Rhinoceros Party of Canada (1963–93)

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Rhinoceros Party of Canada
Parti Rhinocéros
Leader Cornelius the First
Founded 1963
Dissolved 1993
Ideology satirical, frivolous, animals as electoral candidates
Politics of Canada
Political parties
Elections

The Parti Rhinocéros, commonly known as the Rhinoceros Party in English, was a registered political party in Canada from the 1960s to the 1990s. Operating within the tradition of political satire, the Rhinoceros Party's basic credo, their so-called primal promise, was "a promise to keep none of our promises".[1] They then promised outlandishly impossible schemes designed to amuse and entertain the voting public.[2]

The Rhinos were started in 1963 by Jacques Ferron,[3] "Éminence de la Grande Corne du parti Rhinocéros". In the 1970s, a group of artists joined the party and created a comedic political platform to contest the federal election. Ferron (1979), poet Gaston Miron (1972) and singer Michel Rivard (1980) ran against Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in his Montreal seat.

The party claimed to be the spiritual descendants of Cacareco, a Brazilian rhinoceros who was elected member of São Paulo's city council in 1958, and listed Cornelius the First, a rhinoceros from the Granby Zoo, east of Montreal, as its leader.[4] It declared that the rhinoceros was an appropriate symbol for a political party since politicians, by nature, are: "thick-skinned, slow-moving, dim-witted, can move fast as hell when in danger, and have large, hairy horns growing out of the middle of their faces".[5]

Some members of the Rhino party would call themselves Marxist-Lennonist, a parody of the factional split between the Communist Party of Canada and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), although the Rhinoceros Party meant the term in reference to Groucho Marx and John Lennon.[6]

As seen at right, the party used as its logo a woodcut of a rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer, with the words D'une mare à l'autre (a French translation of Canada's Latin motto a mari usque ad mare, playing on the word mare, which means pond in French[7]) at the top.

Policies and politics[edit]

In addition to the national platform promises released by the party leadership, individual candidates also had considerable freedom to campaign on their own ideas and slogans. Bryan Gold of the Rhinoceros Party described the party platform as two feet high and made of wood: "My platform is the one I'm standing on". A candidate named Ted "not too" Sharp ran in Flora MacDonald's Kingston and the Islands riding with the campaign slogan "Fauna, not flora", promising to give fauna equal representation.[8] He also took a stand on abortion (promising, if elected, never to have an abortion) and capital punishment: "If it was good enough for my grandfather, then it's good enough for me". To strengthen Canada's military, Sharp planned to tow Antarctica north to the Arctic Circle: "Once we have Antarctica, we'll control all of the world's cold. If another Cold War starts, we'll be unbeatable".[9]

In the 1988 election, the Rhinoceros Party ran a candidate named John Turner in the same riding as Liberal leader John Turner, and received 760 votes.[10] Penny Hoar, a safe sex activist, distributed condoms in Toronto while running under the slogan: "Politicians screw you — protect yourself".[11]

1979 campaign[edit]

  • Government:
  • Energy:
    • Building one nuclear power plant per household, including monthly distributions of lead underwear to Canadians. Indoor lighting would then be provided by radioactive citizens.[14]
    • Burning all the standing barns in Canada to provide energy, under the slogan Burn a barn for Britain.[14]
  • Gender issues:
    • Alimony payments would go directly to the federal government, and responsibility for withholding those payments would fall upon the federal government.[14]
    • Men would be allowed to work as prostitutes, wet nurses, secretaries and receptionists.[14]

1984 campaign[edit]

  • Economy
    • The Rhinoceros Party party pledged to eliminate small businesses, and replace them with very small business, having less than one employee.[15]
    • Candidate Graham Ashley, standing in Ottawa-Vanier, pledged to take Canada off the Gold Standard, and implement a Snow Standard, which would improve the economy until the summer.[16]
  • Public works
    • Candidate Stardust the Magician promised to put a roof on Olympic Stadium, using only a $25 million handkerchief.[17]

Other campaigns[edit]

Other platform promises of the Rhinoceros Party included:

