depending on where you live, strategic voting is not a joke, it is a necessity

In several wmtc threads over the last few weeks, there have been discussions of whether or not to vote strategically in this election: here, here, here and here. I've gotten into similar discussions both on Facebook (before I went on Facebook hiatus for the duration of the election) and in person.

I live in a riding where the NDP will not be elected, where the Conservatives made gains in the last election and are hoping - not unrealistically - to make more this time out. The 905s, traditionally Liberal, are now increasingly Conservative.

There's no doubt that I'm a natural NDP voter. They are the party whose values line up most closely with mine. Many times Jack Layton's NDP has been too centrist for me, and I am further to the left. Yet here I am, voting Liberal.

I've been feeling a strange peer pressure from my Toronto activist friends. It's not what anyone says; it's what they don't say. There's a chilly silence. A few people have told me, "I voted strategically once, and I regretted it." But they live in ridings that will be either Liberal or NDP. They're not actually facing the possibility of living in a Conservative riding.

Obviously this does not apply to everyone. Many people vote NDP or Green in ridings where those candidates will not be elected. Many of them have lived in Canada a lot longer than I have. They've lived under Liberal governments - something I have not had the opportunity to do! - and they know the party's reality to be very different than its rhetoric. Many others will not vote for a party whose foreign policy is essentially identical to that of the Conservatives. I respect that, and I don't disagree. I realize this is difficult for many people to understand, but I'm not trying to convince anyone to change their votes. I'm writing about my own choice.

One expression I keep seeing and hearing about strategic voting is that it's "self-defeating". The argument goes: people won't vote for the progressive party because they can't win, but how can that party win if people won't vote for them?

But my reason for voting Liberal is not because the NDP can't win. It's because the NDP can't win in my riding, and that's the only place I can vote.

I would never not vote for a party because that party is unlikely to form the government. That's not strategic; that's just stupid. All the parties elected to Parliament have an opportunity to influence the direction the country takes. The more opposition seats, the better. The greater the space on the political spectrum between the government and the opposition, the better.

If someone's mistaken idea of strategic voting comes down to "I don't vote for the NDP because they won't form the government," then yes, that is absolutely self-defeating.

But the definitions of defeat and success depend on what you're trying to accomplish. On the night of May 2, here's what I want to see.

As many Bloc seats as possible.

As many NDP seats as possible.

As many Liberal seats as possible.

As many Green seats as possible.

As few Conservative seats as possible.

In this election, my goal as a voter is two-fold: to help deny the Conservatives as many seats as possible, and to help prevent a Conservative majority. Thus, in my riding, the most self-defeating act would be to split the anti-Conservative vote among NDP, Green and Liberal, thereby electing a Conservative MP. Contrary to much of what I read, this is not "making a joke" of voting. This is using my vote as wisely as possible.

And when the New Democrat Party and the Green Party are denied their full share of support - when the number of seats they hold in the House of Commons does not accurately reflect their support among the citizenry - this is not the fault of strategic voters. It's the fault of the first-past-the-post system in which our votes only count in a lump sum as part of some artificially designated district.

Right now, this is the only system we have. And right now, I live in Mississauga. Therefore, I am voting Liberal.


Adam said...

Right - and in any case, all voting is strategic (or tactical, or whatever).

I while back I voted in Halifax, and the choice was really Liberal or NDP. I was annoyed with Layton giving Tories talking points on the Green Shift, so I went into the both and actually decided to vote NDP, and not Liberal, while I was in the booth. Both candidates looked really good on paper, both had a tiresome tendency to argue that the other was the true collaborator with Harper. I also rather liked Dion.

Voting with my heart would have involved voting for a more left-wing NDP which didn't give Tories talking points on the Green Shift. That party doesn't exist - so I voted for the NDP.

If I lived in your riding, and the previous Liberal MP was still running, then I might vote NDP anyway. I agree with your activist friends that you should cast a positive vote, one which you can be proud of - but, although I am a member of the NDP, I don't think that has to be for the NDP.

I actually need to send an e-mail one of these days to the NDP on the subject of the Green Shift. It really annoyed me!

Scott M. said...

If it's any consolation, I'm voting NDP in my riding (as opposed to Liberal which is where I'd prefer to throw my vote this election).

You can say we're vote swapping!

laura k said...

@Adam, thanks for your thoughts. Could you tell me more about this:

If I lived in your riding, and the previous Liberal MP was still running, then I might vote NDP anyway. - ?

@Scott, interesting and surprising! Care to tell us why?

thwap said...

That is what we need to do.

Greg said...

The Liberals lost my riding by 17 last time to a Robocon. Though I want the NDP to do well, I will have to go Liberal in my riding this time.

Andrea said...

