Maverick candidate in Sask. calls fairness main issue for new party

Heather Schmitt examines a section on the combine during harvest. She is an organic farmer and Maverick Party candidate in Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert riding. | Karen Briere photo

CARROT RIVER, Sask. — Heather Schmitt steers her combine through a field of organic oats and admits she doesn’t have time for a federal election campaign right now.

But her name is on the ballot in the Prince Albert riding of central Saskatchewan and the Sept. 20 election looms, so campaign she must.

The fourth-generation farmer is harvesting with her dad and brother on her family’s land on this hot last day of August. The Schmitts have had an organic grain farm for about 30 years. Another brother and a sister are also involved in various organic agricultural pursuits.

Heather has her own beef business, raising and selling certified organic beef. She trains and sells performance horses. And, she’s an organic certifier.

She hasn’t been involved in organized politics, save for the type that comes with being on boards, but was drawn to the Maverick Party.

“It’s not so much that it attracts me but that it defines me,” she said.

“And, no, I don’t have time, but if I don’t do it, who will?”

The main issue for this young farmer is fairness for Western Canada. The Maverick Party grew out of the separatist Wexit Canada Party and is running candidates in the four western provinces.

There is, obviously, no chance of forming government but Schmitt said it’s about getting respect.

“The sweat, the money, the time we put into our farms and the government is taking advantage of it,” she said.

Some have suggested that Maverick candidates will split the right-wing vote and allow someone else to come up the middle, but Schmitt said that won’t happen. Candidates are running in ridings that were handily won by Conservatives last time and if they took even half the votes the Conservative would still win, she said.

However, she said electing a Maverick MP rather than a Conservative would mean a true vote for the West because there are no eastern candidates and no voters there to appease.

“The election will be decided based on eastern votes,” she said, and those votes push the agenda in Ottawa.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has to satisfy those voters, too, whereas Maverick MPs would not. But she hopes eastern voters will elect a Conservative government and that some Mavericks elected in the West can be a strong voice in Parliament.

Schmitt said the Maverick Party isn’t looking to start a new country.

“We’re tired of being taken advantage of and left in the dust.”

The party is against the carbon tax, doesn’t want to pay equalization to eastern provinces, opposes a government-mandated vaccine passport but approves of individuals making their own decisions.

Mavericks oppose the Liberal gun laws and would repeal those that turn ordinary citizens into criminals, Schmitt said.

The platform is solid and a good reflection of what didn’t quite work before,” she added, referring to efforts by the former Reform party to establish a greater western presence.

Schmitt’s campaigning has included some town hall meetings, a barrel race, a meet-and-greet with interim party leader Jay Hill — a former Reform, then Canadian Alliance, then Conservative MP— and another with deputy leader Allan Kerpan, also a former Reform MP, who then served provincially as a Saskatchewan Party MLA.

An all-candidates forum organized by the Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce was set for Sept. 7. Long-time Conservative MP Randy Hoback has held the Prince Albert riding since 2008 and is running again. The other candidates include Hamish Graham for the Green Party, Estelle Hjertaas for the Liberals, Ken MacDougall for the NDP and Joseph McCrea for the People’s Party.

Schmitt said people seem receptive to the Maverick option and the idea of not pandering to Eastern Canada.

“We’ve got to do something different but what’s the plan?” she said. “Our party is here to stay whether I win or not.”

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