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Group aims to break record for longest ballot in LaSalle-Émard-Verdun

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Archives Le Devoir Sébastien Corriveau, leader of the Rhinoceros Party of Canada, on October 19, 2021, during polling day for the 2019 federal election

Voters in the Montreal riding of LaSalle-Émard-Verdun could have to choose between a hundred candidates, on a paper longer than one meter, as long as a sufficient number of Canadians add their name to a protest movement.

Sébastien Corriveau has made it his mission to recruit as many political adversaries as possible on the Internet, with a view to the next by-elections federal, which must be triggered by the end of the month.

“At our last performance, we had a ballot of 84 names in Toronto-St. Paul's: can we beat this record ?” he signs on the social network Reddit, under the alias Sébastien CoRhino, in reference to his position as leader of the Rhinoceros Party of Canada.

Its goal: to demonstrate through the absurd the problems posed by the current voting system. He hopes to have more than 100 candidates compete, in addition to himself, for the seat left vacant by the departure of former Justice Minister David Lametti. Joined by Le Devoir, he describes his approach as a “protest act”.

“We are in front an impasse, where the party that wins the elections has the leisure to write the electoral law. It's like we're playing a game, and the winner of the game writes the rules of the game. But here we're talking about Canadian democracy,” he protests.

Mr. Corriveau is one of a handful of volunteers in the cross-Canada Longest Ballot Committee campaign. This group managed to register 75 volunteers as candidates in the by-election in Toronto-St. Paul’s, which was held on June 24, bringing the total number of names on the ballot to 84. This is a federal record.

A long bulletin

The ballot that voters had to write an X on was massive. It measured 30 cm wide and 90 cm long (12 inches by 35.5 inches), adding to Elections Canada's burden of counting each one.

The latest results had to be published early in the morning, confirming the narrow victory of conservative candidate Don Stewart, by 633 votes, in what was considered a stronghold of Justin Trudeau's party. Experts believe that LaSalle-Émard-Verdun now represents a barometer to measure the resilience of Quebec's liberal strongholds.

Since it is not obligatory to appear there where one resides, any citizen over the age of 18, from anywhere in the country, is welcome to participate in the effort to force an even bigger ballot in that constituency. They are simply asked to complete the necessary paperwork, and volunteers will take care of obtaining the required 100 signatures from local voters for them.

“It’s a relatively simple process,” confirms Félix-Antoine Hamel, a 45-year-old musician from Lanaudière who was among the candidates from Toronto-St. Paul’s. He holds the record as the only federal candidate in Canadian history to have received no votes without withdrawing.

Moreover, no other candidate received more than 100 votes, excluding those representing the five largest national parties. Never mind, Sébastien Corriveau speaks of a “victory” that he immortalized by printing a giant version of the ridiculously long ballot paper. “It’s a work of art. I do administrative art,” he jokes, while agreeing that his approach may have upset several citizens.

None limit

In an email, Elections Canada specifies that there is no restriction on the number of candidates who can run in the election, since it is a fundamental right of every citizen. The institution is preparing to take stock of the actions it took to facilitate voting in the most recent by-election.

On social media, the committee Longest Ballot likes to take up an old publication by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau which assured that the 2015 elections would be the last under the first past the post system. The promise was abandoned in 2017. The one made by the Prime Minister of Quebec, François Legault, suffered the same fate in 2021.

“I understand their desire to move the issue forward for real voting reform. We are defending this position,” said Craig Sauvé, New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in LaSalle-Émard-Verdun. The Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Québécois have not yet nominated a candidate for this by-election, which must be held no later than September 4. The Prime Minister has until July 30 to call it.

Unlike Félix-Antoine Hamel, who plans to run in Montreal by encouraging voters not to vote for him, Mr. Corriveau is truly seeking “a one-year mandate,” until the next federal election, scheduled for October 2025 at the latest. “So do something special, send a rhinoceros MP to Parliament!” he said to conclude the interview.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116