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Marginal characters

A guide to some of Canada’s lesser-known political parties

In 1993 the government of Kim Campbell, concerned about the rise of Reform and other grassroots movements, attempted to clamp down on the rise of new political parties­and to kill off some of the old ones. The result: a new Elections Act that requires candidates to pay a $1,000 deposit to run for office, and parties to run at least 50 candidates in order to be officially recognized–otherwise, donations cannot be deducted on tax returns.

As a result of these draconian measures, the Rhinoceros Party will be boycotting this election, robbing the campaign of its sense of humour. But many other smaller parties will still be on the ballot, tax-deductible donations or not. From the loopy to the revolutionary, Canada does offer a wide range of political choices–provided you’re willing to step out of the mainstream.

Canadian Action Party

Usually you might expect new political parties to be started by either a political junkie (à la Mel Hurtig) or a policy wonk (à la Preston Manning). But Paul Hellyer, leader of the new Canadian Action Party (CAP), has a pretty impressive résumé: he’s a former cabinet minister in the Trudeau, Pearson and St. Laurent (!) governments.

The 73-year-old Hellyer came out of retirement because “the Liberals are no longer Liberals. I never thought I would live to see the day. Paul Martin’s father must be rolling in his grave. Three conservative parties in this country is two more than we need.”

The main plank of CAP’s platform is a promise to beef up the Bank of Canada’s role in the economy. Hellyer would have the Central Bank create $10 billion of new money, give 50 per cent to the provinces and use the rest for federal programs. “Right now,” Hellyer says, “all new money in the economy is created by private banks–and all that money is created as debt. Whoever manufactures the money has the power.”

If this platform sounds complicated, that’s because it is. To help explain himself, Hellyer sank $270,000 of his own money to produce a comic book that explains what he’s talking about. To order one, call (416) 535-4144. Philip Preville

Green Party

Parties who come out against industry and against the very concept of economic growth are not exactly cash magnets. During the last federal election, the Green Party campaigned with $970,000–about 10 per cent of what the Liberals spent. “It’s very difficult to make money in this society if you criticize government and industry,” says Green Party leader Joan Russow, almost naïvely. “This has got to change.”

The Green Party stands for environmental and social justice, human rights, preventing armed conflict (it calls for a 50-per-cent reduction in military spending) and creating socially equitable and environmentally sound jobs. It also advocates “limits to growth” in the economy, and this, more than any other policy, makes it a very different animal from the NDP, whose funding comes in large part from private-sector unions.

While the Green Party’s strongholds are in B.C. and Ontario, Russow will be in Quebec this week to drum up some candidates. Interested people should call her at (250) 598-0071. Jacquie Charlton

Communist Party of Canada

As a gift for the Communist Party of Canada (CPC)’s 75th anniversary this year, leader Miguel Figueroa simply wishes not to be associated with some of the more hardcore musings of that other Communist party, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). “Some people find it necessary to wear a hammer and sickle on their foreheads,” Figueroa says, “but we don’t.”

The CPC’s platform for this campaign is far more reformist than it is revolutionary. Their key issue: implementing a mandatory four-day (32-hour) workweek, with no loss of pay or benefits. He’s already prepared for the criticism. “People will say, ‘Oh, businesses won’t invest here if we do that.’ But they said the same thing when we went to the five-day workweek at the turn of the century and things went just fine.”

Figueroa says that as profits rise while total employment falls, the shorter workweek is the only answer. “The real question is: who will benefit from the fruits of labour-saving industrial technology, corporations or labour?”

With only 15 candidates across the country, the CPC will have only one candidate in Quebec. Figueroa doesn’t know who yet, but he knows where: Laurier/Ste-Marie, the riding currently held by former Communist Gilles Duceppe. Philip Preville

Canadian National Alliance

Ken Fernandez is the political junkie’s political junkie. At age 28, this recent McGill law graduate has his own political consulting company, knows the policy process inside out, leads his own nascent political party and does skilled impressions of both Jean Chrétien and Pierre Trudeau. “I even did Trudeau for Trudeau when I met him,” Fernandez says.

By his description, the Canadian National Alliance (CNA) is a group of “Trudeauite Liberals” who have banded together to promote the old man’s ideas about national unity and nationhood itself.

The CNA stands firmly against distinct society status for Quebec and sees decentralization as part of the dismantling of Canada. Some of his arguments are compelling; others, well… not so compelling. “The federal government won the 1995 referendum by only two percentage points on purpose, in order to shove distinct society down our throats,” he says. “I don’t buy the idea that the feds were surprised by the results. Chrétien has over 30 years of political experience. He had to know what was going on.” Philip Preville

Natural Law Party

Natural Law leader Neil Patterson is unsure whether or not magician Doug Henning, his star candidate in the 1993 election, will run this year. But one thing is for sure: if Natural Law ever formed a government, Patterson would be the most “intelligent” Prime Minister Canada ever had. He is, after all, a PhD in the Science of Creative Intelligence–a discipline created by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi himself.

“We believe that all human consciousness emerges from the pure, unified field of natural law,” Dr. Patterson says. “Transcendental meditation and yogic flying help tap into natural law, and their widespread application has positive effects on all surrounding human consciousness.

“These techniques have been scientifically proven to reduce crime, prevent illness and improve economic performance. These are all the responsibilities of government, and government is a phenomenon of knowledge; hence, we believe the government has an obligation to use natural law.”

I mention to Dr. Patterson that the increased use of heroin has also been proven to reduce crime. He remains impervious. “If I had told you 100 years ago that we would be able to talk on a phone across vast distances, you would have thought I should be put in a mental institution or something.” He apparently has no idea what I’m thinking right now. Philip Preville