Talk about a crowded field.
It may take people living in Winnipeg's St. Boniface-St. Vital riding a bit longer to vote in the Sept. 20 federal election.
The ballot will be a long one in the riding, which has been held by Liberal MP and Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal since 2015, and sports what one could say are several oddities this election.
Candidates had a 2 p.m. deadline Tuesday to file registration papers and the list will be locked down at midnight Wednesday. Unofficially, there were 21 candidates in the riding Tuesday, 14 of them independents.
All but one of 14 list Kieran Szuchewycz as their official agent. He ran as an independent candidate in 2019 in then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer's riding of Regina-Qu'Appelle, where he garnered a total of 78 votes.
Szuchewycz has also taken court action in each of the last two federal elections, arguing sections of the Canada Elections Act are unconstitutional.
He was successful in 2015 in having the $1,000 deposit required for a candidate to run for Parliament struck down. He failed, however, in his 2019 effort to eliminate the need for prospective candidates to obtain 100 signatures before filing nomination papers.
Szuchewycz's brother Tomas is one of the 14 independents running in St. Boniface-St. Vital.
Most of the 14 independents don't live in the riding. Or in the city. Or in Manitoba. The only one for certain is Scott A A Anderson, who was charged with mischief on June 28, accused of smashing windows at Vandal's constituency office.
Yes, that's right... Vandal was the victim of vandalism.
Anderson, who has no connection with the other 13 independent candidates and has a different official agent, was released on bail July 23, but he was arrested and back in bail court on Tuesday charged with failing to abide by the terms of his release order. The matter was put over until Wednesday.
And if that's not enough to garner some interest in the riding, national Rhinoceros party Leader Sebastien CoRhino — described on the party website as "eternal commander of good humour" — will be on the ballot, as well.
"I will be honest. I don't think I will be in the city," said CoRhino, who lives in eastern Quebec.
"This election (campaign) is very short. I have to work... but I will be prime minister in three weeks, he said. "But even if I don't get in — but I know I will get in — I will visit St. Boniface and St. Vital and Winnipeg someday soon. It is a very nice place."
CoRhino said he's hoping that the high number of independent candidates — "I made it all happen" — will shatter two world records.
"One of my goals is to break the world's record for the longest ballot and for the least votes," he said. "I really hope someone gets zero votes, which would mean no one would like them. But I don't know what the record for longest ballot is."
As for Tomas Szuchewycz, he replied to a text message with a statement he signed along with his brother about why they got so many independent candidates to run.
"Our democracy is one that is designed to keep the voices of ordinary people out and concentrate power in the hands of a few," they said. "People feel disillusioned with voting for those that don't represent them.
"Instead of accepting apathy and alienation, we decided to do the opposite and engaged directly with our democracy to make ourselves heard... we mobilized Canadians from all walks of life and from a diverse range of political opinions to stand in a single riding at the heart of the country, St. Boniface-St. Vital Winnipeg."
They said they collected almost 1,600 individual nomination signatures from local residents to get people on the ballot.
"Some will call the longest ballot frivolous, inappropriate or just ballot clutter," the statement said. "We must disagree. There is nothing inappropriate about having regular Canadians exercising their charter rights and engaging directly in politics."
Chris Adams, an adjunct professor in the University of Manitoba's political studies department, said he was shocked by the number of candidates running in the riding.
Adams said it's unlikely — even in a close election — that the number of candidates could have a significant effect on the result.
"I would say the odds of that are small, but it might distract people," he said.
Vandal, who wouldn't comment about the vandalism at his office, said the long ballot means voters will have to be a bit more vigilant.
"People will have to pay a bit more attention when they vote, but my name is well known here. This is my ninth election in St. Boniface, between municipal and federal. I'm staying focused on what I can control," he said.
"I guess this is legal — I'm not sure what point they are trying to make — but I'm not letting it distract me."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.