  • Repealing the law of gravity[18][19]
  • Providing higher education by building taller schools[10]
  • Instituting English, French and illiteracy as Canada's three official languages[10]
  • Tearing down the Rocky Mountains so that Albertans could see the Pacific sunset[19]
  • Making Montreal the Venice of North America by damming the St. Lawrence River[20]
  • Abolishing the environment because it's too hard to keep clean and it takes up so much space[10]
  • Annexing the United States, which would take its place as the third territory in Canada's backyard (after the Yukon and the Northwest Territories—Nunavut did not yet exist), in order to eliminate foreign control of Canada's natural resources[21]
  • Ending crime by abolishing all laws[22]
  • To provide more parking in the Maritimes and to create the world's largest parking lot respectively, paving the Bay of Fundy and the province of Manitoba [10][19]
  • Turning Montreal's Saint Catherine Street into the world's longest bowling alley[10]
  • Amending Canada's Freedom of Information Act: "Nothing is free anymore; Canadians should have to pay for their information". [23]
  • Making the Canadian climate more temperate by tapping into the natural resource of hot air in Ottawa.[23]
  • Storing nuclear waste in the Senate: "After all, we've been storing political waste there for years". [23]
  • Adopting the British system of driving on the left; this was to be gradually phased in over five years with large trucks and tractors first, then buses, eventually including small cars, and bicycles and wheelchairs last.[12]
  • Selling the Canadian Senate at an antique auction in California[19][21]
  • Putting the national debt on Visa[24]
  • Declaring war on Belgium because a Belgian cartoon character, Tintin, killed a rhinoceros in one of the cartoons[25]
  • Offering to call off the proposed Belgium-Canada war if Belgium delivered a case of mussels and a case of Belgian beer to Rhinoceros "Hindquarters" in Montreal (the Belgian Embassy in Ottawa did, in fact, do this)[25]
  • Painting Canada's coastal sea limits in watercolour so that Canadian fish would know where they were at all times[20]
  • Banning guns and butter, since both kill[20]
  • Banning lousy Canadian winters[10]
  • Building a bridge spanning the country, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland.[26]
  • Making the Trans-Canada Highway one way only.[26]
  • Changing Canada's currency to bubble gum, so it could be inflated or deflated at will.[27]
  • Donate a free rhinoceros to every aspiring artist in Canada[21]
  • Counting the Thousand Islands to see if the Americans have stolen any[8]

The Rhino Party also declared that, should they somehow actually win an election, they would immediately dissolve and force a second election: "We Rhinos think that elections are so much fun, we want to hold them all the time". [28] They also declared victory after one election, claiming all candidates were Rhinoceroses, whether they knew or acknowledged it: thick-skinned, short-sighted, mean-tempered, etc.

Notable candidates[edit]

Michel Rivard once went on TV (during free air time given to political parties) and stated: "I have but two things to say to you: Celery and Sidewalk. Thank you, good night".

A British Columbia splinter group proposed running a professional dominatrix for the position of party whip, renaming "British Columbia" to "La La Land", moving the provincial capital, and merging with the Progressive Conservative Party so as "not to split the silly vote".

Alfred the Alien (the only politician to admit he came from outer space) ran in 1988 in Coast Capilano on a platform of "Safe sex, prescription drugs, and easy listening" – an update to the original party tag line of "sex, drugs, and rock'n roll". He also coined the slogan: "The primary obligation of a political party is to have one". While campaigning, he always wore a tuxedo, but with baggy grey sweat pants and a cummerbund festooned with 'rhinostones', as well as a grey headdress with an outsized horn adorned with a condom. He supported global warming as part of the savannafication process to create better Rhino habitat on the prairies. He also supported free trade – to trade Baffin Island for Maui, or Brian Mulroney for some peace and quiet. Another plank was to advocate for Canadian citizenship for Jose Cuervo – Rhinos drank so much tequila that it seemed reasonable to recognize Jose as truly Canadian.

Later, Alfred the Alien campaigned in support of the undecided vote during the Meech Lake Accord debate, stating that it would be a truly Canadian compromise to leave the issues unresolved. Alfred has reverted to the political centre, and now sits on the local council on Bowen Island, and as a director of Metro Vancouver.

