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ANALYSIS: Sask Buffalo Party’s Opportunities and Weaknesses

The Western Standard breaks down the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of Saskatchewan’s new Buffalo Party.

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Background: The Wexit Facebook page exploded after the Justin Trudeau Liberals were re-elected to government on October 19, 2019. Wexit Saskatchewan gathered 3,500 signatures from 12 constituencies and became an official party on March 10, 2020. The party name was changed to the Buffalo Party in June and Wade Sira was named interim leader.

Strengths: Volunteers showed plenty of diligence when they blew away the signature threshold to achieve party status less than five months after the last federal election. That kind of legwork is what it takes to build a party from scratch. Their promotional video featuring Sira is inspiring and surprisingly well-produced.

The party platform reclaims ground abdicated by the Saskatchewan Party such as maintaining three coal-fired power plants slated to close, and taking the PST off of used vehicles and restaurant bills. The party also wants to hold elections for senators, the Lieutenant Governor, and judges. New legislation would facilitate citizen-initiated referendums for legislation or to recall elected official. These ideas generally play well in rural areas. 

The Buffalo Party policy document has also borrowed a policy plank of the NDP by proposing the province exit the New West Partnership and implement a Saskatchewan-first hiring policy for government contracts. 

Weaknesses: Some of the platform ideas are aspirational but impractical in the way confederation currently works. The platform incorporates ideas already considered by Alberta, such as moving the collection of taxes into the province, and opting out of the Canada Pension Plan to replace it with a provincial version. But the ideas make less sense in Saskatchewan than for its western neighbour due to a lower population and weaker demographics. The Buffalo Party wants to replace the Mounties with a provincial police force, but that could potentially cost Saskatchewan the RCMP training centre and museum.

The party has only slated candidate for 14 of 61 ridings, and most have never run in an election before. Although the NDP gained official opposition status with 10 seats in 2016, the Buffalo Party will be very lucky to get one.

Opportunities: The Buffalo Party has the opportunity of being the first of the new wave of sovereigntist parties to have an election on the prairies, breaking ground for its Wildrose counterpart in Alberta, and the Mavericks federally. Electoral success will be harder to find, but the several candidates have a chance at making at least a dent. 

Buffalo Party interim leader Wade Sira is running in the only riding where the Saskatchewan Party incumbent is not returning and there is no Progressive Conservative candidate. In 2016, Nancy Heppner won Martensville-Warman with 79 per cent of the vote, while the NDP’s Jasmine Calix took 17 per cent. Both parties will be represented by new candidates this time.

Cut Knife-Turtleford candidate Richard Nelson has experience running in federal Conservative nomination races and would be successful if he could take second place. In 2016, Larry Doke of the Saskatchewan Party took the riding with nearly 80 per cent of the vote, while the NDP’s Danica Lorer took 958 votes for 13 per cent. Neither will run in this election. The PCs will be represented by Allison Nesdoly, whose husband John ran for the Western Independence Party (WIP) there in 2007, getting just 66 votes. In 2003, Josaiah Rise ran for the WIP, getting 174 votes for 2.7 per cent of the total.

Kindersley candidate Jason Cooper was elected as a school board trustee and served on federal Conservative and Saskatchewan Party boards. When the Sask Party’s Bill Boyd won in 2016, independent candidate Jason Dearborn – a former Sask Party MLA – took second with 18 percent of the vote. The NDP received only 10 per cent of the vote in the 2018 by-election, and just 7 per cent during the 2016 general election.

Estevan candidate Phil Zajac ran as a People’s Party candidate in Souris-Moose Mountain in the last federal election. He finished fourth with 702 votes for 1.69 per cent of the total. He will face Sask Party incumbent MLA Lori Carr and rookies Seth Lendrum of the NDP and Linda Sopp of the PC’s. In 2016, the NDP took 9 per cent of the vote and the PC’s 8.8 per cent.

Threats: The Buffalo Party changed its name to distance itself from more radical elements of the Wexit movement. Although the candidates have been vetted, the provincial campaign has already seen past words and actions haunt Sask Party and NDP candidates. While the Buffalo Party has received relatively little attention by the mainstream media during the election, an embarrassing dig on one of their candidates is a real risk. 

