The Red Herring of Strategic Voting

Gregory Dwulit, a writer for, has brought my attention to his article dated Dec. 13/2005 on the perils and “plain nonsense” of strategic voting.

Strategic voting [in 2004] helped defeat 12 NDP candidates across the country. The real tragedy behind strategic voting was that it elected only five Liberals and seven Conservatives. If voters in these 12 ridings had voted with their conscience and elected New Democrats, the Liberals and the NDP combined would have had enough seats to operate a working and stable minority government.

Of course, you have to remember that a month ago, it looked like we were heading for another Liberal minority, and now a Conservative majority is a very real and sad possibility. Therefore, the statement that “Most political analysts believe [centrist and independent voters] are not ready to trust Stephen Harper yet and will re-elect another Liberal minority government” might not completely hold any longer — at least the conclusion on the Liberal minority outcome. However, this is a reference to those voters who only swing between the Liberals and the Consevatives. “The large group of centrist and independent voters who traditionally support the Liberals decided to support Mulroney [in 1984],” writes Dwulit, noting that in that election, the NDP saw its support drop to 18.8% from 19.6% in the previous election in 1980. “These voters rarely consider the NDP.”

So, if Liberals are to lose seats this time, better that they lose them to the NDP. In a riding like Halifax, which is already NDP, better that it stay NDP than switch to the Liberals, since it looks like the Liberals are going to have their ass handed to them anyway and few Haligonians are Reform/Alliance-style Conservatives. And in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, which is really a two-way race between the Liberals and the NDP, why not just go with your heart and go back to the NDP (as in 1997 and 2000 with Wendy Lill). Indeed, better to have more NDP MPs to balance centre-right and right-wing ideologies in order to bring the balance to the centre, which most Canadians, it seems, prefer. The best strategy for a true centrist should be to vote more to the left than he or she might normally in order to tug the far right to that centre they prefer if they truly fear the right.



That said, I recognize that in ridings where the NDP consistently comes a distant third, you may have no choice but to vote strategically. But it’s up to you to do your research and find out what has historically happened to the NDP in your riding, and not accept at face value that your only strategy to stop the Conservatives is to vote Liberal. Also keep in mind, however, that your NDP vote in a “hopeless” riding will still give $1.75 to the party nationally, since now parties can’t raise money directly from corporations and unions. In short, your vote for the NDP can help make a difference in the opposition and in the next campaign.

{2} Thoughts on “The Red Herring of Strategic Voting

  1. “now a Conservative majority is a very real and sad possibility.” Very real for sure, but sad? You must be someone that depends on other peoples tax money to deem that possibility sad. What could be sad about the prospect of clean, honest government where all citizens are treated equitably instead Liberals and their friends skimming of all the cream while mere taxpayers like me have to settle for the cold comfort of paying outrageouly high taxes so that they can claim the “entitlements” to which they are “entitled”. Cheer up January 24th will be a bright new dawning from which even the likes of you can benefit as long as you are willing to work for yourself and be assured you will be able reap the benefits of that labour instead of having them taxed away.

  2. Bob,

    How DARE you waltz into my blog and assume that “the likes of me” is “someone that depends on other peoples [sic] tax money”? I run a small business, pay my taxes, and don’t receive a red cent in loans, subsidies or grants to earn my keep. But, like you, if I step out of my house and get run over by a bus (and survive), I’ll be rushed to hospital and, when I recover, I won’t have to go bankrupt because of my healthcare bills *because* of the taxes I pay. (Note: I am NOT saying nor do I wish to imply that that would change under the Conservatives, as that’s clearly not in their platform. I’m not going to pull a Martin and start devising a phantom platform for the Conservatives.)

    Indeed, the prospect of “clean, honest government” is not sad, but in every single year of the Mulroney Conservative government, there was UNcleanliness and DIShonesty from that government, starting as early as ’85 with improper government interference in the tainted tuna scandal in New Brunswick. In other words, I am not (and cannot be) a BQ supporter, but Duceppe was right in the last set of debates when he pointed out that the Liberals do not hold the monopoly on unethical practices. I have a very long political memory, so it’s not hard for me to go back to ’88 and recall that the GST was imposed by Conservatives the following year, but that was never mentioned, of course, during the campaign. As much as the Liberals left the economy in shambles in ’84, the Conservatives left it in worse shape in ’93 (with a massively increased national debt) and, yes, INTRODUCED a new tax. To quote that windbag that is Dr. Phil, “past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour,” and the past behaviour of Conservatives has left a very bad taste in my mouth.

    “All citizens treated equitably” under a Conservative majority government? Perhaps if you meet a very narrow definition of what a good Canadian citizen is, and the wording of your comment leaves “the likes of me” to believe you don’t think that I fit that model. It is precisely this kind of rhetoric on the part of the right of the political spectrum that not only worries and angers me, but saddens me. Conservatives create these strawmen arguments based on their perceived value of an individual and then proceed to attack these strawmen of their own creation. And underlying these faux arguments is a quest for what Conservatives believe are their “entitlements.”

    Now make no mistake: I don’t believe in a nanny state. I don’t believe the government owes anything to individuals who do nothing, whether we’re talking about bogus contracts or people who are afraid of work. But I do think that bad things happen to good people — things that are beyond their control — and if my taxes dollars go towards giving a hand up to these people, then I’m fine with the taxes I pay. Giving $25/week/child to parents with kids under 6 for daycare is an aimless money toss. If you’re in rural Anywhere Canada, you already DON’T have a choice to send your kid to daycare even if you chose to do so, so this notion of “giving Canadians the choice” is the Conservatives’ thinly veiled way of giving a bit of cash to its core rural supporters. Besides, this spree will not create a single new space of affordable daycare, which is what we need to enable parents who chose to work outside the home to be active participants and contributors to our economy. Only if every province already had a daycare system like Québec’s, which costs parents $35/week/child, would a $25/week allowance to parents be remarkably generous …perhaps even too generous to my taste.

    No, I stand by my choice of the word “sad,” for reasons too numerous to enumerate in a blog comment that’s already getting way too long. I hate to use the tired cliché of “hidden agenda” when referring to the Conservatives, but I’m definitely worried about how, in this campaign, it seems the Conservative candidates have been silenced. “Sad” will be the day when the (figurative) muzzle is taken off these people so that they can carry out their duties in the House of Commons, as they should. If this election is about trust, as I believe it is to a large extent, then I can affirm right here and now that I have absolutely no trust in the Conservatives, which is saying a lot given how little trust I have in the Liberals. At least Liberals can be talked out of their bad ideas.

    Now Bob, why do I think you’re not even going to come back to read this comment? And Bob, if you’re a swing voter — nothing in your comment suggests that you are or not — and if I’m occasionally a swing voter, you know, of course, that it’s probably safe to assume we don’t swing between the same two parties. So that brings me to wonder why you even bothered to leave this comment, for if you had a blog, I certainly wouldn’t bother commenting on it since we’re clearly unlikely to reach common ground. Who are you, Bob, aside from a drive-by blog commentor?

Comments are closed.