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One Party Stands up for the Animals
By MIKE STROBEL
The riding of Toronto Centre is home to 30,000 dogs, give or take, and 40,000 cats.
Sadly, they cannot vote.
Or the Grits would be deep in the litter box.
"Anything but Liberal," Liz White is advising folks as she goes door to door.
White, 56, is leader and sole candidate for the spanking new Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada.
(A mouthful, but AAEVPC tops most alphabetical lists)
"Please ring the bell," says a wee sign at party headquarters on Broadview Ave. It shares with a graphics shop and is just across the Don River from Toronto Centre, and White's home in Cabbagetown.
I find Liz readying for a trip to Boston to help Americans boycott our seafood until the seal hunt stops.
Then, back for weekend all-candidates meetings.
No one is likely to bounce Bill Graham, the Liberal cabinet fixture.
The NDP, Tories, Greens and Commies will fight over the scraps.
Of course, any riding has its share of snakes, rats, turkeys, chickens, and weasels, many of whom can vote.
Only Liz White will speak for the real animals, the disenfranchised animals.
The poodles of Rosedale. The chow chows of Church St. The raccoons of Moore Park. The pigeons of Allan Gardens. The coyotes of the Don Valley.
For a decade, Animal Alliance, as a non-profit group, has fought environmental and animal rights battles, mostly lobbying for new laws.
Tough sledding, White says. So the new party was born of frustration. Take the fight to the hustings.
Bill C-50, for instance. It was to stiffen penalties for animal cruelty. The Liberals let it die, with help from their pack in the Senate.
No mainstream party champions its return.
And the seal hunt? Brian Mulroney had the slaughter down to 20,000 pups a year, says White. Under the Chretien/Martin Liberals, the kill is tenfold.
Heaven help the Grits if the AAEVPC holds the balance of power in Parliament.
White is a former nurse and Toronto Humane Society exec. She is a vegan. No animal products, period. Not even cheese.
A soft-nosed pooch named Katie pads about the party offices.
White feeds her a slice of carrot.
She has two cats at home she rescued from the street.
"We are asking people to understand we are all part of the environment," says Liz.
"Dogs, cats, farm animals, the raccoons who visit our garbage every night, are a part of it, and so are we.
"A humane and compassionate society doesn't draw the line at human beings."
In fact, she says, cruelty laws should go beyond pigs and dogs et al to include the likes of squids and scallops.
Ever hear a boiling lobster scream?
It is no way to treat a constituent.
Elk, too, would breathe easier under a White government. Not the hunting lobby, though.
"We're a one-issue party," says Liz. "But unless we start reversing degradation of the environment and its attack on wildlife and other animals, we won't be able to sustain all the other issues people care about, like education and health."
AAEVPC's first campaign is bare bones. No bus, no signs, no rallies. As a legal party leader, White does get two minutes on CBC, but mostly there's just Liz knocking on doors.
Simple pitch: "The environment is falling apart, animals are being hurt and we need to change that."
What's not to like?
"Let the other parties duke it out on other issues. Our job is to make sure animals and the environment become paramount in elections."
The party has 1,000 members and will hold its first convention soon after the election.
The strategy is not so much to win seats as to throw support to mainstream candidates with enviro-friendly records.
But stranger things have happened. Maybe our pets will be powerbrokers on Parliament Hill.
So, Liz, what about the Hill restaurant and its famous Alberta beef?
"We'll make it the best vegan restaurant in the world."
That'll be a sight. All those pigs lined up at the trough.