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On the fringe – why do they even bother?

Malcolm Kojokaro

AN INDEPENDENT'S UNIFORM: Thornhill independent Malcolm Kojokaro spoiling for a fight against the top contenders in the Oct. 10 provincial election. (Philip Alves/Vaughan Today)

For candidates outside the big four parties, getting their message out can be the most important goal

The big-top tents of the four major parties in Ontario politics have front doors that are well-defined squares. To get inside, a candidate needs to be a square, more or less.

But what if a round or a triangular politico comes along? What’s an activist dodecagon to do?

For some, the answer is simple: look for a smaller tent with the right-shape door. For other more independent types, no tent will do.

In the ridings of Vaughan and Thornhill, four people find themselves outside the Liberal, Progressive Conservative, New Democratic Party and Green tents, but they are determined and brave enough to stand against the mainstream in the run-up to the Oct. 10 provincial election.

“As a candidate, I don’t have to kowtow and kiss the butt of the leader,” says Lindsay King, the Freedom Party’s candidate in Thornhill. “We can have our own individual ideas.

“It’s one of the principles that made me go along with them.”

The jovial 77-year-old retired United Church minister has a lot of ideas that don’t fit well with the big four, including his core issue of “community currency”, which is a system of bartering and IOUs.

Like King, Thornhill independent candidate Malcolm Kojokaro is also basing his campaign primarily on one issue: the referendum on the future of the electoral system. And he says he’s made it his mission to educate voters about it.

“The referendum is the greatest opportunity — the most important political event of our lifetimes,” he said in a recent interview.

If Thornhill’s history is any indication, which both Kojokaro and King agree probably is, neither they nor Family Coalition candidate Nathan Kidd, nor Vaughan independent Savino Quatela stand much chance against the major parties.

King, who ran in the last provincial election, received 304 votes, good for 0.67 percent of the vote. In that tough Thornhill riding, the NDP and Green parties didn’t fare much better, getting the sort of single-digit percentages expected of fringe candidates.

“As an independent, the chance of me winning is just as good as the Green or the NDP winning,” Kojokaro said.

King is also aware of the uphill battle he finds himself in the midst of.

“They’re not going to elect me here because I don’t have enough of the regular bucks to mount a big, heavy campaign,” he said.

Fringe candidates like Quatela, however, have been known to steal enough votes from contending candidates to ultimately determine the outcome of a close race.

In the controversial virtual tie that was the 2006 mayoral race in Vaughan, Quatela’s 637 votes gave him last place, well behind Linda Jackson, who won by 90 votes, and former mayor Michael Di Biase.

With winning highly unlikely, fringe candidates in Vaughan and Thornhill are free to focus on ideas rather than on crafting winning campaign strategies, and for some that means avoiding political conflict.

“We’re not here … to attack Liberals and Conservatives,” King said. “I like to say I’m trying to cherry-pick the best on the left and the best on the right, and bring it together.”

Kojokaro, who called party politics “a frustrating thing”, made the same all-encompassing assertion, but was less reserved than King and took a targeted swipe at one of his opponents.

“I’ve described myself politically as a New-Green-Conservative-Democrat,” Kojokaro said. “I’m everything but Liberal.”

To the begging question of why a candidate would be willing to stand on the outside of the political establishment rather than try to get his or her ideas mainstream by joining one of the four bigger parties, King has a simple answer.

“I did try it,” he says. “Nobody listened.”

Vaughan Today
Friday, October 5, 2007
Page: 11
Byline: Philip Alves
Photo credit: Philip Alves