t speak out against this daycare deal Quebec just got because he’ll be kicked out of the party for not toeing the Conservative Party line.”
Barlow, who is running for re-election, doesn’t think the election is fait accompli for the Liberal Party.
“There are a lot of Canadians out there who are rethinking their faith in Justin Trudeau,” said Barlow, adding he was not surprised in the least to see the election called.
He said it provides an opportunity for the Conservatives to gain eastern and urban seats.
In the past, the Liberals have won elections based on ideology but not substance, he said, adding it's hurt Canadians and he believes they’re ready for change.
“I think Canadians are now seeing the situation we find ourselves in, whether it’s affordability, inflation, the rising costs of living, fuel prices, things like that,” said Barlow. “This is starting to hit them in the pocketbook and I think affordability is going to be top of mind.”
People will be looking for a government to ensure the cost of living is affordable, he said, adding the Conservatives are set to provide that economic recovery.
At this point, Canadians are looking for federal government they can trust to lead them through the current financial situation and provide stable, dependable leadership, he said.
Key to achieving that stability and gaining the confidence of voters is ensuring a strong and united Conservative front Canada-wide, he said, adding that vote should not be split with a western-only focused party.
Should the Maverick Party win a seat or two, it won’t do justice to western Canada, he said.
“They won’t have time for debates, they will not have spots on a committee, they will not have slots in Question Period, so their effectiveness is nil,” said Barlow. “They will be completely ignored, they will be in the back corner with absolutely no influence whatsoever, so for them to say they’re going to come in and represent the west and make all these massive changes is completely ridiculous.”
He said claims the Conservative MPs let down western voters is “baseless rhetoric,” adding people in the west should be proud of the work the party did as an opposition party.
Several private members bills were passed into legislation in the last two years, which Barlow said is rare for opposition members. Those bills included exempting carbon tax from farm fuels, making changes to allow small business owners and farmers to pass on operations to the next generation easier and bereavement leave.
He said the Conservatives also pushed hard for improvements to the wage subsidy and emergency business account during COVID and convinced the Liberals to back off on small business tax changes that could have had devastating impacts.
“To say that the Conservative members haven’t represented the west I think is incorrect and not a fair assessment,” said Barlow.
With files from Remy Greer