Record-holding loser eyes byelection run
A new name may soon be on the ballot for the local byelection – the same name that has been on ballots for 96 previous elections in various parts of the country, at different levels of government.
John Turmel, who holds the world record for most elections contested (and lost), was walking King Street West Thursday afternoon hoping to gather the 100 signatures he needed to get on the ballot for the Dec. 3 Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes byelection.
If he gets on, it will be his 97th election.
His first was in 1979, the federal contest that brought Joe Clark, briefly at least, to power.
“I ran as an independent to legalize gambling, prostitution and pot,” he said, repeating the timeworn quip that he was called “the champion of the gamblers, hookers and dope smokers.”
In the nearly four decades to follow, he developed something of a shtick: Fast-talking, ready with the lines, supremely self-assured with a dose of irony.
According to the Guinness World Records website, Turmel holds the record for most elections contested.
All of them resulted in defeat, although the Guinness site notes: “His one non-loss occurred when the Guelph byelection was preempted by a federal election in 2008.”
An electrical engineering graduate, Turmel runs with his trademark “Turmel The Engineer” white construction helmet and says he made his fortune as a professional gambler.
Perhaps obviating the need for what politicos call “oppo research,” Turmel’s own campaign sheet notes he “was convicted half a dozen times for being Keeper of a Gaming House.”
Running afoul of the law for gambling was, in his earlier days, all part of his activism to legalize gambling.
His epic record of electoral failures includes a 1993 run for prime minister as leader of the Abolitionist Party.
As of late Thursday, Elections Canada had only three confirmed candidates on the Dec. 3 ballot: Conservative Michael Barrett, Liberal Mary Jean McFall and New Democrat Michelle Taylor. Green Party candidate Lorraine Rekmans is also expected to be confirmed as a candidate.
On Thursday, Turmel was working the pavement getting signatures by promoting one idea: Paying youth with bus tickets to do community service.
The idea, which he dubbed “bus bucks,” is one variant of his central argument about the need for an alternate currency to serve as a solution to poverty.
Turmel wants to promote the idea of interest-free local barter economies, using time, or more precisely labour, as the currency, and claims to have financed the world’s first time bank software in 1984.
He equates interest with usury, noting that, while poker chips don’t depreciate, money does.
“I want somebody to advocate for an interest-free Bank of Canada,” said Turmel.
He has no illusions about winning, unless it’s his own definition of victory: Getting his ideas talked about and even taken up by others.
By early afternoon Thursday, Turmel was well on his way to getting the required 100 signatures and even exceeding that goal.
The number of signatures he gets, noted Turmel, usually equals his number of votes.
Turmel does not plan on doorknocking or putting up lawn signs in this campaign, but he does plan to attend the all-candidates meetings, where he can continue putting out his message.
“That’s my duty as a poor candidate,” he said.
Perennial election candidate John Turmel wants to make the LeedsGrenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes byelection his 97th campaign. He is seen posing on King Street while gathering signatures to register on Thursday afternoon.