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Do You Remember The Rhinoceros Party Of Canada During The 1960s, And Other Satirical Political Parties?

What do an elephant, a donkey, and a rhinoceros have in common? Sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it? Well, no matter your political stance, the rhinoceros is actually the logo of a real joke – a satirical political party in Canada…

Photo: Licht

Satire And Politics

Poking fun at politics is commonplace, and satire is often employed for a humorous or ironic result. It can also be used effectively to highlight stupidity, or to expose abuses and shortcomings. And then there’s just the farcical whimsicality of people with far too much time on their hands.

The Rhinoceros Party of Canada has been around in two forms; first from 1963–1993, then a second version established in 2006. Their foundational promise is “a promise to keep none of our promises.” And, boy, do they make a lot of (non-)promises.


Inaugural History

Canadian physician and famous separatist writer Jacques Ferron originated the party in 1963. Quebec pranksters, including a few famous ones, promptly joined. The Rhinoceros Party was off and running, taking tomfoolery to a federal level.

Running in multiple elections (with no electoral success), they began promoting whacky promises and unrealistic policies designed to amuse voters. And they kept the joke rolling for decades.  

Photo: WordPress/j4zzh4nd5

All Fun And Games

Along with the national platform promises, candidates of the party were encouraged to exercise their freedom to come up with their own ideas and slogans. Party members indicated they were Marxist-Lennonists. This spelling was a deliberate witticism. They weren’t claiming the political philosophy of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, but rather of Groucho Marx and John Lennon.

One party member, Bryan Gold, reportedly claimed the party’s platform was made of wood, and stood about two feet tall. And then there was Ted “not too” Sharp, the party member who suggested seizing Antarctica to be unbeatable in the next Cold War.

And why a rhinoceros? Evidently, because they are “thick-skinned, slow-moving, dim-witted, can move fast as hell when in danger, and have large, hairy horns growing out of the middle of their faces.”

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Hank Kingsley, ordered the party’s removal from the Registry of Canadian Political Parties due to illegitimacy. But the party wasn’t deterred. It merely regrouped and reregistered in 2006 as (‘new rhino’).

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/Life Magazine

Nothing New Under The Sun

Satirical or joke political parties are nothing new, and are found in various forms throughout the world.  From Norway’s Beer Unity Party (defunct) to Sweden’s Donald Duck Party, people have been using this method to poke fun at politics and politicians for a long time.

An American version was perpetrated by the married comedy duo Burns and Allen. In 1940, Gracie Allen announced she was running for President of the United States. She and her husband, George Burns, rented a private train and traveled cross-country on a whistle-stop campaign. They performed live radio shows, explaining their mascot was a kangaroo, because the election was “In the Bag” (their campaign motto). Their satirical political party name was The Surprise Party.