Skip to content

Meet the York-Simcoe candidates: Independent John Turmel has run (and lost) in nearly 100 byelections

John Turmel, who is running in the Feb. 25 byelection in York-Simcoe, describes himself as 'bank-fighter extraordinaire,' has tried starting his own political party three times, and faced gambling charges

Editor's note: With a byelection set for Feb. 25 in the York-Simcoe riding, BarrieToday's sister site in Bradford has been profiling the candidates. The riding includes Bradford West Gwillimbury in southern Simcoe County as well as extensive shoreline along Lake Simcoe and Cook's Bay. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the byelection in January following the retirement of Peter Van Loan last September. Van Loan held the MP position for 14 years.

Ask John Turmel, who resides in Brantford, why he is running in the York-Simcoe byelection as an independent, and he has a simple answer: “I run in every byelection.”

It’s true. In the past 40 years, Turmel has entered the political fray on the municipal, provincial and federal levels 97 times – earning him Guinness World Records for Most Elections Contested, and Most Elections Lost.

The York-Simcoe byelection will make number 98.

He doesn’t do it to set records – although he did say if he could enter two more byelections within the next two months, that would make it an even 100 in 40 years – but as a way of getting his ideas out to a wider audience.

“I have some great ideas,” said Turmel. “Like paying kids with bus tickets to shovel our snow.”

Or the LETS (Local Employment Trading System) Time Bank, which would let participants use their time and labour as equity, to trade for what they need through a system of barter, and abolish interest rates.  

“I got invited to the United Nations Assembly in 2000, to present my proposal for a time-based currency,” Turmel said, adding that he received support, through a U.N. resolution, for his proposed interest-free, time-based currency.

He has described himself as a “bank-fighter extraordinaire” on his website.

“I found a way to run a better banking system,” said Turmel, who said he has a degree in systems engineering from Carleton University. “Call me the debt-fighting engineer.”

As for the LETS Time Bank, he said, “it’s actually the same bank as Jesus’ debt-fighting commune.”

Turmel, now 68, ran his first election in 1979, as an Independent. He has been a “Libertarian Socred,” made a run for the leadership of the fledgling Green Party of Ontario, and started his own political party not once, but three times – the Christian Credit Party in the 1980s, the Abolitionist Party of Canada in the 1990s and the Pauper Party in 2011.

Over his career, he has launched protests, been arrested, fought against banks and interest, and fought for the legalization of marijuana and gambling – not surprising, since he described himself as a professional gambler.

“I was a TA (teaching assistant) at Canada’s only Mathematics of Gambling course,” Turmel said. “I was 'The Professor,' at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.”

He has made no secret of his past efforts, promoting blackjack or running a casino in the Ottawa area – or of police charges, for keeping a common gaming house, keeping a common betting house, and unlawfully controlling monies for gambling.  

Turmel has called himself the “King of the Paupers” and the “Poverty-fighting Super Engineer.” He usually wears a white hard hat labelled “The Engineer” at public protests and events. He has also registered the web domain,

Turmel was interviewed by this reporter on Feb. 4, the date of the York-Simcoe all-candidates’ meeting in Sutton.

“I’ve been excluded from tonight’s debate, but I’ll be there – handing out pamphlets,” he promised.

He doesn’t expect to win the byelection. The only time Turmel didn’t lose was in 2008, when an election was called before a byelection could be held.

For more information see

Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
Read more