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Deb? Joe? Ross? None of the Above?

Weird name aside, Above Znoneofthe may be running fourth among seven byelection candidates, behind Liberal Debbie Amaroso but well ahead of Green Party candidate Kara Flannigan, according to an unscientific SooToday poll conducted Thursday
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20170516 Znoneofthe Above Steelworkers Debate KA 02
Above Znoneofthe, a candidate in the upcoming Sault Ste. Marie byelection, speaks during a steelworker debate on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday

Wishing you could mark your ballot for 'None of the Above' in Sault Ste. Marie's provincial byelection race?

Here's your chance.

There's a new name on the official list of candidates released Thursday.

It's Above Znoneofthe.

20170516 Znoneofthe Above Steelworkers Debate KA 03Detail of Above Znoneofthe's driver's license. Znoneofthe is a candidate in the upcoming Sault Ste. Marie byelection. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday

Seriously.

First name: Above.

Last name: Znoneofthe.

He's representing Ontario's None of the Above Party.

Znoneofthe used to be Sheldon Bergson of Thornhill, Ontario.

That was before he spent $137 in 2015 to legally change his name.

Znone (the z is silent) says he did it because he didn't much like then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Harper had upset me. Skipping debates, refusing questions. That was the last straw."

Bergson decided to run in the 2015 federal general election.

But he didn't have much use for the mainstream political parties.

It's hard to be heard in an election when you're not affiliated with one of the big parties.

Bergson reckoned if he changed his name to  Above Znoneofthe, he'd be at the bottom of the ballot.

None of the Above. Get it?

"I'd thought about it for years and I said: 'You know what? I'm going to send it in and see if it'll sneak past.' And it did."

It didn't happen fast enough for him to run in 2015.

But in the past two years, Znone has run in a handful of provincial and federal byelections.

"The problem that I have with all of the big parties is that they do what's best for their party first and what's best for the people second."

If the mainstream parties put people first, Znone says, "they wouldn't have sold off a chunk of Hydro. We were getting a billion dollars a year off of that. It was a good investment, making some good money off it."

Ultimately, he wants to see None of the Above as a ballot option for voters.

"My main goal is to see None of the Above there and I will change my name back. I'll go back to Sheldon," he says.

Znone gets upset when he hears people say all the candidates and parties are the same, so why should they vote?

"Veterans fought and died for it. People are fighting and dying all over the world to be able to vote. You're like: 'I've got something better on the tv.' Not gonna go and line up for the vote? It's a duty. You have the right not to. Which I don't think you should. We should make it mandatory. It's disrespectful not to bother to vote every time you have the chance."

"If you really don't like the other options, go run yourself. But don't complain if you didn't even go and vote."

Does Znone really think he can accomplish anything for the voters of Sault Ste. Marie?

"Yes, I do," he says. "If I come up with a good idea and it's so good and everybody's staring at it and they go like: 'yeah, yeah,' steal it, fine. If whatever I come up with starts getting numbers in the polls, that's all that matters to the other parties. Hey, the polls say it's good, let's take it and do it. So all I have to do is get some good ideas out there."

If he's a serious candidate. how much time is the father of two prepared to spend in the Sault?

"I'm up here," he says. "Except for this weekend, I'm going back to see my kids."

"I'll be back up on Monday, right through to the election. I'm planning on being up here pretty much to the end."

In an unscientific SooToday online poll 1,009 respondents conducted Thursday, Znone was running fourth among seven candidates, preferred by 47 voters (4.66 per cent), compared to 30 votes (2.97 per cent) for the Green Party's Kara Flannigan.

The byelection takes place Thursday, June 1.

Here's the official list of the seven official candidates:

  • Amaroso, Debbie - Ontario Liberal Party
  • Balfour, Gene - Ontario Libertarian Party
  • Flannigan, Kara - Green Party of Ontario
  • Krmpotich, Joe - New Democratic Party of Ontario
  • Romano, Ross - Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
  • Turmel, John, Pauper Party of Ontario
  • Znoneofthe, Above - None of the Above Party

The following is the full text of a news release from Ontario's None of the Above Party:

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SAULT STE. MARIE, ON - The Ontario None of the Above Party (NOTA) nominates Above Znoneofthe as candidate for the June 1, 2017Sault Ste. Marie provincial byelection, registers all 122 riding associations (RAs), and announces candidate nominations closing for the 2018 Ontario election.

The NOTA party campaigns for the 3Rs of Direct Democracy; Referendum, Recall and Real electoral and legislative Reforms that give voters control of politicians and parties.

Candidates are accountable to their constituents and there are no central party policies or controls of elected MPPs beyond the binding Direct Democracy principles.

With Elections Ontario approving the 2016 annual returns for all 122 riding associations, would-be candidates for the 2018 Ontario election are asked to go to  www.nota.ca and submit a resume for contested ridings by June 15, 2017, and in other ridings by June 30, 2017.

"There is another option for people who want a choice other than to vote for any of the big party candidates or to give up their right to cast a secret ballot by having to publicly decline their ballots, a choice that makes their vote count for real change," said Sault Ste. Marie byelection candidate Above Znoneofthe.

None of the Above is part of a worldwide movement of new and independent parties and candidates campaigning for direct democracy and voter empowerment policies supported by voters and non-voters alike.

In the recent French presidential runoff election, the combination of declined, spoiled and abstained ballots finished second overall with one in three votes, and over 40 per cent of voters supporting an official option to decline on the ballot itself.

"The major parties have rigged the rules for millions of dollars in campaign and vote subsidies in their favour, but if just five per cent in this byelection and two per cent of people in the 2018 election voted for NOTA party candidates, we would qualify for some basic subsidies that would allow us to grow and bring about the positive change we need," said None of the Above Party leader Greg Vezina.

"Talk about every vote counting, people in Ontario finally get to vote their principles and have it matter," Vezina said.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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