I have been driving around counting signs - Liberal or NDP.
The NDP has strengthened big time out west. A lovely sight.
But my riding is sooooooooooooooo conservative I shake my head at times.
I wont decide until the actual day which I will vote for.
I think I am leaning Liberal. There would have to be a massive storm surge of NDPers in this riding to overtake Strahl. sigh.

tornwordo said...

My district voted 83% last time Bloc. I am voting NDP because as you may know, they are leading the polls here. Unbelievable. I would so love to see Quebecers get over their love affair with Duceppe.

Nitangae said...

Hi Laura K:

I guess what I meant was that, going by the fact that you didn't seem to be too impressed with the previous MP (esp. her views on reproductive rights), it would be wrong to vote for her. In the same way that voting for Lieberman to keep a Republic out of the US Senate would be a mistake. But, of course, I do not dare to tell you how to vote - that is just my thought.

When I voted in Halifax, I could honestly say that either way, I would have been pleased with my vote. I am still pleased with voting for a good MP in Halifax, and I would also have been pleased voting for the good Liberal candidate, or so she seemed to me. So it was not a matter of voting for the "lesser of two evils."

Nitangae said...

Adam and Nitangae are one and the same, by the way. I am unmasked!

laura k said...

Ah-ha! Now this makes sense! Joining the movement to use first names, I see. I've really come to like it.

And yes, you're right. I don't think I would have voted for our previous MP. I've never knowingly voted for someone who opposed reproductive rights. It would be revolting to me. If she were still running, I would have likely voted NDP.

Of course, now that the NDP is surging in the polls, I want to be part of that! But given I can only vote in my riding... I think not.

Scott M. said...

I'm voting NDP for a few reasons:

1) Our local MP, Marcel Proulx (Lib), appears to be a nasty politician when on the news.

2) Today is the first day I've seen anything from his party that wasn't just a statement of the fact he lived in the community for most of his life. Who cares?

3) What I did receive today includes such stellar commitments as:
- Update the studies (yes, that's right, he's promising more studies) to move the Cdn Museum of Science and Technology to the new local site (This ranked first on his committment list)
- Favour the construction of federal buildings in the Alymer sector (yes, that's right, he's only promising to favour it)
- Update the studies for the Alymer-Kanata bridge
and it goes on. Fluff. nothing.

4) The NDP candidate has a good chance in this riding *and* she's made solid commitments to introduce a private members bill to better protect Gatineau Park (the Lib candidate doesn't support this and it's important to me), as well as seriously considering a ferry from Alymer to Kanata (an innovative idea).

5) The Liberal party has held this riding for over 100 years (Liberal since 1896 - I kid you not), and I'd be happy to have a part in breaking up any party's idea of a "safe seat'.

laura k said...

Scott, all excellent. Good luck!

Dharma Seeker said...

You've given it a lot of thought and you've made the right decision for you. That should be enough. I'm finding people are really pushing the boundaries of respecting a person's right to cast the ballot he or she chooses. I received an e-mail recently from a mutual acquaintance I never hear from except on a particular issue. This e-mail, however, was all about promoting the virtues of the NDP. I don't need to be told who to vote for like I'm some kind of simpleton who isn't aware of the issues and how I feel about them.

NOBODY should presue to tell another person how to vote, blatantly or passive/agressively, it just isn't right. It's also undemocratic. It's an intensely personal decision and other people need to respect that. YOUR vote = YOUR choice. End of story.

This is yer first federal Canadian election for feck's sake! Enjoy it! (as much as you can - I know how nerve wracking it will be). xo

Dharma Seeker said...

Adam you've no right to tell Laura (or anyone) that it would be "wrong" to cast a particular vote. Wrong for you, perhaps. Maybe wrong for Laura too, but that's her decision, not yours.

Not everyone will agree with every single view/platorm a candidate or party has. We weigh our options and make our own decisions, and it really leaves a bad taste in my mouth when people pass judgement ("it would be wrong") because they don't agree with someone else's choice.

laura k said...

Where was Adam doing that?

Nobody has been telling me how to vote. I can't imagine anyone I know doing that. I feel peer pressure because, frankly, I am not completely comfortable with my choice. But no one is overtly pressuring me in any way. Thanks for your support, tho. :)

Some Person said...

But isn't voting for the Bloc some sort of comedy option if one is in Anglophone Canada? At least this is what my Canadian friends on the SomethingAwful forums have told me.

laura k said...

To my knowledge, the Bloc only runs candidates in Francophone regions, but that may be incorrect.

Is someone here talking about voting Bloc?

laura k said...

If you're referring to Tornwordo, he lives in Montreal.

If you're referring to my saying "as many Bloc seats as possible" in the post, I am thinking of the entire House of Commons. As many not-Conservative seats as possible.

Or was it something else?