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Correspondent for the Western Standard

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Affairs Columnist for the Western Standard. He is also a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and is the former Saskatchewan Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Features

An Alberta company’s mission to make Bitcoin mainstream

Edmonton-based Bitcoin Well is expanding its ATMs across Canada in a bid to make the cryptocurrency more accessible.

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“I’ll have a large coffee and a bitcoin please.”

If Adam O’Brien has his way, those types of orders will soon become a normal transaction across the country.

O’Brien is the head of Edmonton-based Bitcoin Well and his mission is to teach Canadians about bitcoin cryptocurrency as an alternative to government-issue paperbacks.

“This is how you get financial sovereignty. This is how you can take control of your own money,” said O’Brien.

The world of cryptocurrency can sound intimidating and complicated than it really is. O’Brien says that he and his staff are there to help customers understand Bitcoin and help navigate their way through.

“Bitcoin is most closely related to digital gold – it has to be mined. It’s scarce and it holds its value,” said O’Brien, noting it’s easy to use. “If I want to pay a million-dollars with of gold, I would need a forklift. With bitcoin, I can do it in my pyjamas.”

All government-backed paper current in Canada is controlled by the five major chartered banks.

“Bitcoin is not managed by anyone. Bitcoin is accessible. Bitcoin never closes.”

A single bitcoin now sells in the area of $30,000 CAD. But you don’t have to break the bank to own some of your own. A bitcoin is sub-dividable, like cutting an old gold coin in halves, or quarters.

Adams’ favorite selling point is to give potential customers $5 and have them convert it into bitcoin at the ATM.

Bitcoin Well has a interactive map of all of its ATMs across Canada on its website,

The bitcoin market can be “volatile. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was trading around the $3,200/bitcoin mark. Today it stands at $30,00/bitcoin, and it can fluctuate by that $3,200 figure on any given day. He said daily drops and increases can be between 10-15 per cent.

Every bitcoin owner gets their own wallet with their balance sheet on it. Every single bitcoin transaction is made public, only the sender and receiver are kept secret. So unless you share your password, your Bitcoin account remains safe.

“Bitcoin has never been hacked,” Adams said.

One of the things the Edmonton businessman is most proud of is the fact his company is 100 per cent Canadian-owned.

“We bleed maple syrup!” his website reads. “Our team is handpicked and local. We are proud to employ a team of Canadians and aspiring Canadian permanent residents. We are Canadians, focused on the Canadian bitcoin and cryptocurrency culture.”

O’Brien started in the bitcoin business in 2013 and it was rebranded into Bitcoin Well. As in a well of water.

It now boasts of having bitcoin ATMS across Ontario and the West. Mainly in places like coffee shops and restaurants. Any place that is open for long hours works best. The number of bitcoin ATMS has grown by a staggering 242 per cent.

Bitcoin Well ATM

“With a bitcoin ATM, it creates a community in your outlet. People come in regularly to use them and stop and talk. Hosting an ATM is the best way you can dip your toe into the bitcoin pool.” said Adams.

“I’m not a salesman – I’m not trying to convince anyone to buy bitcoin. My purpose is to make people aware of it. It’s not our job to changes minds.

“My goal is to bring bitcoin further into the mainstream and educate everyday people about the benefits of decentralized currency. This is exactly the platform I wish I had access to when I first started to explore and learn about bitcoin in 2013.

“We are aiming to make bitcoin easy to buy and sell for many reasons. Bitcoin allows the average consumer to take power over their finances and ensure they are not susceptible to centralized-banking failure. We aim to educate and expose as many Canadians as possible to enable the dream of true financial freedom.”

Elon Musk

While stressing he is not a financial advisor, O’Brien is a proponent of having one per cent of a person’s net value in Bitcoin. “The one percent will outperform the rest of your portfolio,” he said.

O’Brien said bitcoin work for all ages and that the school system fails children by not teaching the basics of how money works, from tax bills to mortgages. He’s paying it back by setting up an internship program with Edmonton schools.

Leaders in the business world are standing up and taking notice of bitcoin.

Space pioneer Elon Musk on Sunday asked about the possibility of converting “large transactions” of Tesla Inc’s balance sheet into bitcoin.

