Voters in the Winnipeg riding of Saint Boniface-Saint Vital have 21 candidates to choose from on federal election day — with most of them encouraged by a competitor to draw attention to an abandoned Liberal Party pledge to reform Canada's electoral system.
Sébastien CoRhino, the leader of resurgent Rhinoceros Party, helped organize an effort to ensure more than a dozen independent candidates wound up on the Saint Boniface-Saint Vital ballot, which he hopes will be one metre long. He's also running himself, though he lives in Rimouski, Que.
"We have a big problem in our democracy," said the Rhino Party leader, speaking via Zoom from his home.
"We have two political parties that have been the government of Canada for 150 years. It's very easy for the Conservatives and the Liberals to elect MPs, and it's very hard for other parties."
CoRhino, who also goes by the name of Sébastien Corriveau, said he was motivated to induce a lengthy list of independents to run after the Liberal Party of Canada failed to follow through on a campaign pledge to get rid of the first-past-the-post electoral system.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised the 2015 election would be last with decisions made under the system, which favours larger parties.
That pledge was abandoned even though a committee produced a report recommending electoral reform.
"It's a very beautiful report. They just took the report and threw it in the garbage. I was so mad about it," he said, arguing in favour of some form of proportional representation.
"Almost one million people voted for the Green Party [in 2019] and it was a real struggle for them to get three MPs. They should have 25 MPs inside parliament right now. So why don't we see all these people that voted Greens in the last election? They should be mad."
Liberal candidate Dan Vandal, who has represented Saint Boniface-Saint Vital since his party seized power in 2015, dismissed this activism from the Rhino Party, which perennially promises not to keep any of its own promises.
"They're not a serious party. They're a fringe party and for some reason or another they think this is amusing," Vandal said earlier this week. "They're making a point nobody understands."
Some other candidates in the riding, however, say the point is eminently clear.
NDP candidate Meghan Waters said the long ballot will draw voters' attention to the Liberals' decision to abandon their pledge to make 2015 the last federal election with a first-past-the-post voting system.
"I think it'll be an important reminder for people right before they cast their vote to maybe vote with their conscience and not support a party that doesn't honour their promises," Waters said.
Green candidate Laurent Poliquin said he's open to the statement the Rhinos are making.
"We want some democratic change," he said. In his view, both the Liberals and Conservatives should be concerned by the long ballot.
Conservative candidate Shola Agboola declined requests for comment.
CoRhino said he chose to make a statement in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital because of the riding's history and the federal government's betrayal of the Métis after Manitoba entered confederation.
He said he regrets he won't get the chance to travel to Manitoba to campaign in the riding.
"I will go there someday, but not now."