Thursday, September 25, 2008

Know Your Fringe Parties I -- The Few, the Brave, the Deregistered

Why should the political parties that garner all the press attention have all the fun? Just once, wouldn't you love to see a poll that excluded the mainstream parties, and instead asked respondents to declare their voting intentions from a list exclusively comprised of fringe parties? Huh? Wouldn't you?

So, this little series over the next couple of weeks will be devoted to "the Fightin' Few', the Windmill Chargers, the Lost Cause Legions, and the Harmless Cranks whose names will crowd the ballot at a polling station near you. Somewhere, mixed in with all of that, we may also pay tribute to the sincere political pioneers who put their names out there to promote an idea, a cause, or just a democratic whisper.

Let us begin with "the Valiant Deregistered" -->

Note: To aid us in our inquiry, we defer to the most up-to-date information available on the Election Canada internest site.

Our Honourable Mentions List includes four parties, two of which lost their eligibility to become registered, one of which withdrew its application, and one of which was registered but voluntarily deregistered.

1. The National Alternative Party of Canada

Ah, "the Battlin' NAPC," we hardly knew ye. Launched formally in Alma, Quebec, and led by one-time independent candidate Gilles Lavoie, the NAPC was supposed to be a party that would unite the right on the Canadian political spectrum. Originally registered as a party in 2002, the NAPC soon lost relevance, as the central players in Canada's conservative movement began this process themselves. Gilles Lavoie himself ran for the newly minted Conservative party in the 2004 general election. The National Alternative Party lost its eligibility in 2004 under Section 369(2) when it failed to file its leadership report.

2. The Ontario Party of Canada

The Battlin' Bloc Ontario -- sorry, the Ontario Party of Canada -- was founded in London, Ontario, in 2002 by George Burns (formerly of the Canadian Alliance) and Brad Harness (formerly of the Progressive Conservatives). The Ontario Party pledged to field 50 candidates in the next general election, and to run on a platform that emphasized Ontario's rights and interests within the federation. However, the following year Burns effectively abandoned the party and moved to British Columbia. Like the National Alternative Party, the developing merger between the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance took the steam out of the sails the Ontario Party, and similarly positioned conservative protest parties. The Ontario Party lost its eligibility in 2004 under Section 369(2) when it failed to report its replacement of the party leader.

3. The Absolutely Absurd Party

The Howlin' AAP! Now here's a silly party you could have sunk your teeth into. A party dedicated to carrying on the proud legacy of the old Parti Rhinoceros/Rhinoceros Party of Canada. Advancing a coherent platform, with a straight-forward clarity of purpose that today's Liberal Party could only envy from afar, the Absolutely Absurd Party vowed

  • to lower the voting age to 14

  • to change the Elections Act so that each candidate receiving the fewest votes wins the seat

  • to reinvigorate the armed forces by developing a "crack squad of rock-paper-scissors commandos."

  • to raffle off seats in the Senate

Anarchists? Probably. Harmless cranks? Certainly. Electing the candidate with the fewest votes? Priceless.

Perhaps in a rare moment of clarity, the Absolutely Absurd Party withdrew its application for registration under Section 367 of the Elections Act.

4. The Natural Law Party of Canada

Now this party was an American import with an international pedigree and a Canadian twist (kind of like ... oh, what do they call it? ... the Green Party). But, hey, they gave us all a laugh in the '90s.

The Natural Law Party was founded in 1992 in (of all places) Fairfield, Iowa -- a fairly short drive down Highway 34 from Ottumwa. It was the brainchild and pet project of a consortium of community and business leaders in Fairfield who shared a passion for transcendental meditation and subscribed to the Beatle-bedazzling teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Heck, Fairfield, Iowa, even boasts a campus of the Maharishi University of Management. Before long, the NLP had chapters in 80 countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada.

The party's platform, like the Liberal Party's Green Shift, seemed to make perfect sense in their own minds -- but try explaining it to people without inviting the quizzical gazes of the skeptics, and the outright laughter of the cynics. It all seemed simple enough. All of the world's problems derived from people being out of harmony with natural law. So, if we could just bring people back into harmony with natural law, perhaps through transcendental meditation, all of the world's problems -- from economic hardship, to environmental crisis, to military conflict -- could be solved. All of them. Really.

The face of the Natural Law Party in Canada (although not its leader) was the magician Doug Henning, who campaigned on federal funding for research into "yogic flying."

The Natural Law Party ran three federal elections between 1993 and 2000. The Party was most successful, it seems, in its first campaign in '93. In that election, the NLP fielded 231 candidates and garnered 85,450 votes (although they won no seats). The Natural Law Party voluntarily deregister (Section 388) during the period between the 2000g and 2004 general elections.

Photo credit: Hogwarts's School and Maharishi School, "developing the full magical potential of every student."

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