Ontario Whitby-Oshawa byelection: none of the above? Or none of the above?
TORONTO – An upcoming provincial byelection east of Toronto is starting to vaguely resemble an Abbott and Costello skit.
One candidate legally changed his name to Above Znoneofthe so he appears last on the Whitby-Oshawa ballot, inviting voters to literally pick none of the above in both name and concept.
But what party does the candidate directly above him belong to?
None of the Above.
So will voters pick none of the above, the party, or none of the above, the person?
Neither, in all likelihood.
The long-held Tory seat was left vacant when Christine Elliott, a popular Progressive Conservative MPP, resigned in the summer and the byelection race is likely a race between the Tories and the governing Liberals. But the NDP is also out knocking on doors, hoping that a win in the neighbouring Oshawa riding in the 2014 general election is a sign of a tide change.
But the byelection candidates don’t end there.
Ten people are on the ballot for the Feb. 11 byelection, including perpetual also-ran John Turmel, who is contesting his 89th election, Libertarian and Freedom Party of Ontario candidates as well as a pastor whose byelection goal is to “bring back a consciousness of God into the lives of those who are oppressed, unemployed, homeless.”
The race has so far been flying under the radar since it won’t change the status of the majority Liberal government. And unlike the last two Ontario byelections, no party leader is vying for a seat.
But Znoneofthe is bringing national and even international attention to the Whitby-Oshawa race – he was contacted by Fox News and has seen mentions of his name change in the British press.
The man formerly known as Sheldon Bergson is hoping the media attention breaks the name change news to his parents for him – he hasn’t told them yet – but that it also makes people notice him as a candidate.
He ran once federally as an independent in Thornhill, Ont., where he lives, and “found out how hard it is to get any attention as an independent.”
“You have to have something to break through the noise,”
Znoneofthe said in an interview during a lunch break at his new job in customer service at a financial institution. He had to apply using his new name and said it took some explaining.
He originally planned to run under his new name in the 2015 federal election, in which names appear on the ballot as last name, first name. But he stuck with it, and got his driver’s licence and health card changed, for the provincial byelection anyway, where his name will appear as “Above Znoneofthe” on the ballot, but will still be at the bottom of the alphabetical list.
Directly above him will be Greg Vezina, leader of the None of the Above Party.
He isn’t thrilled with Znoneofthe’s candidacy, worried it will split the “none of the above” vote.
“The one problem of two of us being on the ballot is our combined vote may very well be more than the first place winner,”
Vezina said, though he admits the publicity surrounding his rival is raising awareness of voting none of the above.
“The fact that somebody is so upset that he would actually change his name is pretty telling.”
Douglas Thom, the Freedom Party candidate, agrees it will split the vote of people looking for non-traditional options.
“It definitely will especially since it has that gimmickiness of it,” he said. “People will see that and they’ll get that feral little look in their eye and say, ‘Haha, how ’bout this? Vote for nobody.”‘
Znoneofthe, with a single issue platform of tax rebates for Highway 407 tolls, realizes he is a long shot, but said winning would be a “bonus” to the name change.
“One of the lines I’m going to get out there is that my mother-in-law is furious,” he said with a chuckle. “So that made it worthwhile right there.”
© 2016 The Canadian Press