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Dan Brown

The Heirs of the Rhino Party
June 19, 2004

Dan Brown
Dan Brown  

No, it's not you. This year's election actually is less fun than the elections of yesteryear.

And there's one obvious reason why this is the case: the Rhino Party no longer exists.

To voters of a certain age, that name will bring back fond memories. Until it disbanded in 1993, the Rhinoceros Party injected a much-needed dose of silliness into this country's federal-election campaigns. The party once famously promised to pave Manitoba if it formed the government, thus creating the world's largest parking lot. It also pledged to tear down the Rocky Mountains so people in Alberta could see the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, and to sell the Senate at an antique action.

It's true that the campaign of 2004 has generated a few chuckles. But while the idea of Stephen Harper forming an alliance with the Bloc Qu�b�cois may seem unintentionally absurd, the Rhino platform was humorous on purpose. And although it failed to ever send an MP to Ottawa, the fringe party did succeed in making Canadians laugh at the nation's political system.

For Canadians who feel nostalgic for the Rhino Party, there's some good news: there is at least one party - the Lemon Party of Canada - that is attempting to carry on the tradition of irreverence started by the Rhinos.

So what does the Lemon Party stand for? "We believe in zest," says Loren Hicks, a Toronto Lemon supporter. "We think there should be more zest in Canadian politics."

The party was established in Quebec in the 1980s and branched out into federal politics with the 2000 vote. As its name suggests, the party's members share an obsession with, well, lemons. In fact, they believe that Canada's economy should be restructured so that it is based on lemon production. Apparently lemons are the wave of the future.

"The growth of lemon consumption and lemon importation over the last 40 years is absolutely staggering," explains Jean-Simon Poirier, a Lemon spokesman in Gatineau, Que.

Because Poirier and his fellow "lemonistas" want Canada to become the world's pre-eminent lemon superpower, this means they are actually in favour of global warming. "Climate change is an important part of the Lemon Party platform," says Hicks. "We think Canada ought to be warm enough to grow lemon trees."

Which isn't to say that the Lemon Party doesn't have non-lemon planks in its platform. "We've talked about merging the Great Lakes," says Poirier. "It's more efficient, I think. It makes sense." The Lemons are also proposing to abolish Toronto, which Poirier admits may be just a crass ploy to capitalize on the prejudices of voters outside Canada's largest city.

Hicks, who was a Rhino member when he lived in Montreal in the 1970s, thinks that the Lemons should also adopt an old Rhino policy: repealing the law of gravity.

"I don't believe that the federal government has any business interfering in the laws of physics or thermodynamics. It's not a federal jurisdiction," he says.

When asked how he originally became involved with the Rhino movement, Hicks draws a blank: "I think there was alcohol involved. I'm not exactly sure I remember."

The Lemon Party's leader is Pope Terence the First, a colourful character who may or may not actually exist. According to Poirier, Terence is "sort of a mystical, mythical person" who doesn't spend much time in Canada. "The interesting thing about him is he's never in the country. He's always touring around other countries," he says, adding that at present Terence is visiting southwestern Siberia.

One of Terence's first acts as leader was to propose a merger with the newly formed Conservative party. "A lot of silly people vote for the Conservatives and a lot of silly people vote for us. And if we just joined together, we could keep the silly vote together and win," says Poirier.

What will prevent the Lemons from forming the government this time around, however, is not vote-splitting; it's the fact that they did not fill out the requisite paperwork in time. They thought the deadline for registering candidates was June 9, when in reality it was two days prior to that. Poirier says the party intends to get the rules changed through legal action: "It's going to be a bit like Gore against Bush. So we're going to drag it to the Supreme Court."

And he admits that the party has only itself to blame for the predicament. "We're not very organized. We're like Liberals," he says.

Since they won't have candidates of their own, the Lemons are going to support, in Hicks' words, "one egregious fool" among the other parties' candidates in each riding. Poirier says the candidates will be selected based on the size of their noses: "It affects what people think of candidates and it's close to our values. We find it very important."

But does Poirier really think the Lemons can come to power in this way?

"If Jack Layton says he can form a government, so can we."

Past Columns
Dan Brown is news online's senior arts editor/reporter. A former editorial writer, copy editor and journalism instructor, Dan has degrees from three universities.

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