Group of political activists plan to flood by-election ballot in Winnipeg

A group of political activists is planning to flood the ballot in a federal by-election in Winnipeg with more than 60 independent candidates in protest of Canada’s current electoral system.

The list of candidates running in the Winnipeg South Centre by-election is growing. As of Thursday evening, a total of 22 candidates have registered to run – all but four are running as independents.

Former Winnipeg mayoral candidate Christopher Clacio is one of them. He expects that number to keep on growing.

He, along with 17 other independent candidates who all have the same official agent, is part of a group called the Longest Ballot Committee – a group that loads ballots in federal elections as an act of protest of Canada’s current first-past-the-post electoral system.

“The whole point of the Longest Ballot Initiative is to talk about electoral reform,” Clacio said.

READ MORE: First-past-the-post: The pros and cons of Canada’s electoral system

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised the 2015 federal election would be the last to use the first-past-the-post model – a promise that has so far gone unfulfilled. Trudeau has previously announced that a consultation process could not find a consensus for a new system.

“The Longest Ballot Initiative is sending them that message that there are citizens ready to see electoral reform be at the table when federal elections come about,” Clacio said.

“I think people’s frustration with all levels of government is none of the politicians are representing the voices of a huge majority of Canadians that are wanting to have the electoral reform happen in our country.”

He said the group expects to have 65 independent candidates included on the ballot. Candidates have until May 29 at 2 p.m. to be nominated.

Most recently, the group was active in the 2022 by-election in Ontario’s Mississauga–Lakeshore riding which saw 40 candidates’ names on the ballot and set the record for the most candidates on a federal ballot.

Prior to this by-election, the largest number of candidates on a federal ballot was 21, according to a report from Elections Canada.

The Longest Ballot Committee took credit for this protest on its Twitter account.

Elections Canada said in this case, the same official agent was listed for 31 of the independent candidates. Many of the candidates received a large portion of their signatures from the same group of voters.

“These factors suggest that there was a level of coordination among some candidates in the by-election and raise questions as to whether candidates were truly seeking elected office on their own terms,” Elections Canada said in its report on the by-election.

“The exceptionally large number of candidates also presented challenges related to the production and design of the ballot.”

Of all the independent candidates running, none gathered more than 0.2 per cent of the vote in the by-election.

Clacio told CTV News the goal for many of the independent candidates running with the committee is not necessarily to be elected.

“There is a need and a want and a passion for electoral reform, and that’s the whole point of what the Longest Ballot Initiative is – to make a loud statement to constituents and to Canadians that we are ready for electoral reform.”

Chris Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said in this case the decision not to pursue electoral reform in Canada has already been made.

“I don’t see this as having any impact at all on the federal government’s decision regarding reforming the system because they’ve moved on,” Adams told CTV News.

He said he doesn’t think it will have much of an impact on voters come election day.

“It just makes the ballot become a little bit cumbersome because of its length, but I don’t think it’ll affect the outcome of the election,” he said, adding many of the people running as independents don’t have the financial support of a party to back them up and get them votes.

A spokesperson for Elections Canada told CTV News there is no limit on the number of candidates that can appear on the ballot in an electoral district. However, if there is a large number of candidates, they said the ballots will look different, having two columns instead of the typical single column.

The full list of candidates, which is updated daily, can be found on the Elections Canada website. The by-election in Winnipeg South Centre is set for June 19.

-with files from The Canadian Press 

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