At a gathering of thousands of anti-maskers in Toronto in October, Rob Carbone, the proud face of the Canadian Republican Party, stood centre stage and was decreed as the anti-maskers’ candidate in a non-existent Canadian election.
“Donald Trump is going to win the (U.S.) election,” one of the anti-mask organizers told the hyped-up crowd. “And once he wins he’s going to endorse Mr. Carbone of the Republican Party of Canada. Repeat after me: ‘Trump and Carbone.’”
The crowd dutifully followed its leader in the chant as Carbone beamed. This was his moment.
Things didn’t turn out as planned. Trump lost, Biden won, and Carbone, well, he never did get that endorsement.
As its name implies, the Canadian Republican Party takes a lot of its policies from its U.S. counterpart: hard on crime, anti-immigration, increasing funding for the military, fewer environmental regulations, and so on. It also has some ideas that are uniquely Canadian, like having the RCMP and Canadian military patrol, well, pretty much everywhere, and giving students free tuition. Recently the party has been able to gain some traction thanks to its anti-mask endorsement—and taking over a 50,000 follower Twitter account that used to belong to a weed collective in northern Ontario.
Carbone introduced himself and his party to Canada during the 2019 federal election. Despite asking for donations and attempting to get his name out, Carbone never actually registered his party nor ran in the election, according to Elections Canada.
For over 10 years Carbone’s website shows him attempting to become a public figure of some sort. One of the earliest iterations shows his name and a donate button, and plays “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
Carbone then pivoted into selling himself as a successful entrepreneur who founded a business and did “lots of deals” (without providing details about what they were). The website now says the billion-dollar business is shut down because of Carbone’s political aspirations. Not much is known about Carbone's past other than in the early 90s, he was seemingly scammed into marrying a Soviet stripper so she could immigrate to Canada. He also has a blog on Michael Bolton’s website.
Carbone did not respond to multiple emails asking questions about his business experience and his blog on Bolton’s website.
In fall 2018, his website changed to announce he was starting the “Progressive Party.” Its platform included strengthening Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), protecting union jobs, vaccinating all pets, providing 24-hour armed security to every ATM in the country, and giving Canadians free Wi-Fi.
But in April 2019, Carbone pivoted and adopted the Republican Party name, perhaps hoping to piggyback on Trump’s popularity with right-wing Canadians. He even photoshopped himself into pictures with the president.
Efforts to insert himself into the 2019 Canadian election went in vain—he was widely mocked. He didn’t back down, though. All he needed was a backer.
Enter Chris Saccoccia, the rich anti-masker son of the owner behind Vaughan property developer SkyHomes. The 37-year-old is behind many of the large anti-mask rallies across Canada and has been arrested for not following Canadian quarantine laws. In the leadup to the U.S. election, Saccoccia endorsed the Canadian Republican Party and used his large platform to spread the word about Carbone.
On Twitter, Saccoccia implied he’s not just giving Carbone exposure but is also helping fund the party, writing that in the past no one could run a fully independent party as it’s too expensive, but “just imagine… if somebody DID have the money…. just imagine.” Speaking to VICE News, Saccoccia denied funding the party and called the claims “ridiculous.”
Saccoccia and Carbone are tightly tied; they recently released a video set to “Eye of the Tiger” (and somehow included a star wipe in 2020) that showed them walking around and awkwardly pointing at the camera during an anti-mask rally. According to Facebook, the Republican Party of Canada has spent more than $30,000 on political ads—several thousands of which went to pushing out the video.
In a heated Twitter spat Sunday night, Saccoccia, gave an impassioned defence of the party.
“There’s a reason we have the most well-polished website and no donation button and free memberships,” he wrote. “Financing is not an issue.”
“We don’t need donations nor are we accepting donations!”
The party’s decently-sized following on Twitter—they have more followers than Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party—is also not what it seems.
Jason LaFauci, a former member of Soldiers of Odin Sudbury (he said he only joined the SOO to take the far-right down from the inside), told VICE News that a few weeks ago he reached out to Saccoccia and Carbone to volunteer for the party. Known mainly for his drug activism, a spat with his local government over a weed cafe, and his ties to the far-right, LaFauci said he readily switched over the account of his Sudbury weed collective—with its 50,000 followers—to the Canadian Republican Party to help spread its message, and primarily to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic, which he didn’t feel traditional parties were addressing.
“I’m hoping that their hearts are in there in the right place,” he told VICE News.
While Carbone’s party is spoken about rather highly within Canada’s private anti-mask Facebook groups, he hasn’t been able to make many inroads in traditional Canadian politics. Natasha Gauthier, a spokesperson for Elections Canada, confirmed that the party still hasn’t been registered, which means it cannot appear on a ballot, run candidates in an election, or issue tax receipts for contributions.
Gauthier said the party can still run candidates as independents, but would need to register as a third party and be subjected to spending limits as well as report its finances. These rules only apply during an election period (which it is not.)
Despite being able to essentially act with impunity since there isn’t an election here, the Canadian Republican Party isn’t loudly disputing Biden’s victory like its U.S. counterpart. Other than Saccoccia’s rantings on Twitter, the party has gone relatively quiet.
The last post on its Facebook page was on November 8, the day after Biden’s victory was announced. It doesn’t address the election but instead explains why Carbone wears sunglasses all the time. (He has cataracts.)
Update, Nov. 18, 2020: After this story was published the Canadian Republican Party Twitter account reverted to being the account of Sudbury Weed Collective.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.