EDMONTON -- Ask Rhinoceros Party candidate Donovan Eckstrom about what he’s standing for this election and he’ll give you a seemingly literal answer.

“My platform is made out of pine. It’s six inches tall, and sturdy enough for multiple people to stand on.” 

Eckstrom, 27, is one of eight candidates running in Edmonton Centre, but unlike most of them he doesn’t harbour any realistic expectation of winning. Rather, he sees his role as providing a satirical means way for voters to show their discontent at the mainstream parties. 

“I think I’m an actual alternative for people who are going to stay home on election night to at least go out and give a middle finger to every other party and I think that’s incredibly important,” he said. 

“If people are mad at Trudeau or Scheer or Singh or whoever they can sit there and look at their friends and say, ‘I didn’t vote for that guy.’”

Eckstrom is among the many candidates who put their names forward across Canada for public office despite little chance of actually becoming a member of Parliament. 

Some of those longshots are running for established parties, but are unlikely to win due to prevailing politics in the region. Others are running for smaller, often issue-specific parties with interests varying from the Animal Alliance to the Veterans Coalition Party of Canada. 

Motivations for running despite overwhelming odds differ among candidates but Eckstrom sees himself as a democratic alternative to the usual political voices.

“If I get more than one vote, every single [vote] is from somebody that wasn’t wanting to vote but then actually came out and voted.”

SHARING THE MESSAGE

Communist Party candidate Naomi Rankin has contested every federal and provincial election since 1982.

Over that time, she’s never drawn anywhere near enough support to actually take office and concedes that will be the case in Edmonton Strathcona again this year.

“I don’t actually expect that we’re going to garner a lot of votes,” Rankin said. 

For her, running for election every few years is one part of a near lifelong commitment to her party, calling it an “attitude of ongoing political activism.” 

“People really are looking for solutions. There’s a tremendous ideological battle over what kind of a future we want.”

She’s reluctant to set a goal for the number of votes she’ll receive on election night, saying it’s more important she present her party’s ideas to as many voters as possible.

“It’s a success if more people have heard our policies and work with us.”

In the 2015 federal election, independent candidates secured more votes than any other group that failed to win a seat. 

They were followed by 18 parties that together combined for zero seats, but 91,834 votes across Canada, just over 0.5 per cent of all votes cast.  

 

‘I BELIEVE IN WHAT I’M TEACHING’

 

As a Green Party candidate running in what she describes as “probably the most Conservative riding in the city,” Valerie Kennedy knows she’s an underdog.

But, it’s a role the Edmonton Riverbend candidate is familiar with, having run for the party in the riding and its predecessor four times since 2008. 

The party’s environmental platform has never washed in the suburban riding. Kennedy has never finished better than fourth, securing a best of 4,081 votes in 2008. 

For a self-described “compulsive teacher,” running for office is an act of personal political fulfillment.

“That I could teach on a larger platform, that meant something to me,” she said of the campaign. “I believe in what I’m teaching.”

“Most people know when I knock on the door that there is a Green Party. And, that certainly was not the case in 2008. A lot of my time was explaining that we really were a legitimate party.”

While longshot candidates are easily written-off, Kennedy says voters don’t always realize the commitment involved in running, and the passion for politics it takes to keep coming back. 

“Everybody is stepping out as a volunteer for a temporary position,” she said.

It's a commitment she and dozens of others have found the motivation to make in the face of bleak electoral prospects.

“They are putting in immense time and energy. It is very demanding.”