Canadian election's kooky candidates hope to woo disillusioned voters
'If we take everything too seriously, we're kind of missing the point,' says independent candidate
Humour is being injected into the election campaign by some candidates hoping to woo disenchanted voters.
In Halifax, one of the city's most unlikely parties has used humour in municipal, provincial and federal elections to bring attention to the issue of animal welfare.
The Tuxedo Party's Earl Grey isn't your average candidate. Firstly, he's not actually on the ballot. Secondly, he's a cat.
- Halifax cat Earl Grey wants to be your prime minister
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But don't count him out. When Earl Grey "ran" for premier of Nova Scotia in 2013, he successfully convinced the government to beef up the Animal Protection Act and revise it to include the word "cat."
When his litter mate, Tuxedo Stan, ran for mayor of Halifax in 2012, he got endorsed by American celebrities Anderson Cooper and Ellen Degeneres and was a key force in establishing a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in the city.
The Tuxedo Party, which has successfully capitalized on the Internet's obsession with cats, has more than 24,000 likes on its official Facebook page. By comparison, the actual MP for Halifax, New Democrat Megan Leslie, has about 11,000.
Hugh Chisholm, Earl Grey's owner and campaign manager, says there's fun to be had at campaign headquarters, but the five-year-old feline has a serious mission.
"Some people have said they will vote for him," says Chisholm. "I suspect some people will be spoiling their ballots and really we don't want to see that happen, that's not our mission here.
"Really the thing we want to see is people vote for the candidate who they think will take Earl's message and work with it."
Earl Grey is among a number of candidates using humour in hopes of snapping apathetic voters out of their election daze.
Riding a goose and slaying dragons
On the west coast, Mission, B.C., man Wyatt Scott makes his political intentions known. From straddling a giant, flying a Canada goose to slaying a dragon, he's a self-described serious person and patriot who wants to get people out to vote.
"I'm an independent candidate and I'm here to fight for Canada!" bellows Scott in his viral campaign video, which has more than 1.4 million views on his official YouTube channel.
Scott is seeking election in the riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon on Oct. 19.
And while he's quick to point out that he's a serious candidate running on a serious platform, Scott says Canadians — in the home stretch of the longest and costliest campaign in 143 years — could use the chuckle.
"If we take everything too seriously, we're kind of missing the point," says the 38-year-old businessman and father of one.
Besides, he asks, who takes politicians seriously anyway?
'It's mainly fear that drives politicians'
Political scientist Jim Bickerton offers up a simple answer: politicians. Politicians take themselves seriously.
Bickerton says there was more room in federal politics for humour and fringe parties such as the Marijuana or Rhinoceros parties in the 1970s and 80s when the main parties were centrist-oriented and shared more similarities than now. Today's political landscape is more polarizing.
"It's mainly fear that drives politicians — fear of making mistakes, fear of not being taken seriously, fear of being ridiculed by their opponents," says Bickerton, a professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.
"I think that largely explains why they're reluctant to make fun of themselves or take themselves less seriously than they appear to, although I think the public would enjoy it."
The satirical Rhinoceros Party has made scattered appearances on the campaign trail since the early 1960s. This year, under new party leader Sebastien Corriveau, the party is running candidates in at least four provinces including about 18 in Quebec.
"Right now in 2015, it's really important because we have some people who say and do whatever they want in Ottawa, and at the same moment, we have a lot people who really don't care about politics," says Corriveau, 30, who's on the ballot in the Quebec riding of Rimouski-Neigette-Temiscouata-Les Basques.
'Someone cares that you don't care'
Voters have grown disillusioned and the Rhinoceros Party knows it.
"Someone cares that you don't care," says Corriveau.
But, he adds, Canadians seem to like it: "Most people laugh, most people really encourage us."
For his part, Scott says he also had reservations about his own humour-filled campaign, but ultimately figures voters are smart enough to recognize the sincerity within.
And he says Canadians shouldn't be surprised if more politicians start taking a page out of his book and try to engage voters with laughter.
"There's so much cynicism and critiquing with politicians and politics nowadays," he says. "I think this is a breath of fresh air."