As the Harper-led (dictated?) Conservatives continue on their path of wrecking the Canada we once knew by destroying both our economy and ecology, our peace-making place on the world stage, ripping up public support for the people of this land while handing the country over to corporations and China, instituting a secret police act that is reminiscent of Nazi Germany, plus far more, the hand-wringing among most informed Canadians is reaching a crescendo in this election year.
A concerted effort is now underway to convince all the other political parties to cooperate in order to prevent another Conservative-controlled government. Sadly the egos of all parties but the Greens are preventing this kind of cooperation. So, it is thought, the next best option is to convince the electorate to vote for the party that stands the best chance of defeating the Conservatives. This is called “Strategic Voting.”
Problem: it didn’t work the last time. In fact the Conservatives actually won more seats in our present inadequate and antiquated electoral system, despite concerted efforts to vote strategically. What’s worse, evidence shows that such strategic voting strengthens the Conservatives over time!
Why? Because the stronger the call for strategic voting the more the Conservatives use this as a fear tactic of their own, warning their supporters and sympathisers that if they don’t vote Conservative the battle will be lost. Simultaneously the more people are cajoled into voting for a party that is not their first choice the less likely they will vote at all. Voila! The Conservatives gain more votes and the other mainstream parties lose votes. The Cons win!
Second problem: how is it determined which party stands the best chance of defeating the Conservatives in each riding? Why, polls, of course. How accurate are polls? Would you bet your life on them? Remember, for example, the last election in B.C. All of the public polls said the NDP would win quite handily. The result? The exact opposite!!
Lastly, polls fail to count the nearly 50% of the population who do not vote. (The official stat is about 40%, but this number fails to include those who are not currently on the voters list.) Why is this a problem? Because when non-voters turn up at the polls the results change dramatically. In the last federal election Elizabeth May won because a large number of inspired non-voters voted for her! In the last provincial election Green Party Andrew Weaver won with the support of many non-voters. In fact, the highest turn-out rate of any riding in that election was in his riding.
If we want to defeat the Harperite Conservatives we need to strategically learn from their play book. They know that to win they need to suppress the popular vote. This is why they rammed through the un-Fair Elections Act -in order to prevent many non-conservatives from voting. This is also why they organised the robo calls in previous elections, attempting to confuse and discourage non-Conservative people from finding their actual polling station. They learned this winning strategy from their close cousins in the U.S., the Republicans.
Getting people out to vote makes a real difference. Consider this fact: in the last election the Conservatives were elected to a majority government on the slim margins of only 6,201 votes across 308 ridings! Yet 1.8 million people aged 10-24 did not vote! If only a fraction of these voted (most would not vote Conservative) Harper would not win a majority. Likely not even a minority.
How can we be truly strategic to counter the Conservative and “strategic vote” movement (however well intended they might be)? By encouraging people to vote according to their consciences. To offer them the true hope that the simple act of voting is the key to defeating the Cons. In fact, as a result of helping every eligible voter learn which party best represents their beliefs, hopes, and aspirations, far more voters are more likely to cast their vote.
Count on it.