Point • Counterpoint: Strategic voting
Once every few years, Canadians have the ability to voice their opinion and pick who they want to represent them in Ottawa. In 2008, the majority of Canadians didn’t vote for a Conservative government. Nevertheless, they have led our country for the past three years. As such, this election especially begged the question of whether you should vote with your head, or with your heart.
As a result of vote splitting on the left, the Conservatives claimed more seats in the election than the party should have. With only 37 per cent of the popular vote, the party received over 45 per cent of the seats. Strategic voting is an attempt to remedy this vote splitting on the left, by voting for the highest ranked candidate, typically a non-Conservative.
While some voters are cast their ballot based purely on a party basis, there are ways for these people to vote strategically. Intelligent vote swapping allows for party voters to increase the possibility of a non-Conservative winning by supporting a left-wing candidate who has the best chance to defeat the Conservative candidate.
According to Elections Canada, in the 2008 election, there were almost one million Canadian who voted for the Green party. Yet, a million votes translated to zero seats. Had these votes been added to the Liberal party vote count, it would have translated into multiple seats for the Liberals instead of being electorally meaningless.
Kitchener-Waterloo is the closest riding in the country, with only 17 votes separating the Liberals and Conservatives. There are seven people running for office, six of whom represent some faction of the left-wing. Instead of voting for one’s favourite candidate or party that has no chance of being elected, one needs to be realistic. The political race in Kitchener-Waterloo is between Andrew Telegdi and Peter Braid. If you are considering voting for the New Democratic Party (NDP) or Green Party, or for one of the other candidates, a vote for the Liberals is better placed. Even if the Liberals were not your first choice, your vote will have meant something.
Having now voted in two federal elections, I realize the importance of voting strategically. In 2008, I voted NDP, as I support their policies. But, the NDP candidate was defeated by an enormous margin, a distant third in the local race that was essentially between the Liberals and the Conservatives.
This time, I voted Liberal. With a Conservative majority as a possibility, the most logical vote for a left-winger is to vote strategically; to choose the most likely option to defeat what you are really voting against.
If one is voting for a left winger, it is likely that the Liberals will do a much better job representing your opinions and ideals that the Conservative party. The parties are inherently different, but all of them are progressive, all fighting for your rights, rather than those of corporations.
The Canadian political system is flawed. Until a system of proportional representation is instituted, tactical voting will remain a part of the voting process. While the government may refuse to institute change, strategic voting gives voters the ability to institute a progressive government.
A vote is a precious thing. It should be something which is taken seriously, and not something that is thrown away. Like many Canadians, I fear what a Harper majority would do to Canada. This election, I chose to make a statement and make a difference. Strategic voting makes sense.
In this election, strategic voting is speculated to be one of the major deciding factors, as a common tactic among voters attempting to unseat Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Strategy in voting leaves a lot to be desired: so-called “fringe” parties are ignored and bi-partisanship is instead touted as the only way to deliver the desired results. The voter is left to choose between voting for their beliefs and voting to get “rid” of Harper—the confusion surrounding voting decisions leaves many irritated and disenfranchised.
Putting those feelings in perspective, this election could very well be decided by a few swing ridings and strategic voting. To explain the danger of voting solely to eliminate a certain party or leader, imagine the following scenario.
You voted Liberal because you knew it was a vote against Harper and now the Liberals are in power. You have now been in part responsible for voting Michael Ignatieff in as your Prime Minister. What if there are changes you don’t like or what if things remain the same? You voted against your political beliefs for someone who you would otherwise, under other circumstances, maybe never vote for. Now what?
Well, the excuses flow in: vote pairing or “swapping” is supposed to be a fair method where it is not simply voting for a party you don’t believe in. It’s voting for the party most likely to unseat the Conservatives. In essence you switch your vote so the chosen party has a greater chance of election on a larger scale and thus taking seats away from the Conservatives.
There are still problems with this method: if you want to vote for the party you believe in, then just vote for them. Don’t make a mess of the electoral system which is disproportionate and requires some careful thinking when choosing between the candidate or the party. It’s counter indicative of democracy to vote based upon motive instead of belief. A vote against the Conservatives is a vote against the Conservatives regardless of which party you choose.
If you want the Conservatives out, then don’t vote for them. In the 1999 Ontario provincial election, strategic voting was widely encouraged by opponents of the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris. This failed to unseat Harris and succeeded only in suppressing the New Democratic Party vote to a historic low.
Which party will be pushed yet again to the back of the electoral bus? By voting strategically, you’re voting in disapproval simply to get the least undesirable candidate instead of electing a desirable candidate. Elections should be about supporting your beliefs and voting to have those beliefs represented in the House of Commons. It is disingenuous to vote strategically, for the sake of the voting system; the sake of the “what if.” It’s wasting your vote.