It's better to be behind a Rhino
than in front of one!1
Le Parti Rhinocéros offered the Canadian electorate an alternative to 'organized politics'. Little was organized about this spoof party and its activities. They were however media darlings, always good for a lighter side of the news bit.
The most fervent support for the Rhinoceros party was in Quebec, where the party got most of the 120,000 votes it collected in the 1980 federal election2. In some ridings there was a very real possibility that a Rhino candidate could win, and to prevent this the party would run two, or in one case three, candidates to split the vote. Candidates in some ridings came in second or third place, and in one infamous instance they took both second and third place.
The party's original 'leader' was founder Dr. Paul Ferron, but he delegated his powers to a baby rhinoceros named Cornelius3 when the latter was born to mom Susy at Quebec's Granby zoo. When Cornelius was later sent to a zoo in San Diego in trade for a giraffe, the Rhinos were mortified. They quickly reasoned that Cornelius was merely indulging in the Canadian national pastime of cross-border shopping in the U.S., and so that was OK.
One of the most famous episodes in the history of Le Parti Rhinoceros occurred when they declared war on the nation of Belgium. This was in response to an Asterix cartoon in which the title character hunted down and blew up a rhinoceros. The Belgian government took the situation under due consideration, and then had their Canadian ambassador tender an official apology at his residence, accompanied by a few cases of Belgian beer and mussels. The Rhinos immediately declared the Belgians capital fellows, called off the war, and they and the ambassador enjoyed the beer. They had such a good time that they promised to declare war more often!
Other Parti Rhinoceros policies of note:
- Making the pop bottle the official currency of Canada as the value went up five times in ten years3;
- Other currency proposals including bubble gum and the venerable stubby;
- Paving the Bay of Fundy to create more parking in the Maritimes;
- Demolishing the Rockies and using the resulting gravel to make a national nature trail;
- Repealing the Law of Gravity;
- Nuclear-powered toothbrushes;
- Returning to the English custom of driving on the left. This plan would be phased in gradually, with only truck and buses switching in year one.
The party disappeared from the Canadian political picture in 1993 when the Mulroney government passed a bill (C-114) which required candidates to post a $1000 deposit to get onto the ballot, and removed official party status from any organization that ran less than 50 candidates. The Rhinos, hobbyists all, were unable to meet these requirements and were forced to yield the field.
A short history5 of Parti Rhinocéros federal candidacy
27th Parliament: The first record of an election contested by Le Parti Rhinocéros was for the 27th parliament. A single candidate, Denis Bosse, ran in the riding of BEAUHARNOIS—SALABERRY and got 321 votes. In a subsequent 1979 by-election, student F.L.M. Bonnier ran in OUTREMONT—ST-JEAN and got 118 votes.
28th Parliament: A single Rhino candidate, Robert Charlebois, ran in LONGUEUIL and amassed 354 votes.
29th Parliament: A single Rhino candidate, Réginald Martel, ran in OUTREMONT and amassed 1,565 votes, better than 3 other candidates. Roughly a dozen other Rhino candidates ran as well, but were not recognized as such by Elections Canada.
31st Parliament: 63 Rhinos ran in 62 ridings, including 2 candidates in SAINT-HYACINTHE (Mario Bousquet, 444 votes; Serge André Lemoyne, 361 votes).
Rhinos ran mostly in Quebec, but also in 3 Ontario ridings: PETERBOROUGH and Toronto's ST. PAUL'S and BEACHES. A Rhino also contested British Columbia's CAPILANO riding. Most Rhino candidates in this election received between 500 and 2,000 votes.
32nd Parliament: Again Quebec fielded a full slate of Rhinos, plus some from Ontario, BC, Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick, and even the Northwest Territories.
121 candidates ran in 113 ridings, as the Rhinos ran 'double candidates' in MANICOUAGAN, SHERBROOKE, KAMOURASKA--RIVIÈRE-DU-LOUP, BONAVENTURE—ÎLES-DE-LA-MADELEINE, SPADINA and GLOUCESTER NB, and three candidates in Labelle (Gaston Collin, 664; Jean-Marie Morin, 580;Richard Amouthd Gagnon, 331). Again most Rhino candidates in this election received between a few hundred and 2,000 votes.
In LAURIER, Sonia Chatouille Coté came 2nd with 3,067 votes, and in LANGELIER Jean Obelix Lefebvre came 2nd with 2,813 votes, each beating both the mainstream NDP and PC candidates.
33rd Parliament: 89 candidates contested 89 ridings (presumably Elections Canada ruled against "double candidates"). Yukon and Saskatchewan candidates joined the fun. In a more serious election, Rhino candidates usually polled less than 1,000 votes, and finished no better than 4th in any riding.
34th Parliament: 74 candidates contested 74 ridings, polling a few hundred votes, or in a few cases more than 1,000 but less than 2,000.
39th Parliament: In a sign of possible new life for the party, 2 "Neo" Rhino candidates contested by-elections in September 2007.
- From Stew Showers' official 1980 campaign ad (London West)
- "Who's making a mockery of election, rhino chief asks", Toronto Star, July 16, 1984
- "Top Rhino has point", London Free Press, February 2 1980.
- "Beery-eyed Rhino wants Olympics at Toronto restaurant", London Free Press, February 16, 1980.
- All data in this paragraph from the Canadian Library of Parliament web site, http://www.parl.gc.ca (external link)