Bob Turner: Why I am voting strategically in federal election

I believe that this federal election is the most important in my lifetime. Given what Stephen Harper has done to Canada in four years, I am certain that four more years of a Harper government will do irreparable harm to Canada’s democracy, its institutions, and its environment. Canada just has to have a new government after this election.

As a voter, I have always wanted my vote count. Over the years, I have variously voted Green, NDP, and Liberal in provincial and federal elections. My decision has always been a personal struggle between my desire to support the party and candidate I most identify with, and the practical issue of which candidates have the best chance of winning. But I have always been reluctant to vote for a candidate that is unlikely to win. This is because my highest obligation is to do my very best to make my vote matter. 

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So as this federal election approached, I paid close attention to organizations such as the Leadnow/Votetogether initiative (www.votetogether.ca) that actively propose strategic voting to defeat Stephen Harper’s government. Their goal is to provide polling in ridings where the Conservatives were in close races with opposition parties, and to encourage people to vote for the opposition party best able to defeat the Conservatives, be that Green, NDP or Liberal. I embrace this strategic voting because the downside of another Conservative majority government vastly outweighs the upside of any particular opposition party winning.

For our riding of West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea-to-Sky Country, the non-Conservative candidate and party most likely to win is Pam Goldsmith-Jones of the Liberal Party. Leadnow/Votetogether and the Dogwood Initiative, two non-profit groups with no alignment with any particular opposition party, have conducted three polls of our riding over the last several months www.votetogether.ca/riding/59042/west-vancouversunshine-coastsea-to-sky-country.

These are the only credible polls for our riding I know of that are open to public scrutiny. The Liberals have consistently led these polls. In the most recent poll conducted in mid September, on a sampling of 300 people, voter support in our riding was Liberals 34 per cent, Conservatives 30 per cent, NDP 22 per cent, and Greens 11 per cent. This is a race too close to call between Liberals and Conservatives, given the margin of error in the polling, and the proven ability of the Conservative Party to get their vote out on election day.

For me this makes my vote clear. Pam Goldsmith-Jones, the Liberal candidate, is someone I greatly admire. I was mayor here on Bowen during the period she was mayor of West Vancouver and I was so impressed with her intelligence, her commitment to environmental issues, and her capacity to bring diverse groups together to develop a consensus and then get things done. So I am voting for Pam.

That said, when I look at my own values, I closely align with the Green Party platform and sensibilities. In my opinion they have the most credible leader in Canadian politics, and an excellent local candidate for our riding. But they have polled in last place in the three successive polls over the last three months in our riding. Nothing tells me they can win our riding.

The Greens’ great weakness is that they are competing in an electoral system that ensures that they will remain a marginal political player for the foreseeable future. For the Greens to become a force in Canadian politics they need reform of the Canadian electoral system. And here is the key for me: both the Liberals and NDP have committed to proportional representation. So as a latent Green Party supporter I am taking a two-step approach: elect a coalition Liberal-NDP government that completes the badly needed electoral reform, and open the door for Greens to make a difference on our national stage. 

It’s my view that the biggest potential impact of voting Green in our riding is vote splitting that will increase the chance that the Conservatives win our riding. In an election way too close to call, where a Conservative majority government remains a possibility, the thought of providing one more seat to the Conservatives is unacceptable. It is just way too big a risk.  

In last year’s municipal election on Bowen, Murray Skeels won the mayor’s job by a mere 14 votes. Seven voters, voting differently, could have changed the result. The memory of that election will forever remind me that every vote counts.

Bob Turner

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