Earlier this month, market analysts were stunned when the 170-year-old insurance company Mass Mutual invested $100 million USD in bitcoin.

“The institutional places are worried they are missing the Bitcoin train. It is arguably safer than cash and gold,” Adams points out.

Musk and O’Brien are both after the same thing for bitcoin – and they’re shooting for the stars.

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Features

WESTROCK: Styx Frontman has a Christmas message for Canadians

Ernest Skinner interviews Gowan Gowan of Styx on his new Christmas single.

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Are you confused? Gowan Gowan? Yeah, well it happened like this. 

“Hello! Is this Ernest Skinner?” 

“Yes,” I responded. “Is this Gowan Gowan?” 

With a chuckle, Lawrence Gowan copied. “Yes !, this is Gowan Gowan.”

As you may know, the Styx lead singer had a very prosperous Canadian solo career back in the 80’s as one of his albums in particular – ‘Strange Animal’ – went triple platinum and during his tenure as a solo artist he was known simply as Gowan, and because I’m simple, I still think of him as Gowan. 

Now that we are over that, let’s get into some light Christmas action. The message Gowan has for us is in the form of a new Christmas/holiday song he has just released: ‘Can You Make It Feel Like Christmas’. 

Joining Gowan in the recording are three-piece alt-rocker Stuck On Planet Earth from Vaughn, Ontario, who themselves have had national and international success over the years. 

I first asked our Canadian friend how he was doing during this time of unprecedented uncertainty.  The genuinely humble vocalist responded the way anyone that knows him would expect.

“I’m doing surprisingly well. I qualify that with the fact that there are some people who are having a devastating time, so relative to them; I have absolutely nothing to complain about” 

When you listen to the song which has been streamed over 100 000 times since its release just last week (December 4), you may find what I and others have found. The song has a unique quality to it, but there is a bit of John Lennon style to it.

“Yes that is what I have been hearing and reading on social media and also the Beatles. I think though more of a Traveling Wilburys kind of vibe where the guys all come together with this great song that has a bit of dry humor in it. In respect to George Harrison, in the TW, I actually have a long connection to the Beatles. My album that I recorded in 1984. ‘Strange Animal’ was recorded at Ringo Starr’s home studio in England and that was the house that was sold to him by its previous owners, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Since ‘Imagine’ was also recorded there, I have always had this sort of spirit following me around and I don’t mind the comparison at all and I couldn’t be more honored.” 

Before moving on, I would urge you to Google and research the history of the studio at Tittenhurst Park in Ascot England. Gowan and I chatted for a bit about it and many artists -including some of my favorites like Def Leppard and Judas Priest – have recorded there. I was told that the reason it took 6 months to record ‘Strange Animal’ was because the house had to be quiet by 8:00 pm. I was also told that Ringo would often pop into the studio which was just off of the kitchen and make a little funny comment and mingle with the boys or whoever was using the space at the time. There are a lot of home movies and videos on YouTube that show the making of the studio and recording in the studio that was put in by John Lennon when he originally acquired the house.

Getting back on track, I asked Gowan to sum up the history and the writing of ‘Can You Make It Feel Like Christmas’. 

I asked him about the references in the song to corporations, etc., and he responded that at this time of year, a lot of smaller businesses generate up to 50 per cent of their yearly sales because of the emotional charge generated from it. His message is that those things shouldn’t get in the way of the overall caring and emotional attempt to bring on this good spirit as “at this time of year there are many people who do not do well at Christmas whether it is because of something happening in their lives which affects them feeling left out and they feel distanced from it so I just wanted to encapsulate quickly and say ‘hey, businesses need to do what they need do at this time of year’, but let’s not let that get in the way of us generating those good warm feelings for one another.”   

“Well this year for sure has been a unique year and divisive. This is supposed to be the time of year whether you are religious or not, when we all put aside our differences and come together as fellow human beings. This year has been a kind of a year that has to some extent really pulled us apart ; but one thing we always agree on is that at the end of the year we strive to focus on this time to feel united and grateful and that we are alive, so this song had to be light and filled with hope and humor to some extent because we haven’t had much to laugh. That’s basically what the song is aiming at.”

