The newly-nominated candidate for the Maverick Party in Battlefords-Lloydminster is already hard at work getting his name out.
Ken Rutherford, who runs his own appraisal business and is a Lakeland College instructor, lives in the Lloydminster area. He is starting to get his name out to the public for what is rumoured to be a fall federal election.
“I’m just a small-town farm boy who believes in the West,” said Rutherford, in speaking to the News-Optimist last Thursday in North Battleford.
To get his message out, Rutherford said they will be reaching out to people at events, barbecues and in coffee houses. The intention is to meet people in the bigger cities in the Battlefords and Lloydminster but also in the smaller communities in between.
“Our entire campaign is based around getting to the people, get to know them, let them get to know us,” said Rutherford. “Our policies are the peoples’ policies.”
The Maverick Party held its founding policy convention Aug. 7. Being a new party, Rutherford acknowledges the Mavericks don’t have the “war chest” the other parties have.
“I’m OK with that,” said Rutherford, “because it forces you to get on the street and talk to people, shake hands face-to-face.”
Once the campaign is on, the plan is to go door-to-door to meet voters. “We’re going to do it all. We’re going to find a way,” said Rutherford.
It took some persuading to convince Rutherford to run for the party. The electoral district association reached out to him in the springtime about running. But Rutherford, whose family includes six kids, had cited the need to be at home with his family and turned them down.
Another potential candidate then came forward, but soon after she had to bow out due to health issues.
“So there was nobody standing up,” said Rutherford. “I think that it’s easy to complain and be negative and it’s hard to stand up and do. Again, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. And so, I went back, talked to my wife and she told me ‘you are going to do this.’”
After much thought, Rutherford said he realized “somebody had to put their name forward,” and the party announced his nomination in late June.
Rutherford explained his motivations for running. “I’m starting to think more about what we are leaving behind for future generations,” said Rutherford. “And that concerns me.”
Rather said he aligns with the Maverick Party and what it thinks. Previously he had been a longtime Conservative voter, but noted that over the last few years he had become “politically homeless.”
In particular, he says the West’s interests weren’t being represented. Rutherford noted the main parties had to appeal to interests in the rest of Canada under the current electoral system, and says the system is broken.
“There are 199 out of 338 (seats) that go to Ontario and Quebec,” he said. The number one job of the Conservative and Liberal leaders is to get voted prime minister of Canada, he said.
“To do that they have to focus on Ontario and Quebec. That’s just the way it’s set up.”
He notes the parties are essentially “regional” already, with the main parties focusing on central Canada and the Bloc Québécois on Quebec. “It leaves no regional representation that focuses on the West.”
With the arrival of the Maverick Party, with its focus on representing the West, Rutherford said he found a home for his political views.
“It fits, it fits me. I would say 95 per cent of the people I talk to would say ‘I would get behind that,’” said Rutherford. “It’s not hard to tell people if you elect a maverick MP there will represent you and you only, and they won’t be forced to vote, along with what the national leader tells you to vote, for what you want.”
Rutherford said he also aligns with the approach the party is taking towards the issue of western independence. He notes the party is offering a twin-track approach.
“I would like to first find a way to work within Canada,” Rutherford said. “I do love Canada, and that would be my first pick, to be able to say it was broken, it didn’t work, but let’s see if we can rebalance, see if we can make this work and stay within Canada.”
He used the old phrase “speak softly but carry a big stick” to describe the approach. “If it doesn’t work and we are continually ignored, and taken advantage of, maybe we do have to have some tougher conversations.”
What also attracted Rutherford to the Maverick Party is that, in his view, it is not a “fringe group.” The leadership included former Reform MPs like Jay Hill (interim leader) and Allan Kerpan, “people with a lot of political experience.”
It is sure to be an uphill climb for the Maverick Party up against Conservative incumbent Rosemarie Falk, who received 78 per cent of the vote in Battlefords-Lloydminster in the last election.
But the Maverick Party is specifically targeting “safe” Conservative seats like Falk’s because they feel they can attract voters away from the Conservatives, without allowing the NDP or Liberals to come up the middle and win.
The “most common hesitancy,” said Rutherford, is that voters are “scared they’re going to split the vote and send a Liberal to Ottawa. That is why the Maverick Party is targeting areas where there is little to no chance of that.”
Once an election is called, Rutherford says the Mavericks will be ready in Battlefords-Lloydminster. He said they have an “amazing group of people” already in place who meet and talk regularly, and they have a number of events planned over the coming weeks.
While the Mavericks are “shy on funds and experience,” they are “heavy on care and drive,” said Rutherford. They are also looking to take on more volunteers to help on the campaign.
“This is a grassroots party,” said Rutherford. “The real reason it exists is to improve the livelihoods of those who live in the West. It’s not closed, it’s not an old boys’ club. It’s a party of the people.”