Record-hold­ing loser eyes by­elec­tion run

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - RON­ALD ZAJAC

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.

RON­ALD ZAJAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

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.

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