How did the young guns at Stuck On Planet Earth great name BTW) get involved with this world class singer and songwriter you ask? Well, I was curious as well.  

“Well basically it started as a result of a former publishing company I used to work with who contacted me in early October and said hey, there is this really young band that had a great year and got some billboard success and were on the rise, but they’re kind of stuck right now. And they asked if I would collaborate and do a song with them.”

“That got my attention right away because everybody has been affect by this [COVID-19] but young people especially. I mean their lives are just getting started and this happens, so I said what would they like? So, their record/publishing company asked if I’d do a Christmas song with them. So I took a few days and after watching some of their videos and listening to their music I thought, ‘Wow’ ! these guys are great, and being a musician myself that was in the same situation they are in now, in my early career. I said ‘sure’. I then wrote the song and sent it to them and after a few changes here and there we recorded it with masks on in my home studio and that’s basically it.

Cover of ‘Can you make it feel like Christmas’

I will get to the Styx question. I couldn’t let the singer/keyboardist extraordinaire off the line without asking him about Styx and what are their plans for the New Year, and if they are working on a new album or anything. 

“Oh man, we’ve been really at it. Last week we released a Too Much Time On My Hands conglomerate video for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we’ve done an anthem for the NFL. We’ve finished recording our new album and it will come out when it comes out. That’s all I can tell you about that but …we’ve been really busy and are in touch with each other daily and we can’t wait to get back out there (tour), and we stay really connected with the 1.7 million people that are on the different Styx platforms on social media. We are as anxious as anyone to get back to playing live in front of people but in the mean time, we are using whatever digital technology is available to keep connected to our fans. “

Ernest Skinner is the WestRock Columnist for the Western Standard

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The semi-communist European country you haven’t heard of

The Western Standard takes a closer look at what is going on in Transnistria – one of the last Communist hold-outs in the world

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By NIKOLA MIKOVIC

The era of frozen conflicts is coming to an end.

Recent clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh – Azerbaijan’s region that has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces for 26 years – as well as in Western Sahara – a disputed territory on the northwest coast in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa – suggest that some decades old disputes could soon be resolved through bloodshed.

Is Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria another point of confrontation between Russia and the West?

Transnistria – the tiny Eastern European self-proclaimed country, officially called the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), does not formally exist.

Map of area. Courtesy Wikipedia

It is unrecognized as a nation by any member of the UN despite declaring its independence in 1990.

The only three states that recognize Transnistria are also disputed territories – Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as the Republic of Artsakh.

PMR is sandwiched between Moldova in the West and Ukraine in the East. Although it is often described as a communist rule, this entity has more similarities with modern Russia than with the former Soviet Union.

Its economy is dominated by oligarchs, and despite tense relations with Moldova, Transnistria preserved strong economic ties with the Eastern European country.  

After Maia Sandu, a former Moldovan Prime Minister who is backed by the European Union, won the presidential election on November 15, Transistrian leaders warned that a peaceful outcome of the frozen conflict remains uncertain.

During the Soviet ere, Transnistria was the richest region of Moldova.

Nowadays, Moldova is the poorest European country, and the breakaway region is facing serious economic hardships. The average monthly salary is only about $200, which is why many PMR citizens immigrated to Russia. 

According to local analysts, there have been attempts from Chisinau to pressure Transnistrian banks, which is why some PMR residents, primarily pensioners, have to cross the border and go to Moldova to withdraw their money. The COVID-19 pandemic is making their travel even more difficult, and Moldovan authorities reportedly blocked the import of certain goods into the territory of the PMR.

In spite of that, there are no food shortages in Transnistria, and the unrecognized republic de facto gets free gas from Russia. According to the Russian energy giant Gazprom, Moldova owes $7 billion to the Russian company, even though $6.9 billion is a debt for gas supplies to PMR. That is why the Sandu recently announced that her country will not pay off the debts of Transnistria to Gazprom.

“The local authorities in Transnistria did not ask Chisinau if it was interested in gas supplies from Russia. They should pay off the debts themselves”, said Sandu.

Ministry of State Security of the PMR recently conducted combat training of the Cossacks-border guards.

