Voting strategically in Canada

Canada has one Right-leaning party, the Progressive Conservatives, and THREE left-leaning parties, the Liberals, New Democratic Party, and Green Party. (And some Independents, and a few other, smaller parties that I won’t get into here. Plus a large French party- the Bloc Quebecois- but since the people who vote Bloc seem to do so for reasons tied more to culture than to politics, for this post I’ll skip them too).

Anyway, my point is that less than half the Canadian population tends to lean Right- but on the Right, there is only one party, so that party gets all the Right-leaning votes. To generalize, all Right-leaning Canadians vote Conservative.

Left-leaning Canadians, arguably a more idealistic group, split themselves into smaller camps among the Liberal, NDP, and Green Parties- all Left, but a Left divided. Divided they often fall, into a Conservative majority government.

There’s a Canadian election looming, called early by the current (Conservative) Prime Minister. It’s looking pretty good for him right now, so a lot of Left-leaning people are talking about strategically voting in this election- in other words, voting for the Left party that’s most likely to win in one’s riding, instead of the party one feels most politically aligned with. They’d rather have leadership that’s “not quite as Left as they want” than split the vote and allow conservative leadership to take the majority.

Here’s a site that allows Canadians to input their postal code and determine the ideal Left-leaning strategic vote for their riding.

This is that site’s evaluation of the current polls:

Here’s an interesting 2003 interview with US playwright Tony “Angels In America” Kushner, in which he addresses the US version of this concern:

I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: Anyone that the Democrats run against Bush, even the appalling Joe Lieberman, should be a candidate around whom every progressive person in the United States who cares about the country’s future and the future of the world rallies. Money should be thrown at that candidate.

And if Ralph Nader runs — if the Green Party makes the terrible mistake of running a presidential candidate — don’t give him your vote.

Listen, here’s the thing about politics: It’s not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this.

The GOP has developed a genius for falling into lockstep. They didn’t have it with Nixon, but they have it now. They line up behind their candidate, grit their teeth, and help him win, no matter who he is.

You’re saying progressives are undone by their own idealism?

The system isn’t about ideals.

So, yeah. Strategic voting.

I’m always curious about what people do when faced with this dilemma.

If I may, what do you guys do? Or what would you do?
Do you vote for the party you like the most, no matter what else is likely to happen with your riding, or do you vote strategically, casting a vote in favour of a party that sometimes annoys you, but which would help shut out a party you fundamentally distrust?

(As always, anonymity is totally cool here. I don’t get nearly enough trolls.)


8 Responses to Voting strategically in Canada

  1. A couple points.

    1. They are no longer the Progressive Conservatives. They are simply the Conservative Party now.

    2. I think it’s simplistic to dub the Conservatives as “right-leaning” and the Liberals as “left-leaning”. Hell, when I used to work for the NDP, we even used to call the Green party a “right-wing party”. I think your basic point is relevant, albeit messy.

    Generally, the 3 dominant parties have always operated with the Conservatives and the NDP book-ending the spectrum – and the Liberals somewhere in between. In fact, I would argue that the Liberals’ flexibility to assert themselves anywhere from centre-right to centre-left is their greatest asset. The Liberals can always be viewed as ‘moderate’ because they merely position themselves as a compromise between the NDP and the Tories.

    This year (and it’s important to distinguish this particular election from past ones), I believe the Liberals have obscured their message by not differentiating themselves from the NDP enough. In fact, I would argue with the NDP’s new commitment to the idea of “balanced budgets”, the NDP is more centrist than they ever have been. These Conservatives are also only centre-right – with the Liberals somewhere in between. Unfortunately for the Liberals, there is so little room to manoeuvre in the tiny space between the NDP and the Tories, that it’s difficult to distinguish any of the parties from each other ideologically. The Liberals compound their problems with an unpopular leader and the notion of adding a carbon tax, and everything goes to hell. Once you add an additional, redundant, nutrient-filled party into the mix, it all gets so confusing…


  2. Sam Mooney says:

    I’m all for strategic voting in this election. Anything to defeat the Conservatives. My dream is that we have a coalition government made up of the Liberals, NDP,Greens, and Bloc.

    Unfortunately I think that we’re going to end up with another minority Conservative government. I’ve been blogging about the election and voting from an anyone but the Conservatives position.

    One thing that we can all do to try and make sure we end up with a government that represents most Canadians is to try and get people out to vote.

    Voter apathy is a huge problem specially with people under 35.

  3. S Woodworth says:

    The central problem is that the electoral system used by Canada, the USA, and Britain is the most simplistic system designed for ONLY 2 parties of which one will win with a majority. Add a 3rd party and a winner needs only 35%-40% to take 100% of the power (majority gov). Inane! Thinking countries have figured out how to tie the % of the popular vote to the number of seats in government: i.e. 35% of the vote gets 35% of the seats. It couldn’t be a clearer NO BRAINER but our ties to 19th century tradition prior to having many parties and points of view are truly rigid.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Sam that a coalition (i.e. cooperation) would be the BEST POSSIBLE outcome.

    P.S. Neither of the links in this post worked for me or the other one.

  4. The lack of proportional representation has pretty much reduced the only options to the Liberals and the Conservatives, who pass the baton back and forth occasionally, and we are reduced to endorsing this facade of democracy by voting for what is ostensibly, in a given moment, the lesser of two evils. Positioning themselves marginally to the left of the conservatives occasionally gets the Liberals elected, while the corporations cover their asses by supporting both. Calling the Liberals the lesser of two evils is one thing, but a leftist party!!!?? Get real!!

  5. takver says:

    Yes, by all means vote strategically. The first-past the post voting system sucks and makes people choose between the lesser of two evils, entrenching established parties in the main. Independents and small parties have to really fight hard to succeed. Proportional representation would be better and more democratically representative, or for single constituencies preferential voting where voters number every square in the order of their preference, whereby the winning candidate needs to achieve 50%+1 voting preferences such as in Australia. We have even had candidates who come third on primaries but achieving 2nd and 3rd preferences to be successfully elected. They were elected because they are the least disliked candidate.

  6. anhaga1 says:

    You know any young people maybe eligible to vote for the very first time? Make sure they vote. If they think it’s a waste of time, encourage them to vote just for the experience – they may pleasantly surprise themselves.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I first of all read all the running parties mandates , placing an x on each item that I find suits my cause , the party that gets the most x also gets my vote, I do not want any pipeline going through my water system , I do not want any more clear cutting of our trees , or any more damage to the ozone , in other words I want the right to clean air , water , soil , and healthy trees specially the ones that take in the carbon , and give out oxygen . Give me these items , and you have my vote , and my support .

  8. Gordon MacRae says:

    Of Course this message is simplistic, and Yes the PC’s are not that anymore, just Conseratives – the point is to keep it simple to understand how voting strategically works. I’m all for it!

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