Rosie the Clown: where is she now?

Postscript sits down with one memorable candidate from the last election

Rosie the Clown tells Postscript how to make politics more fun.
Rosie the Clown tells Postscript how to make politics more fun.
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Recently I sat down in the Coffee and Company on the corner of Division and Johnson streets with Rosie “the Clown” Elston—who ran in Kingston as an independent candidate in the last federal election. We were talking amidst a bewildered crowd of C&C patrons, and I was having the most fun I’ve ever had in an interview.

It was a very sad day for me when I discovered that Rosie would not be entering the campaign this time around.

Back in 2004, she received 0.44 per cent of the vote (237 votes in total), which placed her in sixth place out of eight, ahead of the Canadian Action Party candidate and another independent. She also incurred the fewest campaign expenditures by far.

Rosie campaigned in full costume (how else would a clown dress?) and promised only to have fun and to change nothing, but hopefully improve voter turnout and inspire people to become more politically engaged.

Rosie reminded us that it’s OK to laugh

—in fact, it’s downright important to—and, we shouldn’t have to put on our funeral faces to talk politics. “Laughter dissipates fear,” she said. “It’s almost impossible—if not outright impossible—to be afraid while you’re laughing. And we make better decisions when we’re not afraid.”

That was the driving force behind Rosie’s campaign nineteen months ago. It’s also a message she wishes other politicians would pay more attention to.

“Having fun doesn’t mean being brain-dead.” She offers the same advice to aspiring student politicians.

“Let’s lighten the tone, because that helps us make decisions,” she said. “Start with a smile, and remember that everything will be okay in the end.”

But she was never just clowning around. Her alter ego—err, I mean, her “identical twin sister”—Laura Elston, ArtSci ’83, worked as an aide in Flora MacDonald’s office for more than two years when MacDonald was Kingston’s MP. Elston was also active in ASUS and the AMS while she was at Queen’s, editing the ASUS newsletter and helping to produce the “Who’s Where” student directory, among other accomplishments.

So, why isn’t Rosie running this time?

“We can relive our good times, but we can’t re-live our great times,” she said. “It was a euphoric experience for me—seeing everyone in Kingston smiling all the time—it was overwhelming and I really loved the challenge, but it’s done now.”

“Besides,” she said, “this election is so over-the-top already, it doesn’t need any help from me.”

Maybe she’s right. But without Rosie the Clown, who will stand up for silliness? Who will make us laugh? Who will save us from nasty attack ads, stiff, robotic, out-of-touch politicians and incessant, childish mudslinging? Who will be the voice of reason?

Ever so rational, she also has some practical suggestions for reducing the nastiness of election campaigns, while helping to raise money for important social programs at the same time. She suggests we institute a House Incivility Tax, or “HIT.” “So every time politicians are rude to each other in the House, or even on the campaign trail, we could hit them up for $10 and we would use it to fund post-secondary education, totally revamp health care and reinvest in the military. We could do everything with this simple tax,” she said.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Rosie also has a solution to improve voter turnout: “It’s called Democracy Lottery! We take everybody who showed up to vote, put their names into a hat, pull one out and give them a million bucks. I costed it out and it’ll only be something like 0.33 per cent of what we currently spend on elections.”

At this point, Rosie begins inflating balloons to construct a special kind of protective helmet for me.

“It’s called a LOED,” she said while reassuring me that it is for my own protection. “Leaders Onboard Excrement Deflector. If you wear this hat to a political debate or something like that, all of the election crap will deflect off of you and you’ll be fine.”

Later, as I write, I can hear the war drums of the Liberals’ latest Stephen-Harper-is-a-blood-thirsty-puppy-killer commercial coming from my living room.

It’s times like these when I miss Rosie the most.

Now, where’s my LOED?

—With files from cbc.ca, elections.ca and the Kingston Whig-Standard

More Political Farces:

Some more people who didn't take politics too seriously:

•The rhino of São Paulo, Brazil

In the 1950s, some Brazilian pranksters actually succeeded in getting a rhino elected to São Paulo's city council.

•The Rhinoceros Party of Canada

Claiming to be spiritual descendants of the particular rhino mentioned above, the Rhinoceros Party of Canada was a registered political party from 1963 to 1993. The Rhinos promised not to keep any of their promises, which included: repealing the law of gravity, putting the national debt on Visa, replacing the Canadian armed forces with clones of Vladislav Tretiak, providing higher education by building taller schools and abolishing the environment because it's too hard to keep clean and it takes up too much space.

•Michael Moore's Ficus For Congress campaign

While producing The Awful Truth in 1999, Michael Moore registered a potted ficus plant to run for Congress against Richard Burr, an unopposed incumbent in North Carolina's fifth district. The ficus ran on a simple platform: photosynthesis. Its campaign organizers were hoping people would choose oxygen over hot air.

•Team BMP

Burpee, Messer and Provan, a.k.a. Team Khaki Snack, ran in last year's AMS election on a platform that included creating a barber shop/deli in the JDUC called "Tony's Cuts,” changing Walkhome to Joghome, and a generally doing "an adequate job.”

—Compiled by Brendan Kennedy

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