I’m not a fan of “strategic” voting. Strategic voters vote insincerely for a party in order to deny a “worse” outcome from occurring. The downside, of course, is that the result of a strategic vote can be be much worse than the outcome originally feared. Having lived through the election of Bob Rae’s NDP in 1990 in Ontario, as a result of strategic voting, I am personally unwilling to endorse any platform or leader that I couldn’t live with for five years.
That’s why I found Elizabeth May’s call for voters to elect any government but a Conservative government this past week so disheartening.
“I’d rather have no Green seats and Stephen Harper lose, than a full caucus that stares across the floor at Stephen Harper as prime minister because his policies are too dangerous,” she said in a recent Toronto Star interview.
What utter crap.
I’ve voted for the Conservatives and the Greens in the past. You may disagree with Harper’s policies, but to describe them as dangerous is silly, casting May as a crank rather than a credible leader. Most importantly, though, as the leader of the Greens, May is saying that a vote for her party is a wasted vote.
Was she thinking when she said this?
The problem is that the left of center spectrum in Canada is now completely fragmented. A decade ago, it was the Reform and the Conservatives battling it out for mindshare on the right. Today the Liberals, Bloq, Greens, and New Democrats are all battling for votes on the left while the right is united. Either the left sinks into a permanently fractured state as parties battle it out for dominance, or they find a way to work together and perhaps merge.
In the meantime, fringe groups are counseling Canadians to vote strategically. Take, for example, http://www.voteforenvironment.ca, a site which has enumerated the swing ridings across the country, and tells voters how to vote in their riding if their only issue is the environment. You may be a natural Liberal voter, but in your riding it may be more effective to vote NDP. Their message is to abandon party and vote on the one issue.
That is, of course, exactly what Mr. Harper wants. This election isn’t about a new mandate for the Conservative Government. It’s about stoking voter dissatisfaction with the alternatives and forcing unprepared opposition parties to spend lavishly on a futile election. The election was timed so that after the spending and the inevitable leadership campaigns following an unsuccessful outing, the opposition will stay in the wilderness for another 10 years until they can figure out how to unite the left.
Machiavellian? Clever? Absolutely.
Just remember, you get what you voted for when you vote strategically. And it may not be what you want.