Airdrie resident Tariq Elnaga is throwing his cowboy hat into the ring for the next federal election.
Elnaga was recently announced as the Banff-Airdrie candidate for the Maverick Party – a newly formed party that focuses on seeking more autonomy for Canada’s western provinces. He said he was previously a supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), but recently grew fed up with the party, which he claimed is diluting its message in order to appease voters in Ontario and Quebec.
“I told myself I could either sit on the sidelines and complain about a current situation that isn’t going very well, or I can stand up and do something about it,” Elnaga said. “I was done complaining and saying ‘This will never change.’ I said I have to do something about this.”
Initially from the United Arab Emirates, Elnaga made his way to Canada after falling in love with the sport of rodeo and the ranching lifestyle when travelling to Calgary to check out the 2010 Calgary Stampede. After moving to Alberta, he eventually settled in Airdrie, where he immediately got involved with organizations like the Airdrie and District Agricultural Society and the Airdrie Pro Rodeo.
Regarding his professional background, Elnaga is an engineer by trade, running an HR consulting practice in the oil and gas sector. As for his personal life, he is still highly invested and interested in rodeo and ranching, and started his own ranch services company – Bottom Hand Ranch Services – in 2020.
“In terms of my personal life, which revolves around agriculture, rodeo and the farming industry…[my candidacy] represents the two big engines of Alberta’s economy, which are oil and gas and agriculture,” he said.
While the Maverick Party is focused on western issues and claims it will only field candidates in western provinces and ridings that already have strong conservative support, Elnaga said the party’s primary objective is not separatism, but to gain more independence from the federal government in terms of financial management and natural resource extraction.
“A lot of the laws coming out of Ottawa are designed to appease voters in the metropolitan Toronto area,” he said. “If you look at the firearms law, that’s an easy example of it, or natural resources [legislation like] carbon taxes.”
That said, he added the party is willing to pursue western separation if the original plan does not work.
“[Our] intent is to bring back legislation that brings back fairness to the west,” he said. “If that first intent doesn’t go far enough, then yes, independence would be the next step.”
Though the Maverick Party only formed in 2020, Elnaga said public support has seemed promising when he has spoken to people in the riding about the party’s platform.
“A lot of Albertans and people in this riding have been fed up with the same results all the time,” he said. “We’re an overwhelmingly conservative riding and we continue to vote for the CPC, and then get the same results because they take our votes for granted.
“People are looking for change and they’re looking for true western representation. We’re a party that doesn’t pander to Quebec and Ontario, and they love that.”
Elnaga added he hopes his party’s platform, coupled with his oil and gas and rodeo background, will garner him a significant number of votes when the next federal election takes place.
“We have no other voters to appease in eastern Canada,” he said. “We’re a pro-industry, pro-oil and gas and pro-common sense party, and we support small business and small government, with a low-tax environment. We definitely don’t support a carbon tax.
“With my professional, social and recreational background…I represent a lot of what drives the economy of our riding.”
A federal election could be called at any time, though it will need to be held before Oct. 16, 2023.