Sunday, September 7, 2008

He Finally Called It

The foreplay is finally over. Stephen Harper has requested that the Governor General dissolve parliament for an election on October 14th. Here's what I want to say about it:

Strategic voting is a huge mistake!

Today Ipsos-Reid reports that 33% of Canadians intend to vote strategically - i.e. vote to keep the party they dislike out of power rather than to put a party they like in power. To them: don't do it!

I confess, I've done it before. We feel we only have two viable options right now, the Conservatives (CPC) and Liberals (LPC). Those who dislike the Conservatives can vote Liberal or NDP, but everybody knows that the NDP won't win and then the Liberals will be less likely to defeat the Conservatives.

I will hazard a guess that most of the 33% are of the variety I just described. In Alberta, the Conservative stronghold, the figure drops to 28% which confirms my feeling that more Conservative voters genuinely like the party. In our last federal election the Liberals pulled 30.2% of the vote (103 seats) and the NDP pulled 17.5% of the vote (29 seats). Now, how unreasonable is it to think that even 40% of those strategic voters are people who like the NDP but will vote otherwise out of fear? Supposing that's true, the numbers are suddenly reversed. The NDP becomes our viable alternative to the Conservatives.

At the very least, we can say that with that many voting for a party they don't genuinely want to see in power, the political landscape is very different from what it could be. And it's a short-sighted approach. You try to make your next four years better but you do nothing to improve the long-term prospects. We'll only secure other options for ourselves when we decide to bite the bullet, let the bad guys win one, and send a message to the country that there are more than two viable options.

My bias is probably clear enough, but I'm not even trying to argue for one side or the other. I'm arguing for honest voting. Check the box next to the candidate you want to see in parliament, or next to the party you want to see in power. It's that simple, and it's the only way to get out of this lesser-of-two-evils rut we're stuck in. That won't happen by itself. We can bring it about only when we stop waiting and stop reacting.


Peter M said...

And don't forget that each vote for a party affects its funding for the next election. So if you like a party, they can always use your vote.

And then you get the occasional surprise: in the last Quebec provincial election, I ended up getting fed up with everyone else and voting for the totally under-the-radar "Option Solidaire" party, and they almost won the riding.

Harlan said...

Those are sizable numbers. I would speculate that lesser evilism voting patterns lead the runner-up to try to steal votes from the incumbent the next time around by trying to appease its constituents and leaning more in their direction. In this case liberals begin offering ideas that would seem suitable to moderate conservatives. So I would have to agree with Mike -at worst bite the bullet and send a message; at best your preferred party wins. Which given these numbers, doesn't seem that improbable.