Kitimat comedian Danny Nunes is bearing down on his next attempt to kickstart his political career dressed in a bear costume.
Nunes is running as an independent in the upcoming federal election to replace Nathan Cullen as the MP for the Skeena-Bulkley Valley clothed as the character ‘Dan the Bear’. This time, he says, he’s all in.
“They see a guy in a bear suit, but they also see the guy in the bear suit has some intelligence there. There’s a platform there,” Nunes says. “If you’re against party politics, if you’re against money politics, prove me wrong.”
This isn’t Nunes first time running as a character for an elected political seat. During last years’ municipal election, Nunes announced his run to be the mayor of both Kitimat and Terrace dressed as the Kool-Aid man. He then backed out when it was clear he would be the only challenger against incumbent Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc.
“It was interesting but actually very, very scary,” Nunes says, taking off his bear mask. “ I think I proved my point which was to encourage young people to vote, so I finally got that message across, I didn’t need to be mayor so that was done. Then I thought, ‘Hmm. What would it take for me to run in a federal election, and what would that entail?’”
Nunes says he assumed it would be a difficult process to become a candidate in a federal election, but the actual requirements turned out to be fairly simple. What’s been more immediately challenging is campaigning in a suit of furry fabric.
“All the layers, I’m losing a lot of water weight with this,” Nunes says.
To run in a federal election as an independent, prospective candidates need to be Canadian citizens, at least 18 years of age with identification, an appointed auditor and a minimum of 50 signatures from eligible voters in the district to run.
Nunes submitted his nomination package to the Elections Canada office on Sept. 16 and was confirmed earlier last week.
“[My platform is to] say no to money politics, say no to party politics and yes to electoral reform,” he says. “If I can’t get money out of politics and party politics, let’s get a better understanding of what people really want for once. We’ve had Justin Trudeau promise electoral reform. Let’s get a bear to [Ottawa] and then I’ll get you electoral reform.”
Nunes describes his platform as a challenge to voters to show him proof his cynicism is misplaced in the current democratic system. He says his campaign will not spend or receive any money, and he’s taking public transit to different communities in the riding to promote a low-carbon campaign challenge.
While he says he may not make all of the all-candidate debates, he will be doing some appearances via social media.
“I wish there was actually someone to teach people how to become an independent candidate through Elections Canada. People think, oh, it’s so difficult, you need all this money. No, you have social media, you can create a Facebook page, you can do this all on your own. I tell people, it’s not hard to be an independent.”
Four of the 50 signatures include some of his running opponents, including NDP candidate Taylor Bachrach, People’s Party candidate Jody Craven, Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor, and independent candidate Merv Ritchie.
“What would be the weirdest, oddest thing you could do in an election? Go to the people you’re running against and see if they’ll nominate you to run against them,” Nunes says. “By nominating me I think they’ve basically conceded.”
Bachrach confirmed he signed the nomination papers, and says Nunes approached him at the fall fair in Smithers. He says he signed in the “spirit of collegiality” and not as an endorsement. He thinks Danny is trying to raise awareness of the election and get young people involved in democracy and says that’s a good thing.
Christian Heritage Party candidate Rod Taylor also confirmed he signed in the spirit of promoting free speech.
“It’s certainly not an endorsement, I would only be endorsing myself, but I don’t mind if people with different views are on the ballot and have a chance to express themselves during the campaign,” Taylor said.
Independent Merv Ritchie signed Nunes’ papers because he was also running as an independent, which he says gives candidates more of an opportunity to say what they think without having to answer to a backing political party.
People’s Party candidate Jody Craven says he signed Nunes’ papers because he believes in free speech.
— with files from Thom Barker