OTTAWA — Mike Taffarel can't recall how many federal elections he has run in as a candidate in the northern Ontario city of Sault Ste. Marie. The retired steelworker first ran federally in 1979 when Joe Clark became prime minister, and then missed an election or two in between then and now. Taffarel has never won. Running for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada doesn't grab him a lot of votes. Four years ago, the 63-year-old Taffarel received the fewest votes of any candidate in the 2011 federal election. Nonetheless, he's back again. "We don't chase after individual votes," he said. "Our job is to get our voice heard and to get people activated and motivated and thinking politically." Taffarel is one of 364 candidates from smaller parties who are hoping to make a dent at the ballot box on Monday. In the 2011 election, those parties fielded 285 candidates who received a total of 129,703 votes combined, or just under one per cent of the popular vote. In 2011, 38 people cast their ballots for Taffarel — the fewest of any of the 1,587 candidates who ran for federal office, according to Elections Canada data. He got 0.1 per cent of the votes in Sault Ste. Marie. By comparison, the candidate who received the most votes in 2011 was Conservative Jason Kenney with 48,173, or 76.3 per cent. Stephen Harper received 42,998 votes, or 75.1 per cent of the vote in his riding. (The showing was even worse than when Taffarel ran in 2008: In that election, he pulled in 81 votes, or 0.2 per cent of the popular vote. Taffarel was 15th lowest in the country in '08. In 2006, Taffarel earned 59 votes — 10th worst in the country.) Taffarel admits he is unlikely to win, given the uphill battle small parties face under the first-past-the-post system where the candidate with the most votes in a riding wins that seat, even if they don't receive the support of the majority of voters. The Conservatives are promising to introduce legislation that would require a national referendum if any future government wanted to make electoral reforms. The Liberals and NDP, though, have promised to make this election that last one run under the current system: The NDP want Canada to move to proportional representation, while the Liberals want to study that alternative along with ranked ballots. "We still have to participate in the process until it's changed eventually, hopefully," Taffarel said of smaller parties.
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