SASKATOON — Mark Friesen is undaunted in facing the candidates from the established groups like the ruling Saskatchewan Party, the Saskatchewan-NDP and the Saskatchewan Liberals in the Saskatoon-Meewasin byelection Sept. 26.
Friesen is running under the Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan, which was formed in time for the 2020 provincial election where it placed third behind the Sask. Party and the NDP in the popular vote.
“I am running for a new party. A party that represents an alternative to the establishment, the Buffalo Party, which is new territory for me since I ran for the [People’s Party of Canada] in the last two federal elections,” Friesen told SASKTODAY.
Friesen ran under the PPC of Maxime Bernier and placed fourth in the last federal election in 2021 for the Saskatoon-Grassland riding where he garnered 4.8 per cent of the vote behind incumbent MP Kevin Waugh (Conservatives). His support increased from 1.4 per cent in 2019.
“It’s sort of familiar waters for me. But the Buffalo Party approached me because, obviously, I’m a loud voice in the province. I have that name recognition as a freedom fighter. I went pretty hard against the mandates and restrictions of the Sask. Party the last couple of years,” he said.
Friesen called out the established parties — the ruling Sask. Party and the NDP as the official opposition in the legislative assembly — on how they handled the coronavirus pandemic by implementing more mandates and restrictions.
“There hasn’t been any opposition to any of their decisions [Sask. Party]. The NDP, acting as the official opposition, were wanting more mandates and more restrictions. Nobody was opposing what the Sask. Party is doing,” said Friesen.
“So, it is really important for us and the movement in Saskatchewan to get a voice in the legislature that is a voice of opposition. That’s where we do stand in full opposition of what the Sask. Party and the establishment sort of represents.”
He said he and his volunteers have been busy going door-to-door and meeting the voters of Saskatoon-Meewasin ,where they get mixed receptions but most of whom listen to what his plans are. They have also been distributing flyers and lawn signs to their supporters.
“We talked to a lot of different people and we’ve managed to even change some [lawn] signs from Sask. Party to the Buffalo Party in the riding. I think a lot of people are frustrated with the establishment,” added Friesen.
“They’re frustrated and my feeling is that there’s a lot of people that just want to be told the truth. For a long time, they haven’t been told the whole truth. We find that they’re very receptive to anybody that is going to stand up and speak the truth.”
Although the Buffalo Party is not affiliated with the PPC, Friesen said that he has the full backing of PPC leader Maxime Bernier despite him running in a provincial-level election.
“[Bernier] has endorsed my campaign. He knows me. He knows my integrity and my moral compass. He supports my campaign but there is nothing official between the two parties [PPC and Buffalo]. One is federal and one is provincial, but [Bernier] understands and fully supports my campaign,” he added.
He has also been appealing to undecided voters and will be holding a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 20, at Ecole St. Paul’s gym.
“So, we’re doing some calls to invite everyone from the riding to attend that town hall so people can get to know who we are and what we represent. It is also interesting because the Sask. Party has tried to put down the narrative of vote splitting. But this being a byelection, there is no risk for voting somebody outside the establishment,” Friesen said.
“We’re talking about a riding that you know the last election there was maybe around 5,000 votes cast out of possible 12,500 [voters]. So, there are a lot of people out there in the riding that [weren’t] inspired to vote in the last election and we’re hoping that we can inspire them to vote and vote for us.”
He added that supporting the Buffalo Party by electing him poses a little risk because the control of the legislative assembly would remain under the Sask Party.
“What it would do is, it will get somebody in [the legislative assembly] that is willing to oppose vehemently some of what we went through the last couple of years. Someone who will just offer a different perspective. A lot of people in Saskatchewan, a lot of people in the riding that feel they don’t have that representation and I offer that to them,” said Friesen.
Kim Groff is the Sask. Party’s candidate while the NDP field Nathaniel Teed and the other candidate for the byelection is Saskatchewan Liberal leader Jeff Walters.