Rhinoceros Party

Rhinoceros Party

The Rhinoceros Party is a Canadian federal-level satirical political party founded by Canadian political figure and entertainer François ‘Yo’ Gourd and led by Sébastien Côrriveau.

It was a registered political party in Canada from the 1960s. Operating within the tradition of political satire, the Rhinoceros Party’s basic credo, their so-called primal promise, was ‘a promise to keep none of our promises.’ They then promised outlandishly impossible schemes designed to amuse and entertain the voting public.

‘The Rhinos’ were started in 1963 by Canadian physician and author Jacques Ferron. In the 1970s, a group of artists joined the party and created a comedic political platform to contest the federal election. Ferron (1979), poet Gaston Miron (1972) and singer Michel Rivard (1980) ran against Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in his Montreal seat.

The party claimed to be the spiritual descendants of Cacareco, a Brazilian rhinoceros who was ‘elected’ member of São Paulo’s city council in 1958, and listed Cornelius the First, a rhinoceros from the Granby Zoo, east of Montreal, as its leader. It declared that the rhinoceros was an appropriate symbol for a political party since politicians, by nature, are: ‘thick-skinned, slow-moving, dim-witted, can move fast as hell when in danger, and have large, hairy horns growing out of the middle of their faces.’

Some members of the Rhino party would call themselves Marxist-Lennonist, a parody of the factional split between the Communist Party of Canada and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), although the Rhinoceros Party meant the term in reference to Groucho Marx and John Lennon.

The party used as its logo a woodcut of a rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer, with the words ‘D’une mare à l’autre’ (a French translation of Canada’s Latin motto ‘a mari usque ad mare,’ playing on the word ‘mare,’ which means ‘pond’ in French) at the top.

In addition to the national platform promises released by the party leadership, individual candidates also had considerable freedom to campaign on their own ideas and slogans. Bryan Gold of the Rhinoceros Party described the party platform as two feet high and made of wood: ‘My platform is the one I’m standing on.’ A candidate named Ted ‘not too’ Sharp ran in Flora MacDonald’s Kingston and the Islands riding with the campaign slogan ‘Fauna, not flora,’ promising to give fauna equal representation.

He also took a stand on abortion (promising, if elected, never to have an abortion) and capital punishment: ‘If it was good enough for my grandfather, then it’s good enough for me.’ To strengthen Canada’s military, Sharp planned to tow Antarctica north to the Arctic Circle: ‘Once we have Antarctica, we’ll control all of the world’s cold. If another Cold War starts, we’ll be unbeatable.’

In the 1988 election, the Rhinoceros Party ran a candidate named John Turner in the same riding as Liberal leader John Turner, and received 760 votes. Penny Hoar, a safe sex activist, distributed condoms in Toronto while running under the slogan: ‘Politicians screw you — protect yourself.’

Other platform promises of the Rhinoceros Party included: Repealing the law of gravity; providing higher education by building taller schools; tearing down the Rocky Mountains so that Albertans could see the Pacific sunset; making Montreal the Venice of North America by damming the St. Lawrence River; and annexing the U.S., which would take its place as the third territory in Canada’s backyard (after the Yukon and the Northwest Territories—Nunavut did not yet exist).

Over the years the Rhino Party has also suggested ending crime by abolishing all laws and putting the national debt on Visa. The Rhino Party also declared that, should they somehow actually win an election, they would immediately dissolve and force a second election: ‘We Rhinos think that elections are so much fun, we want to hold them all the time.’ They also declared victory after one election, claiming all candidates were Rhinoceroses, whether they knew or acknowledged it: thick-skinned, short-sighted, mean-tempered, etc.

The party was dissolved in 1993 due to new federal election requirements. François Gourd, a prominent Rhino, later started another political movement, the ‘entartistes,’ who attracted attention in the 1990s by planting cream pies in the faces of various Canadian politicians.

In 2006, he led a group that set up Neorhino.ca in an attempt to recapture the Rhinoceros Party spirit, and ran as a Neorhino candidate in the 2007 Outremont by-election. Other Rhinoceros Party members founded the Parti citron (Lemon Party), which attempted to bring a similar perspective to provincial politics in Quebec.

After the party’s dissolution, a number of independent election candidates informally claimed the Rhinoceros Party label even though the party itself no longer existed. There were also a number of unsuccessful attempts to revive the Rhinos as a legally incorporated political party, though this was not fully achieved until Neorhino.ca. To date, candidates of Neorhino.ca and the Rhinoceros Party have not recorded any electoral victories.

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