It’s not all about winning for Ontario’s fringe parties

You see them on every ballot, but hardly ever on TV debates or in election results.

The Freedom, Libertarian and Communist parties are just some of the lesser-known contenders running candidartes in the Oct. 6 provincial election. Besides the Progressive Conservatives, Liberals and NDPers, there are 18 other political parties registered with Elections Ontario.

Despite their apparent lack of electoral success, at least some continue to be hopeful.

“We’re getting a little more attention,” said Jim McIntosh, treasurer of the Ontario Libertarian Party. “I’m not sure why but in this year alone, we’ve had more inquiries and new members than we’ve had in the previous two years.”

“We’re just hoping to get our platform out there,” said Matthew Oliver, the Freedom Party of Ontario’s candidate in Scarborough-Guildwood. “Having gone around door-to-door, I know that a lot of people agree with what the Freedom Party is saying.

“I do hope that the Freedom Party is going to get a couple of seats in this election, but it’s really hard to predict.”

While the mainstream parties run to win, the smaller parties have other reasons to participate in elections, said University of Toronto political studies professor Chrisopher Cochrane.

“I think they run to bring attention to a cause, they run to try to shape the way an issue is talked about,” Cochrane said.

“I doubt deep down that any of them actually believe that they’re going to become a major political force,” he added, “but they may well believe that by running in an election, by getting their message out, they’re able to influence a public opinion on how people perceive issues.”

It’s more of an ideological competition, Cochrane explained, citing the example of the Green Party, which has had limited success electorally but has succeeded in drawing attention to environmental issues.

“They do reasonably well in terms of how they define their goals by getting existing political actors to pay attention to issues they’re concerned about,” he said.

Scarborough Centre Green candidate Jeff Mole said his party is concerned with the Liberal project of privatizing Ontarian waterfalls. It’s an area where Green MPPs can make a difference in if a minority government is elected in Ontario, he said.

As a relatively new player — it registered as an official political party in Ontario on 1983 — there are obstacles the Green Party faces. It doesn’t have the resources that older parties have, Mole said, and TV leaders’ debates only have time for three parties because of their tight, slick program packaging.

Cochrane agreed the electoral system is not supportive of newer parties and the media focuses almost entirely on mainstream parties. A smaller party’s influence is limited, he said.

“[But] the NDP is a bit of an anomaly in that regard,” Cochrane said.

Still, Mole said he thinks his party is getting there.

“We’ve been recognized through the TVO events they’ve been holding,” he said. “We’ve been included in all of their conversations at TVO.”

Niloufar Sadroddini, a 22-year-old political science student at Ryerson University and a Liberal voter, said she’s never felt curious about other parties.

“[When voting on the ballot] I saw a couple of random parties but I only just ignore it,” she said.

McIntosh explained the Libertarian Party is running because it believes there should be less government involved in people’s lives.

The government passes hundreds of laws every year and imposes thousands of regulations on businesses, farmers and individuals, he said. That sort of intrusion, he said, hurts business. He pointed to the province’s smoking ban in bars, which he said resulted in a number of them going out of business.

“Why bother [going] to a bar if you can’t smoke while having a beer?” McIntosh asked.