SASKATOON, Saskatchewan, Canada – Recently The Wild Hunt spoke briefly with Robert Rudachyk, an openly Heathen candidate and interim leader for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party.
We got in touch again for a longer conversation about the political scene in Saskatchewan, approaching politics from a pagan perspective, and what the future might look like not just for Saskatchewan, but also for pagans looking for political representation.
After the leader of the SaskLiberals, Naveed Anwar, abruptly stepped down from his position in mid September, the party needed to move quickly in order to have leadership going into the upcoming elections, scheduled for October 26, 2020. Robert Rudachyk, long an active advocate within the SaskLiberals, was tapped for the position on September 28. The party has struggled to gain traction in recent decades against the more conservative Saskatchewan Party.
Robert Rudachyk has hit the ground running as he works to hold the party together and put forward a more centrist approach to government. He works in Saskatoon at the Maple Leaf Foods Plant, is a father, and also is open about his Ásátru faith. He had previously run in 2016 unsuccessfully, but plans to continue remaining active within the SaskLiberal party even beyond the looming elections.
Saskatchewan, despite strong Liberal roots, has consistently elected conservative candidates for the last several decades as the Liberal party has struggled to maintain a voice in the province. While Robert explained that he has been involved in politics in a variety of ways since childhood, he does feel that being Ásátru definitely informs his dedication to the platform of the Liberal party.
“I am the first openly Pagan person to ever be greenlit to run for a major national party in Canada,” Robert stated in a phone interview, and added that there has not been a lot of discussion or backlash in response to his beliefs, with the exception of a few “online trolls…but being an Ásátru, I don’t back down from a fight.”
In fact, Robert Rudachyk finds strength and motivation in the teachings of the Hávamál, especially stanza 127:
“Wherever you know of harm
regard that harm as your own;
give your enemies no peace.”
There are a number of issues facing the province that Robert Rudachyk does not feel the ruling Saskatchewan Party and New Democratic Party (NDP) are addressing, to the detriment of the voters.
“We need to hold the current government to account,” he asserted, “but I’m not just criticizing, I’m offering alternatives.” He has been highly critical of the way in which schools were reopened in light of Covid-19, citing what he viewed as rampant disorganization and inadequate measures to protect the health of students and school staff.
The way in which the political parties obtain their funding is another point of contention. The SaskLiberals say that unlike the current parties in power in Saskatchewan, they do not take any donations from outside of the province, including from oil companies based in Alberta, and also eschew corporate and union donations, relying on grassroots fundraising and activism.
Robert Rudachyk wants voters to consider the minimum wage in Saskatchewan—the lowest in the country—as well as how low the province ranks in education, and rampant systemic racism against First Nations peoples when they vote later this month. He explained that he can identify with the large number of voters struggling to make ends meet, as he has like many of them lived below the poverty line and understands firsthand how this struggle has been compounded by Covid-19.
Another big piece of the Liberal platform is a path for Saskatchewan toward renewable energy and resources, and away from the big oil interests that he feels are exerting a lot of influence on the Saskatchewan Party’s policies. In fact, the SaskLiberals are the only party in the running with a renewable energy platform.
Robert envisions that with the right policies, Saskatchewan’s economy can grow and incorporate far more jobs and economic opportunities than an oil-based, traditional approach.
“We could one day be the energy capitol of America, and this would be such a big boost to the economy with wind, solar, and geothermal projects that would create thousands of jobs over the years.”
The SaskLiberal interim leader is perhaps just as passionate about involving Pagans, heathens, and wiccans in politics, even if they decide to support or campaign within another party.
“I support anybody in the Pagan and Heathen community to stand up for their beliefs and to bring their voice to the table. There can be disagreement with respect…but we can’t be sitting on the sidelines anymore.”
Non-voter rates are high nationwide, and a recent poll conducted by the University of Saskatchewan’s Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research indicated that over 34% of respondents remained undecided as of mid-September.
In the short-term as interim leader, Robert hopes to raise the party’s profile, and focus on supporting a few key candidates while raising the party’s percentage of the vote. At the end of the year, Robert’s interim term will end, and the party will formally choose a new leader in January of 2021. If chosen to continue in a leadership role for the SaskLiberals, he wants to continue rebuilding the party and reaching out.
Referencing the David and Goliath metaphor, Robert wants to encourage everyone, including Pagans and Heathens, to come out and volunteer and be active within their local and provincial government.
He is eager for people to speak up and add their voices, and not just for this current election: “If they want to run, contact me! If we aren’t successful this time, work with me, lets get it organized and make it happen in 2024!”
A big part of being open about his Ásátru faith is Robert’s hope to inspire other pagans to participate and run not just in Saskatchewan, but across the country.
Editorial Note: This article has been updated to correctly state the oil companies being being in Alberta, rather than British Columbia.