Although not recognized in the United States, former baseball pitcher Bill Lee ran for President of the United States in 1988 on the Rhinoceros Party ticket. [29]

Electoral record[edit]

The Rhinoceros Party never succeeded in winning a seat in the House of Commons. In the 1984 federal election, however, the party won the fourth-largest number of votes, after the three main political parties, but ahead of several well-established minor parties. Rhino candidates sometimes came in second in certain ridings, humiliating traditional Canadian parties in the process. In the 1980 federal election, for instance, the Rhinoceros party nominated a professional clown/comedian named Sonia "Chatouille" Côté ("chatouille" means "Tickles" in French) in the Laurier riding in Montréal. Côté came in second place, after the successful Liberal candidate, but ahead of both other major parties: the third place New Democrat, and the fourth-place Progressive Conservative candidate.[30] Chatouille received almost twice as many votes as the PC candidate.

Early in the party's history, when it was mainly composed of French-speaking Québécois, they chose their only monolingual anglophone party member as their official translator.

1993 abstention and subsequent dissolution[edit]

The party abstained from the 1993 federal election while they questioned the constitutionality of new rules that required the party to run candidates in at least 50 ridings at a cost of $1,000 per candidature.[31] On September 23, 1993, Canada's Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, refused to accept the party's abstention and ordered the removal of the Rhinoceros Party from the Registry of Canadian Political Parties, effectively eliminating them from the Canadian political system. Kingsley also directed the party's official agent, Charlie (le Concierge) McKenzie, to liquidate all party assets and return any revenues to the Receiver General of Canada. On instructions from the party, McKenzie refused. After two years of threatening letters, Ottawa refused to prosecute McKenzie, who now claims to hold the distinction of being Canada's "least-wanted fugitive".

In 2001, Brian "Godzilla" Salmi, who received his nickname because of the Godzilla suit he wore while campaigning, tried to revive the Rhinoceros Party to contest the British Columbia provincial election. While they pulled some pranks that earned some media coverage, only two of its candidates (Liar Liar in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Helvis in Vancouver-Burrard) appeared on the ballots, as the party claimed the $1000 candidate registration fee was a financial hardship. Unregistered candidates included Geoff Berner, who received national wire service coverage for promising "cocaine and whores to potential investors".[32] The party disbanded shortly thereafter.

Salmi later legally changed his name to Sa Tan.[33]

In 2007, Salmi filed a lawsuit against the federal government of the election rules that led to the disbanding of the Rhinoceros party, demanding $50 million compensation. As Salmi's name is now legally "Sa Tan", the lawsuit was filed under the name Satan versus Her Majesty The Queen.[34]

Successors[edit]

François Gourd, a prominent Rhino, later started another political movement, the entartistes. The entartistes attracted attention in the 1990s by planting cream pies in the faces of various Canadian politicians. In 2006, he led a group that set up Neorhino.ca in an attempt to recapture the Rhinoceros Party spirit,[35] and ran as a Neorhino candidate in the 2007 Outremont by-election.

Other Rhinoceros Party members founded the Parti citron (Lemon Party), which attempted to bring a similar perspective to provincial politics in Quebec.[19]

After the party's dissolution, a number of independent election candidates informally claimed the Rhinoceros Party label even though the party itself no longer existed. There were also a number of unsuccessful attempts to revive the Rhinos as a legally incorporated political party, though this was not fully achieved until late 2007, with the current Rhinoceros Party becoming a registered federal party. The party renamed itself from its earlier name, "Neorhino.ca" in 2010.

Electoral results[edit]

Election # of candidates nominated # of seats won # of total votes  % of popular vote  % of vote in ridings contested
1965
1
0
321
0.00%
undetermined
1968
2
0
5,802
0.07%
undetermined
1972 (1)
1
0
1,565
0.02%
undetermined
1979
63
0
62,601
0.55%
2.32%
1980
120
0
110,286
1.01%
2.43%
1984
88
0
98,171
0.78%
2.39%
1988
74
0
52,173
0.40%
1.47%

Note:

