Sudbury.com has received a few questions from readers this week after we ran a couple of stories about political parties you probably haven’t heard of.
These are the so-called ‘fringe’ parties that emerge in every provincial and federal election cycle. Sometimes they’re parties with a long history in Canada, like the Communist Party of Canada, that have a reliable, but limited, amount of support. Others, like the Animal Protection Party of Canada, are driven by a single issue.
One of my favourites has always been the Rhinoceros Party, a party that has been satirizing the political process for some 50 years. I remember one campaign back in the early 1990s when the Rhinos proposed building trans-Canada ramps that would allow vehicles to coast from coast to coast to cut down on pollution — hilarious.
So far in the current provincial election, two new-ish parties have nominated candidates in the Nickel Belt and Sudbury ridings: the New Blue Party and the Ontario Party. Both are populist, right-wing (extremely right-wing in some people’s minds), and very concerned about freedom (or at least their interpretation of what that is) and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Both seem very concerned about what they consider radical left-wing ideologies, which they can’t seem to define, but which they are convinced are being used to “re-engineer” society, which again is a concept they are hard-pressed to define, but is presumably tied to the idea of “wokeness,” a concept that seems to be the current bugaboo of many on the right.
If “wokeness” as I understand it is simply being committed to racial and social equality for all members of society, but particularly vulnerable and marginalized groups, and the right not to be discriminated against, I’m not sure why some people oppose it, unless their only familiarity with it is through political filter.
Ensuring more rights for more people does not involve removing rights from others — it’s not a pizza.
Both parties are concerned with what they see as a lack of transparency in government and both oppose vaccine mandates, which goes back to their preoccupation with their version of freedom. Patriotism seems important to them as well.
The Ontario Party puts faith front and centre, too; its slogan is “Freedom, Faith and Family”, a phrase suggesting the party takes more than a few cues from the U.S. Republican Party.
They seem very upset about what they see as the corruption of the four main political parties, which in their view are engaged in “crony capitalism” (which isn’t completely off the wall), and both seem to be drawing a good deal of support from the Freedom Convoy supporters, the anti-mandate crowd and the like.
They are quite proud, it seems, that they are running a full slate (or nearly a full slate) of candidates in Ontario, so while they might not have overwhelming support they seem to have enough to at least run 124 candidates.
I would encourage you to read up on them yourself. They are outraged and they are motivated.
They’re also kind of silly, one-note and preoccupied with conspiracy theories about critical race theory being taught in schools (which it isn’t), digital IDs, World Economic Forum conspiracies and other notions that have little basis in objective reality.
The only local candidate with whom I have any familiarity is Jason LaFace (or Lafaci or Lafauci, as he often renames himself on social media), a Sudbury resident familiar to many for his involvement with helping organize the Ontario leg of the Freedom Convoy, but who has been making a stir locally on social media for several years. You may recall a video circulating of Laface (or Lafaci or Lafauci) and his partner leaving a bag of garbage on the receptionist desk at a Public Health Sudbury a few years ago.** He’s been a thorn in the side of local elected and health officials for quite awhile.
He was front and centre at every anti-mandate protest Sudbury.com attended. He came to our attention years ago when he lodged a complaint about us to the National NewsMedia Council with the baseless (and frankly laughable) accusation that our reporters were evil antifa activists.
It was a little annoying, but also funny because it was so ridiculous. We also don’t hold it against him. It’s par for the course in this line of work and we don’t take it personally. Laface has said he's turned over a new leaf and said he is distancing himself from that past behaviour.
And for the record, I do oppose fascism in all its forms as any correct-thinking person should do.
And speaking of candidates, perennial hater of all things LGBTQ+ David J. Popescu is back for this election, a year after serving 30 days in jail on a hate speech conviction. Popescu is not a legitimate candidate as his sole purpose for running isn’t to represent voters’ interests; it is to provide a forum for him to spread his despicable views. Popescu is a bigot plain and simple.
So why do we give fringe candidates any coverage at all? My answer is: well, why wouldn’t we? In a democracy, people have a right to know who is seeking office. We might not like or agree with a candidate’s message or a party’s purpose, but it isn’t our job as news media to judge their candidacy; it is our job to tell you about them and let you make up your own mind. To ignore them would be both unfair and unethical.
It is our job as news media to help keep you informed, not tell you what to think. It is your job as a voter to read, research, distill and make a decision.
We trust that our readers, or most of them anyway, are intelligent, thoughtful people who can make up their own minds. Ignoring these parties entirely is just not something we would ever consider doing — sharing information is in our bones; hiding information makes us nauseated.
So whatever I, personally, might think about these parties or candidates, it is my job to tell you about them anyway. And while I’ve shared a few personal opinions about them in this column, that opinion is separate and distinct from our coverage; we take objectivity seriously.
We have covered and will continue to cover every party and candidate with the same level of balance and healthy criticism, regardless of whether they are fringe or not, with the singular goal of ensuring you have the best, latest and most accurate information.
Because that is what we do. To that end, check out the election section of Sudbury.com for the latest local and provincial election news and to learn more about the slate of candidates.
Mark Gentili is the editor of Sudbury.com.
**Correction: Originally, we had published that Laface had thrown a bag of used needles at the receptionist. This was incorrect. Jason Laface contacted Sudbury.com to correct the record. His partner left a bag of garbage at the receptionist desk at Public Health Sudbury while the two yelled obscenities at her.