Albertans are talking about strategic voting in the provincial election on April 23, 2012. Strategic voting is choosing a party not because it is your first choice but to stop another party from winning. I urge you to vote for the part that best represents views. Vote for what you stand for, not what you stand against.
When you settle for the lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil
For the record, I don’t think that any person or party is evil. I just like that headline.
The main argument I’ve heard in favour of voting strategically for the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) is to prevent the Wildrose Alliance Party’s allegedly hidden agenda to rescind gay marriage and abortion rights.
In fairness, Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith says that contentious social issues will not be legislated under a Wildrose Government. She is personally pro-gay marriage and pro-choice. The same can be said for Premier Alison Redford—and as a bonus she believes that climate change is caused by human activity!
If you intend to vote for the PCs based on statements by Wildrose candidates, then you should also consider comments made by PC MLAs. Let’s look specifically at comments made about homosexuality, abortion and equality rights by members of both parties courtesy of the slick website www.toryorwildrose.ca.
Wildrose Alliance Party
“The gay-feminist project has become a social engineering project – to use the coercive power of the state to undermine the existing family.”
“To affirm homosexuality is to distort the image of God, to insult the nature and being of God.”
“I would like today to present a petition on behalf of 105 Albertans … we the undersigned residents of Alberta petition the Legislative Assembly to pass legislation to deinsure abortion.”
“The courts are out of control [because they have been] striking down the abortion law, the change in the traditional definition of marriage, the legalization of swingers’ clubs.”
“Men are attracted to smiles, so smile, don’t give me that ‘treated equal’ stuff. If you want Equal, it comes in little packages at Starbucks.”
“I think as a Caucasian I have an advantage. When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speaks they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a Caucasian I believe that I can speak to all the community.”
This above quotes shows that both the PCs and the Wildrose have members with extreme views. I am by no means painting all the supporters of these parties with one brush. All parties have supporters who are working hard to make Alberta a better place and not making “bozo eruptions“.
However, the question remains whether the PCs are well suited to guard progressive values.
If Ed Stelmach was forced out as PC leader after winning 72/83 seats in 2008, the PC Party could conceivably replace Allison Redford even if she hangs onto government. Would, say, Premier Ted Morton be materially different than Premier Danielle Smith?
Effective strategic voting is complicated, trending towards impossible
Pollster Janet Brown is an authority on Alberta Elections. She accurately predicted that the PCs would win 72-seats in 2008 and was only a couple seats off in 2004.
Brown recommended not strategically voting in a recent interview: “vote for the party that most closely matches your values, that is what democracy is all about … don’t strategically vote.”
Brown said that you should only consider strategically voting if you can answer yes to each of the following six questions:
- Do you know which electoral district (riding) you are in?
- Do you know if your electoral district was changed in 2012?
- Do you know the vote split from 2008?
- Do you know how the boundary change affects the vote split?
- Is there a high-profile local candidate in the riding who might affect the vote split?
- Would you still strategically vote if you knew that your first place party would be shut-out? (i.e. won zero seats)
Many Albertans don’t know their riding and if they do it may have changed in the 2012 redistribution.
Last election I lived in Calgary-Buffalo but the boundary change landed me in Calgary-Currie. Both of these ridings elected Liberal MLAs in 2008 with the PCs finishing a strong second.
So that means that a conservative minded voter should vote PC and progressives should vote Liberal right? It’s more complicated.
The political landscape has changed dramatically since 2008. Current polls show a relatively close race between the Wildrose and the PCs in Calgary with Liberal support plummeting to single digits.
Further complicating matters is that the incumbent MLA Dave Taylor left the Liberals to become an Alberta Party MLA in 2011. Then he retired and Norm Kelly, a criminal lawyer, is running for Alberta Party to replace Taylor. The Alberta Party is a wildcard in this race.
There is a reasonable explanation for a Liberal, PC, Wildrose or Alberta Party candidate winning in Calgary-Currie (and associated matrix of strategic voting options).
Brown says that t’s nearly impossible to predict how provincial polling will play out in a local race due to small local sample sizes and fluctuations in the voting public.
I agree with Brown that in my riding, and many throughout the province, it is very difficult for even experts to predict the ranking of the top two or three parties in the race.
The best way to ensure that a candidate who represents your views is elected is to –wait for it– vote for the candidate and party who best represents your views.
In order to change the government, support the candidate and party that you believe in
The Wildrose elected zero MLAs in 2008. It transformed itself from a fringe party into a government-in-waiting in about four short years. Even the legendary Peter Lougheed elected 6 MLAs in his first election in 1967.
Imagine if Albertans at the time dissatisfied with the Social Credit dynasty had voted strategically for the then-stronger Liberal party.
The development of the Wildrose was remarkably un-strategic: the PC Party warned that the Wildrose would split the conservative vote. Nevertheless, the Wildrose chose a media savvy leader, raised a bunch of money and ran a well-organized campaign. They might be rewarded with the keys to government.
We can learn this from the Wildrose: if you want to change the government find a party that you believe in and support them with your time and money. Political parties are little more than the sum of their people.
If you don’t believe that an underdog political movement with committed volunteers can win the day I invite you to Google “Naheed Nenshi”, “Orange Crush Quebec” or “Phil Davidson Stark County” (okay that last one was just for fun).
A few websites have sprung up encouraging “progressive” voters to either vote for their choice in a certain riding. These websites assume that the Alberta Party, the Liberals, the NDP (and in some cases the PCs) are the same. In other words voting for any of the chosen parties will elect roughly similar candidates. They are not the same. Brian Mason is not the same as Ted Morton.
Vote based on your hopes, not on your fears
As blogger Dave Cournoyer points out, a Wildrose government we will need a real opposition. After four decades in government, could the PC Party fill this role? Cournoyer concludes:
Voters who want more than two conservative voices in the Assembly should ignore the calls for strategic voting and cast their votes for the candidates and parties who best represent their views.
Voters may find something appealing in the platforms of any of the parties. Decide for yourself here.
My personal opinion is that we need a new political alternative to move beyond the status quo. The Wildrose vision of the future appears to be past. The PCs have had 41 years of majority governments and the Liberals have been in opposition for 90 years. It’s been 23 years since the NDP won a seat in Calgary. Voter turnout in the last election was a pitiful 41% (27% in my riding).
The Alberta Party presents a new moderate alternative to move beyond the left vs. right, progressive vs. conservative, rural vs. urban and north vs. south divides in the province. Its policies are based on the best ideas and meaningful citizen engagement.
The Alberta Party won’t form the government this election. But it has a legitimate shot at a handful of seats. A few seats were enough for Lougheed to get a majority the next time around. Electing one NDP MP in Quebec in 2008 paved the way for the orange crush of 59 seats in 2011.
At best, strategic voting may elect the lesser of two bad choices. At worst you will elect a government that you don’t want. On April 23rd, for the first time in a generation Albertans truly have a choice of great candidates and a competitive race in almost every riding.
Vote holding your heart, not holding your nose. Trust me, it will feel good.