Well, we’ve got another federal election upon us. We started with a Liberal minority, and it looks like we will, again, get another Liberal minority. But, until the votes are counted that becomes a certainty, we’re going to be faced with a few more weeks of TV ads where the Liberals defend their record, and everyone else attacks the Liberals. It’s enough to drive a man batty. It makes one long for the good old days of the Rhino party.
Certainly, you’ve heard of the Rhino party. They were rather big in their day. Sadly, though, they’ve long since faded away. It’s a shame, too, as they fell apart right when I was starting to turn legal age. As that is the case, it’s a fair bet that you’ve never heard of them either. I’m no Pierre Burton, but let me attempt to give you a history lesson.
The Rhinoceros Party of Canada was founded in 1963 by separatist Dr. Jacques Ferron. But, they gained prominence in the 70’s when several artists joined the party and they moved their platform towards one of outlandish political satire. Their party leader was Cornelius the First, a rhino from Montreal’s Granby Zoo. The party always claimed that the rhino was the ideal symbol for a political party, as politicians are “thick-skinned, slow-moving, dim-witted, can move fast as hell when in danger, and have large, hairy horns in the middle of their faces.”
But, what made them well-known were their election promises. As they were fond of saying, their party platform was two feet high and made of wood. They promised that, if elected, they would break all promises that they made, and they admitted that they freely stole that from every other party. Here’s some of their more famous promises:
– repeal the law of gravity
– reduce the speed of light, because light is far too fast
– provide higher education by building taller schools
– dismantle the Rocky Mountains so Alberta could enjoy the Pacific sunset
– Legalize pot. And pans. And other kitchen utensils.
– Build sloping bike paths across the country so people could “coast from coast to coast.”
– Abolish the environment because it’s far too big and tough to keep clean
– Adopt the British system of driving on the left side of the road. This plan was to be phased in over five years, starting with trucks and buses, then finally small cars.
– Put the national debt on Visa
– Make Canadians stronger by spiking the water supply with steroids
– Banning winter
– Moving the Vatican to Quebec to promote tourism<br< -=”” putting=”” west=”” edmonton=”” mall=”” on=”” wheels=”” so=”” it=”” could=”” go=”” to=”” parts=”” of=”” the=”” country=”” where=”” economy’s=”” not=”” good.=”” <br=””>
This is my favourite one, though. They also promised to declare war on Belgium because the Belgium-created comic book character Tintin once killed a rhino. They also promised to call of this war if Belgium gave them a case of mussels and a case of Belgium beer. Playing along with the joke, the Belgian Embassy delivered the goods.
The party actually did quite well, even though they never one a seat. They often came in fourth in national polls; far behind the Liberals, the Tories, and the NDP, but still further ahead than other, well-established third parties. In some of the bigger cities, it was also not uncommon for one riding to have the Rhino candidate come in second.
Sadly, though, the Rhino party disbanded in 1993. New federal regulations governing the conditions for party registration – such as having to field 50 candidates at $1000 per candidate – made them ineligible for registration. They survive in spirit, though, in several smaller, unregistered parties, such as Quebec’s Parti Citron or the Absolutely Absurd Party. The Rhino Party did make a brief return in 2001 in the BC Provincial Election. None of their candidates appeared on the ballot, though, as none of the candidates could afford the $100 registration fee.
They always provided a breath of fresh air in election campaigns; something to take the wind out of all the pomp and circumstance. And maybe that’s why they’re no longer around. As the 90’s progressed, we got glutted with our fair share of political sarcasm. You see it on pretty much every CBC comedy. And now, with the Prime Minister regularly participating in bits on The Rick Mercer Report and the Leader of the Opposition popping up on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, they’ve also gotten very good at laughing at themselves. The entire political process has elevated to the Rhino Party’s level.
So, as much fun as it would be to have someone down at the candidate’s forum making outlandish promises, we don’t need them. Everyone makes outlandish promises. We don’t need the Rhino Party anymore. We’ve got four of them.