Elections are always a time when unusual ideas – and brand new political parties – find their way into public conversation, and this year is no different. This election, North Island-Powell River will have a candidate running with the Maverick Party, formerly known as the “Wexit” Party.
“Wexit” – a play on the phrase “Brexit,” which refers the United Kingdom’s vote to withdraw from the European Union in 2016 – describes a political movement that seeks greater autonomy for Canada’s western provinces, up to and including secession, or the formation of an independent country.
The Maverick Party, currently led by former Conservative MP Jay Hill, advocates for constitutional changes to benefit Western provinces, or pursuing separation from the rest of Canada if such demands are not met by Ottawa.
The party’s North Island-Powell River candidate, Dr. Stacey Gastis, is a veterinarian based in Comox. He believes the federal government is too focused on the interests of the eastern provinces.
“Since confederation, the voice of the west has never really had any power,” said Gastis. “I think most westerners can attest to that.”
Asked how the Maverick movement imagines it would go about separating the western provinces if constitutional reforms cannot be achieved, Gastis explained the party would “put it to the provinces in terms of what they want to do.”
“We want provinces to have full autonomy over what they deem is needed and fair for their citizens,” he added.
Gastis said one of his main objections with the federal government is equalization payments, which he believes are unfairly stacked against western provinces.
“We see that as a one-way power position, where the east basically takes whatever it wants, and leaves us pretty much on our own,” said Gastis.
Second, Gastis believes Ottawa handicaps western trade, and said the federal government is “fiscally off the rails.”
“They’re sending cheques to everybody, and we’re quite honestly wondering who, in fact, in the end, is going to pay for all this,” said Gastis.
Scrap the carbon tax, says candidate
As well, Gastis believes the federal government is handicapping the natural gas, oil, fishing and mining industries based on “environmental policies,” and said his party wants to scrap the national carbon tax.
“We think that we can achieve an environmental policy within the industry, and within each community,” said Gastis.
Asked if he thinks the federal government’s purchasing of the Trans Mountain pipeline and ongoing fossil fuel subsidies amount to handicaps on those industries, Gastis said the pipeline has not yet been built.
“What we see is, unfortunately, a game being played on an international level from Ottawa, and very little ending up in the communities’ hands in terms of prosperity,” said Gastis.
Asked about his views on the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, Gastis said he wants to balance environmental policy with people’s livelihoods “rather than shutting everything down.”
“Our policy is that... whatever transition the future holds to alternative energy sources, in the meantime, we still need to be able to get by with what we have to actually take care of our communities,” said Gastis.
Regarding the party’s unusual name, Gastis explained that “Maverick” refers to “a unit of an individual – initially the farmer or cowboy.”
“The original mavericks actually helped to put things together instead of dividing people,” he added.
Finally, asked how Indigenous sovereignty and treaties would work in a hypothetical independent western Canadian state, Gastis said his party supports “working with Indigenous peoples.”
“[There could be] agendas and progressive needs for change, regarding the Indian Act,” he added. “Whatever that means, it will be done in consultation with [Indigenous people], because we’re all in this community.”
2021 North Island-Powell River riding federal election candidates:
Rachel Blaney (NDP)
Shelley Downey (Conservative)
Stacey Gastis (Maverick)
Jennifer Grenz (Liberal)
Paul Macnight (PPC)
Carla Neal (Marxist-Leninist)
Jessica Wegg (Green)