Thursday, January 19, 2006

Canadian Election Strategies for Progressives

As the Canadian Election draws nearer, I figure I should offer a bit of my views.

Let me make it clear that, while I love Canada for the life I can lead here, I am not fooled into thinking this is a true democracy. An elected senate, and proportional representation would be a start to rectifying the problems.

However, there are some things we can do TODAY to take back our democracy. We can write our blogs, attend rallies, and write letters to our representatives, and better yet, we can participate in citizens' groups, community organizations, and grassworks movements, like the Toronto Public Space Committee.

And we can vote strategically.

This is a very controversial topic among progressives, and I understand and respect both sides. I will state that while I do believe in idealism, and showing support for the party that most closely approximates your beliefs, sometimes a pragmatic outlook is necessary, due again to the lack of a fair vote in Canada.

With our "First past the post" system, if you don't vote for a winning candidate, your vote doesn't count. So how to make it count? Figure out your election goals and vote strategically if necessary. How do you know if it is necessary? An amazing website with real numbers can help:
Are you in a position where your first choice party/candidate cannot win your riding? Are you thinking of voting for your second choice party/candidate? This guide is meant to inform you of whether voting strategically in your riding or not can make a difference.

So, for example, I've identified my goals for this election: 1) try to keep Conservatives out, and 2) try to get more support to progressive parties (such as NDP or Green).

Using Greg Morrow's strategic voting guide I discover the Conservative candidate in my riding basically has no hope in heck, due to the Liberal incumbent's popularity. Now that I don't have to worry about voting against anyone, I can look to supporting my alternatives. I prefer the Green Party, and their current election goal is to capture as much of the popular vote as possible, so as to show Canadians there is another possible alternative to the old hacks in parliament now, to keep their official party status, and to increase federal funding for future campaigns (I think they get $1.75 per vote).

This means, a vote for the Green Party is not totally wasted. It actually has some purpose. Here's another example of strategic voting. I urge everyone to really think hard before voting, and after January 23, do not get complacent. Your democratic duty isn't over after the election - that's only where it begins.

Not sure about bias in what you read? Input the text into this Political Vocabulary Analysis Tool to get a hint. It's not very accurate, especially when righties appropriate progressive vocabulary, (as this guy's commentaries often show) but neat!

Topics: Politics


Doug H. said...

I definitely agree with you on strategic voting. Voting for "third party" candidates is a waste of a vote at best, and actually has a negative effect at worst. If Ralph Nader hadn't run in the 2000 election...Al Gore would have been elected.

I am very wary of proportional representation though. Though it is true that it makes it possible for smaller parties to be viable, that is a double-edged sword IMO. Take a look at the countries that have it. For the most part, they are a mess. They spend a ridiculous amount of time simply trying to form a coalition that can govern, however shakily. And when they do...they are usually at the mercy of small extremist parties, who can--and will, bring down government after government.

Red Jenny said...

Actually you sort of missed my point. I don't agree with strategic voting - it is sort of like a necessary evil due to the particular machinations of our electoral system.

As to your argument against proportional representation, there are so many ways to prevent what you see happening in other countries (keep in mind many very successful democracies use some form of proportional representation and have none of the problems you list).

If parties are so small and extremist, they won't get enough popular vote to get much of a presence in parliament. If they represent a significant portion of Canadians, they will. But then, in that case, so they should.

Coalitions are very positive in that they prevent corruption because the ruling parties don't feel as though they have carte blanche to do whatever they want (hello mini dictatorship). Coalitions require compromise (not a bad thing).

I believe there should be at least some addition of proportional representation, to keep our crusty, and moldy old political parties on their toes!

doug h. said...

Just FYI...I am American. I live in Hawai'i (pehaps the most liberal state in America! *thumbs up*)

Actually, I did get your point on strategic voting. I didn't say it was good either. I was just being pragmatic--as you said, it is a necessary evil. I don't preclude 3rd party voting altogether. I would gladly vote for a Green Party candidate for instance...IF they have a realistic chance of winning.

So I think we are in total agreement on the issue. You obviously understand that having Gore as Pres. would've been FAR, FAR preferable to Bush, even if Nader would've been your preference.

As for the Proportional thing...

As I said, I am wary of it. I am for it in principal, but I am concerned by the exapmle of other countries. Israel is a prime example. Small extremist parties DO get into the Knesset because there ARE enough extemist voters to elect them. These parties gain leverage by joining with a major party so that party can even from a government. And they use that leverage. Current events in Israel bear that out. Sharon has had to defy them to carry out his policies (I am definitely NOT endorsing his policies BTW) and the government was damned-near brought down.

Israel is certainly NOT the only country with these sorts of problems, and all I'm saying is that if it can happen in one democracy, it can happen in another. If there are safeguards to prevent that sort of thing, I would be all for Proportional Rep.. I would like to hear about said safeguards and I would certainly like to see real-life examples of working systems before I committed to such a major change in a government.

From my take on history, it seems to me that working within the existing parties to change them, is the most realistic way of changing a country. And don't forget that major parties are coalitions already (made up of the so-called "Special Interests"). The elements within the parties have as much relative power in that party as their constituency would give them if they were separately organized parties.

P.S. Thanx for replying. It's nice talking to you and I like your blog. You have a good head on your shoulders and you write very well. --Plus you are pretty much in line with my way of thinking. I've been feeling increasingly lonely in America these past few years...hehehe! ~Aloha.

Anonymous said...

I agree with strategic voting this election--and appreciate the link to the strategic voting guide to help me decide if I vote Liberal to keep the much much worse conservatives out, or vote NDP or Green. Normally,I'd vote for one of the latter two, but I don't want a Nader-style debacle in Canada.

Doug H. said...

Hehe! ...I didn't know you had a "Marijuana" party in Canada. --Kewl.