Fringe parties add spice, smiles to Ontario election despite no hope of seats

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TORONTO - You may not have heard of the Pauper Party, The Only Party, or the People First Republic Party, and they won't have registered on any public opinion poll.

It's unlikely they'll ever form a government, hold the balance of power in a minority parliament, or even win a single seat, yet they are among 21 registered parties pushing for support in today's Ontario election.

Collectively, they are the province's fringe parties — most firmly on the very edge of the province's political scene, although some seem to exist beyond the edge.

"We want cops out of gambling, sex (and) rock and roll," said John Turmel, head of the Pauper Party. "We want no usuary on loans."

Turmel, who is in the Guinness Book of Records for running and losing in more elections than anyone else, hasn't done any door-knocking.

But he does want to take advantage of the party's registered status to offer tax receipts to businesses, such as pizzerias, who help "poor people" by donating food or other products to shelters or soup kitchens.

To register in Ontario during an election campaign, a party needs to have just two candidates. Outside a campaign period, a party must collect signatures from 1,000 eligible voters. There's no fee to register in either case.

The three-week-old Canadians' Choice Party, with two candidates in Toronto and another in St. Catharines, Ont., aims more to be an umbrella group for independents than a traditional party.

"The most important resources these individuals have are their conviction, knowledge, experience and the support of their families and friends," the party says on its website.

Bahman Yazdanfar, who heads up Canadians Choice, calls it "disturbing" the first question he gets when he knocks on doors is, "What is the party platform?"

"People are brainwashed to get used to this kind of approach only," Yazdanfar says.

While registering to be a party is straightforward, coming up with a suitable name can prove tricky.

For example, Elections Ontario has nixed both name and abbreviation for the "I’m Canadian Eh?" party (ICE) and the Province of Toronto Party (P416).

The Sex and Marijuana Party of Ontario did not pass muster either.

Among those getting the nod were the Anti-Bailout Party and the Awakening Canada Party, although neither is registered for this election.

Despite cute names and what some might consider off-the-wall policy notions, fringe parties can have serious messages.

Dan King, candidate in Whitby-Oshawa for the Party for People with Special Needs, said mainstream parties may be concerned about the disabled, but not sufficiently.

"They have policies that are friendly to people with disabilities but they never talk about them," said King.

"There's also an awful lot of things that can be improved."

The party, whose leader Danish Ahmed is a blind albino of Pakistani origin, has the advantage of real, up-close experience of living with disabilities, King said.

Chris Gupta, the London West candidate for the People First Republic Party, said mainstream parties push policies that are irrelevant to most Canadians, or are simply self-serving.

"I'm basically trying to put some sanity back into politics," Gupta said. "I guess it's a big job."

His party, with three candidates, wants to focus attention on issues such as the fluoridation of drinking water they say is unhealthy and the ban on raw milk sales he blames on nanny-state "control freaks."

Some people, however, just aren't interested in what he has to say, said Gupta, who won about 100 votes in the 2007 election as an independent.

Some fringe parties, like the former Unparty now known as the Freedom Party, actually has dozens of candidates nominated.

Among other things, it wants easier access to medicinal marijuana, an end to "race-based" public schools, and the scrapping of religious-based bans on shopping on days like Christmas.

Laure Paquette, who teaches political science at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., said while fringe candidates have little chance of winning a seat, they play a valuable democratic role.

"Where they can affect things is affecting moving the discussion of the issues in one direction or another," Paquette said.

No one from The Only Party returned calls.

Geographic location: Ontario

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