Such a measure could mean that the breakaway region of Moldova is preparing for a potential conflict with Chisinau.

Transnistrian army has a force of 4,500. Moldova, on the other hand, has 5,000-7,500 active personnel.

Reportedly, 70 per cent of Transnistria’s budget is funded by Russia, which provides subsidized gas and worker pensions.

Russia has roughly 1,500 military personnel stationed in the PMR. The peacekeeping operation in the region started in 1992 after Transnistrian and Moldovan authorities, on the initiative of then Russian president Boris Yeltsin, signed a ceasefire agreement which ended a short war that resulted in the PMR’s victory.

Ever since, the truce has been holding and is being monitored by a joint peacekeeping force, which includes 402 Russian military personnel, 492 Transnistrian, 355 Moldovan and ten military observers from Ukraine.

Although previous Moldovan President Igor Dodon was often portrayed as a pro-Russian leader, unlike Sandu who is seen as a politician that is pushing for stronger ties with the West, including neighbouring Romania, there is no fundamental difference between them when it comes to the presence of the Russian peacekeepers in Transnistira. They both agree that the Russians must go, although Sandu emphasizes that more often. On the other hand, the head of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic Vadim Krasnoselsky said that the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers was out of the question.

“The problem remains, the Transnistrian-Moldovan issue is still open, therefore there can be no talk of the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces,” Krasnoselsky stressed.

Russian troops in the breakaway region are stationed on a permanent basis, even in two forms – as the remnants of the 14th Army, now the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Transnistria, and also as the peacekeeping forces of the Russian Federation. Participants in the political format of the conflict regulation are the PMR and Moldova as parties to the dispute, Russia and Ukraine as mediators and guarantors, OSCE as a mediator, while the United States and the European Union are observers.

Prior to presidential election in Moldova, Russia accused the U.S. of plotting a “color revolution” in the Eastern European country. However, the voting process went smoothly and the transfer of power will almost certainly be peaceful.

On the other hand, the U.S. Ambassador to Chisinau, Dereck Hogan, recently criticized the conduct of the last parliamentary elections in Moldova in February 2019 over what he called “the organized vote and transportation of voters from the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria.” This year such an action was reportedly prevented, which could be the mean reason why allegedly pro-Russian Dodon was defeated.

It is worth noting that several years ago Sandu announced that she would vote for the unification of Moldova with Romania, which is something that worries Russian and Ukrainian population of Transnistira.

Dodon, on the other hand, pushed stronger ties with Moscow, but unlike Transnistria that is a de facto presidential republic, Moldova has a parliamentary political system, which means that the government and the parliament have the final say on such important questions.

Still, both Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu firmly reject not only the possibility of recognizing the independence of Transnistria, but even the very settlement of the conflict on the Dniester River through the confederation or federation. Also, the two politicians agree that the section of the Transnistrian-Ukrainian border should be controlled by Chisinau, rather than by the PMR forces. 

Maia Sandu

After the 2013/2014 violent protests in Ukraine, which resulted in the overthrow of allegedly pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s border policy regarding Transnistria has reportedly become more aggressive, apparently in an attempt to prevent smuggling activities. Some authors from the PMR believe that Ukraine will soon join Washington, Brussels and Bucharest in an attempt to put a strong pressure on Transnistria. Such an action could eventually result in the elimination of the PMR’s de facto statehood, and could also weaken Russian influence in the region.  

“Squeezing Russia out of Transnistria is an integral part of the U.S. and the EU plans to create a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the Russian Federation”, wrote Andrey Safonov, Transnistrian political analyst. 

However, it is highly uncertain if Moscow still intends to keep this small portion of Moldova in its geopolitical orbit. On Sept. 2, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic celebrated its 30th anniversary, but it was never recognized by Russia. Also, a referendum in 2006 expressing popular desire for Transnistria to become part of Russia was quietly rebuffed by the Kremlin.

Still, if relations between the West and Russia decline further, in the foreseeable future the frozen conflict in Transnistria’s could turn into another hot war. 

NIKOLA MIKOVIC

Mikovic is a geopolitical analyst and freelance journalist specializing in Russia/Belarus/Ukraine issues.

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