Candidate Receives No Votes in Protest of Canadian Election System

While voters rejected Canada’s ruling party in a Toronto by-election, a protest candidate achieved a historical feat.

A Montreal musician, Felix-Antoine Hamel, has achieved a historic first in Canada by receiving zero votes in a federal election. He participated as a protest candidate for the Longest Ballot Committee, an organization advocating for electoral reform in Canada.

The Longest Ballot Committee was responsible for putting 77 out of the 84 candidates on the ballot for Monday’s election, making it the longest in Canadian electoral history. The physical ballot itself was a meter long.

“When I saw the result, I was like, well, I am the true unity candidate. Everyone agrees not to vote for me,” the 45-year-old told the state broadcaster CBC. “I’m one of the last people that would be expected to make Canadian history in any way.”

Hamel’s is the first instance of a candidate receiving no votes in a contested election since Canada’s confederation in 1867. Past candidates who received no votes ran and won unopposed; the last such case occurred in a 1957 by-election in Lanark, Ontario.

“The unusual dimensions of the ballot itself meant that some steps took more time than normal,” an Elections Canada spokesperson said, apologizing for the extended vote-counting delays.

While six candidates received two votes each, Hamel was the only one with none, as he was unable to vote for himself being a Montreal resident.

“It’s our democracy, that’s how it works and it can be sometimes totally absurd,” he told the CBC. “As long as I have the right and the privilege to get zero votes in an election, then we are truly in a democracy.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party has held the Toronto-St. Paul seat since 1983, but the Conservatives won it on Monday in an unexpected victory. This outcome has sparked debate in the Canadian press about its implications for Trudeau’s continued leadership.

Similar to the US and the UK, Canada uses the ‘first-past-the-post’ system, where the candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of whether they secure a majority. Trudeau pledged to abolish this system after the 2015 election but reversed his promise after his Liberals won a landslide victory.