(1) The Rhinoceros Party ran 12 candidates in the 1972 election, but was not recognized as a registered party by Elections Canada, and therefore its candidates were listed as independents. (Source: Toronto Star, October 31, 1972.)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rhino party escapes extinction to run in September byelection". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. August 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  2. ^ Marika Kemeny. "A Writer's Voices – A Celebration of Jacques Ferron at Glendon". York University. 
  3. ^ "Rhinoceros Party". The Canadian Encyclopedia. 
  4. ^ Ingrid Peritz (August 8, 2007). "After years of near-extinction, the whacky Rhino party is back". The Globe and Mail. 
  5. ^ Evan Kayne (January 12, 2006). "Federal election in dire need of laughs". FFWD Weekly. 
  6. ^ There is a 1969 comedy record by The Firesign Theatre troupe popularly known as "All Hail Marx and Lennon" which makes the same joke.
  7. ^ Ambroziak, Alycia (14 June 1974). "Rhinoceros Party goes head-hunting this time.". Montreal Gazette. p. 8. 
  8. ^ a b Bill Whitelow (January 22, 1980). "Rhinoceros party wants island count". The Whig-Standard. 
  9. ^ Beth McKenzie (January 25, 1980). "Flora running scared, Rhino candidate claims". The Queen's Journal. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "The Rhinoceros Party". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. August 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  11. ^ "Whore Heroines and Heroes". Commercial Sex Information Services. March 3, 2004. 
  12. ^ a b c Drouin, Linda (26 April 1979). "Rhinoceros Party promises pie in the face". The Ottawa Citizen. p. 8. 
  13. ^ Landrey, Wilbur (14 May 1979). "Rhinos ride roughshod over Canadian issues". St. Petersburg Times. pp. 7–A. 
  14. ^ a b c d Tetley, Jane (10 May 1979). "Rhinoceros Party charges into election fray". The Montreal Gazette. p. 4. 
  15. ^ SCHNURMACHER, Thomas (22 March 1984). "Oh, Boy – The Rhinoceros Party's at it again". The Montreal Gazette. pp. D–9. 
  16. ^ "Graham Ashley, Rhinoceros Party". The Ottawa Citizen. 11 February 1980. p. 5. 
  17. ^ "Rhinoceros Party heralds backing of gravediggers". The Ottawa Citizen. 11 August 1984. p. 4. 
  18. ^ Associated Press (May 1, 1985). "Canada Rhino Party Thunders Off Softly". New York Times. 
  19. ^ a b c d e Dan Brown (June 19, 2004). "The Heirs of the Rhino Party". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  20. ^ a b c Ingrid Peritz (August 8, 2007). "After years of near-extinction, the whacky Rhino party is back". The Globe and Mail. 
  21. ^ a b c From the campaign literature of Judi Skuce, candidate for The Beaches, in the 1979 election.
  22. ^ Patrick Lejtenyi. "Back from extinction". The Montreal Mirror. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  23. ^ a b c Doug Ronson (January 17, 1980). "Ted "not too" Sharp advocates lawn flamingo tax deductibility". The Queen's Journal. 
  24. ^ Joanna Habdank (October 12, 2006). "Longtime Rhino candidate dies of cancer at 63 years of age". The Vancouver Sun. 
  25. ^ a b "Dateline-Montreal Grand Prix update". Forces Canada. September 5, 2003. 
  26. ^ a b Dr. Robinson, Introductory Canadian Politics
  27. ^ Brian Salmi. "yo, csis, here's your chance". Rhinoceros Party of Canada. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  28. ^ Beth McKenzie (January 25, 1980). "Flora running scared, Rhino candidate claims". The Queen's Journal. 
  29. ^ Jonathan Yardley (February 24, 2005). "Low and Inside". Washington Post. p. CO2. 
  30. ^ "History of Federal Ridings since 1867". Parliament of Canada. 
  31. ^ Paul Hellyer (May 1, 1997). "Marginal characters – A guide to some of Canada's lesser-known political parties". Montreal Mirror. 
  32. ^ "Sa Tan Sues the Queen". lawiscool.com, September 29, 2007.
  33. ^ McLeod, Barbara (2007-10-12). "The democratically disenfranchised find a champion in Satan". Yukon News. Retrieved 2010-03-24. "One of the off-putting discoveries the department made about Salmi is that his real name is Sa Tan. He made the name change official to win the love of a sweet young thing who declared she would marry only the devil himself. She turned down his proposal." 
  34. ^ "Rhino party escapes extinction to run in September byelection". CBC News. 7 August 2007. Retrieved 2010-03-24. [dead link]
  35. ^ Sarah Babbage (September 13, 2007). "A new political animal is on the scene". The McGill Daily.