TORONTO — Ontario's election is all but down to two parties, if the polls are correct, but more than two dozen are actually competing, including those targeting the vegan vote, the anti-sex-ed vote and the no-vote vote.
Beyond the usual Progressive Conservative, NDP and Liberal suspects exists a grab bag of minor and fringe parties, some of which can only hope to garner a few handfuls of votes but still gamely vie for voters' attention as an alternative to the big three.
The Trillium Party captured a few headlines last year after a controversial Progressive Conservative politician left that party and joined Trillium. It means they can claim a sitting member, though with the party not having enough seats for official party status in the legislature, Jack MacLaren technically sat as an independent.
The party is against a carbon tax, against the Liberals' sex-ed curriculum and wants the private sector involved in the sale of marijuana.
Trillium Party president Bob Yaciuk said his party wants the votes of people who are disenchanted with the mainstream options.
"I can almost say for certain that if you are planning on voting in the election then you're probably not going to be voting for us. What we're doing is we're garnering our votes from the people who said it's not worthwhile to vote," he said.
"People aren't caring anymore and the question has to be: why don't they care? It's because they don't believe their voice is being heard anymore."
What we're doing is we're garnering our votes from the people who said it's not worthwhile to vote.Bob Yaciuk
Also looking for the disenfranchised vote is the None of the Above Direct Democracy Party. Among their star candidates are G20 protester Adam Nobody, whose complaint about a police officer's conduct led to a criminal assault conviction for the officer, and a man who legally changed his name to Above Znoneofthe so he could appear last in an alphabetical list of candidates on a ballot.
"I just think it's great to have more options — part of a democracy," Znoneofthe said of his party. "People have a really tough time making up their mind. They can decline their ballot or they can vote none of the above, thanks to the None of the Above party and myself."
He has run in several byelections as Above Znoneofthe and says this election will be the last before returning to his birth name — unless he wins.
"I figured I've still got the name, so I'm going to take one last kick at the can with that name," he said. "If that's what happens after you run too many times — you turn into John Turmel — then no thanks."
Turmel holds the Guinness World Record for most elections contested. He has run more than 90 times.
Joining Turmel's Pauper Party of Ontario with parties running only two candidates — out of 124 ridings — are the Canadian Economic Party, the Go Vegan party, the Multicultural Party of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Confederation of Regions Party, the Ontario Social Reform Party, the Party of Objective Truth and a Stop Climate Change Party.
Other parties on some ballots include a party that bemoans the state of processed food and says cats know better than humans what is edible, a party that decries the notion of privilege and transgender rights, and one whose education platform calls for manners and courtesy in school and suggests mandatory uniforms in public schools.
Green party got 5 per cent of the vote
Associate political science professor Laura Stephenson said people support minor and fringe parties because they really believe in their platform, even if the party has no chance of winning. She distinguishes the Green party as a minor one, not fringe. They got nearly five per cent of the popular vote in 2014 and are running a full slate of candidates.
Some parties are single-issue parties, and they attract people with a strong view on that topic, said the Western University professor.
"If they can get that issue listened to, if they can make enough noise that one of the main party candidates, let's say, picks up the issue itself, then maybe that's the goal," Stephenson said.
That's exactly the aim of Queenie Yu's Stop the New Sex-Ed Agenda party.
She ran as an independent in the 2016 Scarborough-Rouge River byelection and said her activism pushed then-leader Patrick Brown to clarify his stance on the sex-ed curriculum. She supported Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Tanya Granic Allen in that race, and said Granic Allen's vocal opposition to the sex-ed curriculum forced all the candidates to take positions on it.
"Our goal isn't to win a seat at Queen's Park, but to send a message to those who are at Queen's Park and to influence them," Yu said.