October 18, 2015

Why I'm opposed to strategic voting

I've heard from all kinds of people that they are going to vote in the best way possible to defeat Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. They are choosing to vote strategically.

What this means in most cases is that people who might normally align with the New Democrats, are instead voting for the Liberal or Green candidate in their riding. In some instances, I suppose there are historical Liberals, or disenchanted Conservatives, who have decided to, perish the thought, vote for the crazed socialists.

Strategic voting is a mistake.

Strategic voting promotes an us versus them attitude, in which people make a clear decision to be against something.

Surely our democracy is worthy of more than negative voting. Many Canadians are open to changing their vote from election to election, depending on local candidates, national leaders, various circumstances and new, or newly discredited, policies.

Candidates should matter and do. We elect our Member of Parliament. If we want good people to seek public office, then we should treat them with respect and that includes not discounting them out of hand simply because of their political party affiliation.

Strategic voting tends to support the winning is everything idea; that somehow, winning at all costs is a model to be emulated. That ignores the kind of discussion that elections should promote, the conversation around the policies and values we share as Canadians, and the vision we seek for our nation. If we are only voting against something, to rid ourselves of some perceived evil, then how can we be sure that we are voting for the policies and values to which we subscribe? Or in the words of Pete Townsend, Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (particularly true when one compares the history of the Liberals and Conservatives and the corporations that finance both).

To vote strategically, people have to rely on polling data, and while that might be an indicator nationally, or possibly provincially, the sampling used in individual ridings is poor at best, especially in close elections. Letting pollsters guide our voting decisions is not a good idea.

And voting strategically might just push us ever close to the American two-party system, and we all know how brilliantly that system is working. If anything, we should be encouraging even more political parties by public financing of elections and proportional representation. In the last federal election more people didn't vote, than those who actually voted Conservative. Think what might happen if each one of us took one new, never-voted-before person to the polls.

Voting strategically is a falsehood. Ultimately our nation would be better served and we would be better represented, if we just voted for the best candidate, or for the party that best represents our vision of Canada. On Monday, let's all vote, encourage others to to do the same, and see what happens.

We're all in this together.

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

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