VANCOUVER - Alexandra Halliday seems slightly offended by the suggestion that her B.C. Excalibur Party may not win a seat in the provincial election next week.
The Abbotsford-area organic farmer and small business owner says her upstart party's campaign may be "run on a shoestring," but she believes it will appeal to enough of the nearly 50 per cent of voters who avoided the polls in the last provincial election to send a member to the legislature.
"Basically, 85 per cent of people say I don't know (who I'll vote for). ... We get the same old promises from the big parties, there's no one to really vote for because we don't believe the promises any more. They're never kept," says Halliday, a 47-year-old mother of eight.
"It was really voter dissatisfaction, for the most part."
Of the 16 parties on the ballot that could be considered on the political fringe, the Excalibur Party does have the best odds, with a pack-leading six candidates, including Halliday's husband, Michael, who is running in Chilliwack.
Formed just a few months ago and based on the Arthurian Round Table principles of "truth, honour and justice," the Excalibur party paid a $250 nomination deposit to Elections BC for each candidate and submitted papers with the signatures of at least 75 eligible voters in each riding.
"The cost is not outrageous if somebody is truly dedicated to run," Halliday said.
Jodie Emery disagrees.
The wife of B.C. Marijuana Party founder Marc Emery is running under the Green party banner this election, due in part to the cost of mounting a campaign. The Marijuana Party has just two candidates running in order to maintain registered party status.
"But I've told them 'you guys have no money, no resources.' We don't even have the website updated because we just don't have the means," says Emery, the Green candidate in Vancouver-West End.
The Emerys have spent millions of dollars from a marijuana seed business on the Marijuana party and other legalization campaigns, and Emery says the work and time and money has, without doubt, helped get put legalization on the political agenda.
In 2009, 28,284 votes were cast for independent candidates and "other" parties in B.C. of the 1.65 million ballots counted. A vote for a Libertarian or Communist or Marijuana party candidate gives voters another option to staying home, she says.
"Voters then feel their vote at least has value as a message, even though they know who's going to win the game," she says.
There are 376 candidates vying for votes on May 14, representing 19 registered political parties, among them the B.C. Libertarian Party, the Communist Party of B.C., the Helping Hand Party and the Platinum Party of Employers Who Think and Act to Increase Awareness. The Work Less Party is still in, but the headline-making Sex Party from 2009 is out.
There are 35 independent candidates and 11 listed as candidates with no affiliation.
The B.C. Social Credit Party, once a powerhouse in B.C. politics that formed governments for decades, has just one candidate and it appears it won't be getting an endorsement from the former leader.
Former Social Credit Premier Bill Vander Zalm is endorsing spurned B.C. Conservative Mischa Popoff, according to his campaign manager, who sent out a statement Friday saying the man known for his megawatt smile was endorsing Popoff in Boundary-Similkameen.
Popoff, who was dumped over newspaper columns he wrote about single mothers and the missing women inquiry came to light that Conservative Leader John Cummins described as disrespectful and unacceptable, has become one of the most talked-about candidates in the current campaign.
The founder of the defunct Individual Rights Party of BC and Conservative cast-off announced he would stay on the slate as a independent candidate, and he did it with style in a homemade YouTube video.
His four-minute appeal, entitled "Mischa Popoff Will Not Be Bullied" and featuring Popoff being head-butted by a friendly young bull with an awkward predilection for licking the back of Popoff's jeans, has been viewed more than 23,000 times since he posted the video five days ago.
Halliday says social media has levelled the playing field for alternative parties like her Excalibur party. Their own social media campaign includes a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a tab for online donations through PayPal and their own YouTube channel that features a video montage of Frank the cat.
A poll released last month by EKOS said fringe parties may make some headway this election in B.C., where the Liberals and New Democrats have held a lock on the Legislature since 1996.
"There is strong evidence that British Columbians are beginning to consider political alternatives," the pollster said in its April 12 report.
"The growth of support for newer parties may well reflect growing fatigue with the mainstream political parties of old and the fragmentation of a rapidly pluralising society."
Of course, by "fringe" they meant the B.C. Green Party and the B.C. Conservatives, a moniker rejected by both.
"The Greens have always suffered from being seen as a tree-hugging, hippie party," says Emery, but they have a broad platform and, she believes, a good chance of electing their first MLA on May 14.
"If we can get just one Green into the legislature they can start demanding a look at those books."