Monday, October 12, 2015

Easy as ABC

With one week to go until the federal election, the "Anyone but Conservative" vote is shaping up. In Canada's multi-party, first past the post system, talk of strategic voting always comes up. Until a better electoral system is implemented (such as the preferential ballot), voters will have to decide how to make their vote count best. Strategic voting means trying to prevent particular party or candidate from winning by voting for someone who may not be your first choice. A vote for someone polling a distant third place is better spent on a candidate in a winnable position.

Most Canadians (about 62%) are voting to get rid of Harper; who gets voted in matters less. There are differences between the Liberal and NDP platforms, but they are close enough to each other and are both starkly different from the Conservatives (I'm substituting the Harper government's actions as their platform instead of what they promise they will do, because they tend to lie a lot). So, if most non-Conservative votes are transferable between the other parties, strategic voters should be monitoring the polls to avoid wasting votes on 3rd-place candidates with virtually no chance of winning.

In the wake of recent political change at the provincial level (an election also about turfing an out of touch and corrupt conservative regime that overstayed its welcome) a few Liberal and NDP candidates have realistic chances of success across Alberta. My own riding, Edmonton Riverbend, has never once elected a Liberal or New Democrat, but this could change with strategic voting. A poll from mid-September has the Conservatives leading the 2nd place NDP 44 to 34 percent, with the Liberal candidate trailing at 18 percent. An unscientific tally of lawn signs confirms the NDP is way ahead of the Liberals. If that same 62% of ABC voters swings from supporting a distant third candidate to the non-Conservative with a realistic shot at winning, Edmonton Riverbend could elect its first progressive MP. Two other local ridings (Edmonton Centre and Edmonton Manning) have very similar breakdowns.

Ali Kashani did a great job of identifying sixteen ridings across Canada where NDP-Liberal vote-splitting threatens to give Conservatives victory. In addition, in all ridings - an even eight apiece for Liberals and NDP - the third place candidate is clearly behind the frontrunners. Dr. Kashani calls on the NDP and Liberal parties to cooperate for their own mutual benefit, by standing down in half these ridings in order to win the other eight. Despite the obvious strategic logic, it is unlikely either party would consider doing so. But individual voters certainly could affect the same result by voting strategically.

Canadians who want to heave Steve should not nitpick about minor differences between Liberals and New Democrats. Find a local poll, or simply count lawn signs, and figure out who the two top contenders are. Then vote for the one who isn't Conservative. It's that easy.

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