SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. — Marvin Wiens is no stranger to politics.
But his time on the board and as president of Saskatchewan Wheat Pool was a different political game than the current federal election campaign he is involved in as the Liberal candidate for Cypress Hills-Grasslands.
While many historically viewed the pool as the rural arm of the provincial NDP, Wiens said all political views were present around the board table.
“The pool in my opinion was a Liberal organization,” Wiens said in an interview in his Swift Current campaign office. “It believed in NDP policies that were good.
“I believe in good right and left policy.”
He says he was always a Liberal but was careful to keep his views to himself. His parents campaigned for Jack Wiebe, a well-known Liberal MLA who was later Lieutenant Governor and then a senator appointed by Jean Chretien.
“The Sask. Wheat Pool president had to be apolitical,” Wiens said. “Nobody knew my politics.”
Eleven years after he resigned from the SWP board, the farmer from Wymark is making his politics known far and wide in the 90,000-square-kilometre riding where he is trying to unseat Conservative David Anderson.
Anderson, from Frontier, is running in his sixth campaign and has represented the southwest in Ottawa since he ran as a Canadian Alliance member in 2000.
In the 2011 campaign he received an overwhelming 69.85 percent of the vote, the second highest in the province’s 14 ridings.
The NDP candidate, Trevor Peterson, who is running again this time, was second with 21.23 percent, followed by Liberal Duane Filson at 6.25 percent.
Anderson campaigned strongly in the past on ending the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly and he said he’s heard no complaints since the government did that in 2012.
“Giving farmers market choice was a goal of mine and a goal of many of our caucus and we’ve been able to achieve that,” he said.
“If you take a look at the prosperity that’s in the communities, the way people have been able to sell their products, they’ve been able to reinvest money in their own operations, I don’t hear from anybody that we should go back to the old days.”
He said agriculture has driven the riding’s economy for decades, with the oil and gas industries picking up steam the last 10 to 15 years.
Although the latter is experiencing a downturn, and the 2015 crop is just coming off, Anderson added people are generally optimistic about the riding’s fortunes.
The redrawn riding map for this election has added to both the north and east boundaries of Cypress Hills-Grasslands.
About one-third of the vote is in the city of Swift Current and larger urban centres such as Kindersley.
Peterson, who teaches in Assin-iboia, said his campaign is seeing more momentum than 2011 as voters evaluate four years under a majority government.
People are angry at the way the Conservative government handled the former PFRA pastures, the wheat board and grain transportation, he said.
“The country’s not going in the right direction and many people are telling me Stephen Harper’s plan is not working for them,” he said.
“Conservative voters are telling me they are going to vote NDP. The only way to defeat Stephen Harper in Saskatchewan is a vote for the NDP.”
Wiens begs to differ, saying his campaign has the momentum or else vandals wouldn’t be destroying his signs.
“My challenge is to convince voters that I have a better chance of beating David Anderson than Trevor Peterson does,” he said.
Last week he pledged to, if elected, get federal funding for a Southwest Trade Corridor along Highway 4 from Cadillac, Sask., to Monchy, Sask., at the U.S. border.
He also said he would lobby for extended hours at the border crossing at Climax, Sask.
Bill Caton, a rancher from Eastend, is running for the Green Party. In 2003 he ran as a Progressive Conservative, and in 2004 and 2006 as the Liberal candidate. He also ran provincially for the Green Party in 2011.