An article last week in the Huffington Post (“There Is Actually a Way to Guarantee Harper’s Defeat,” 2015-10-08), by Dr. Ali Kashani, urges in sixteen specific ridings that the Liberal (or NDP) candidate take-one-for-Canada and endorse his or her corresponding NDP (or Liberal) candidate — so we can “guarantee” a loss for Mr. Harper.
Dr. Kashani projected in some cases national or regional opinion polling into local-riding results, and formulated this pipedream. And it is a pipedream, for it has no basis in reality. There are many other websites out there, as well, and organizations, all purveying some manner of this, or of strategic voting in general.
I’m the Liberal candidate in one of those ridings, and so over the past week and a bit I’ve been inundated with “Vote NDP to defeat Mr. Harper,” and “Ron, be a stand-up guy and endorse your NDP opponent; for your Country. It’s the right thing!”
There are variations of this plea, but they all read pretty much the same. They’re really quite something.
To all of you who would have me, or any candidate, step aside at this point, let me say that I recognize the earnestness of your requests, and understand your concerns.
But let’s look at what you’re really asking: based on dubious data and the arcane art of opinion polling, and knowing nothing about how well we’re actually doing on the ground, you ask me to betray the many people who have worked so hard, to cast aside all their hundreds of hours of hard work, their miles and miles and hours and hours of stomping through sunshine and rain and knocking on doors, their thousands of phone calls, their planning, their organizing, their abiding loyalty and commitment to a vision of a better Canada and a better future, and to break faith with all our voters and supporters? – and with a shrug toss it all into the bin? Oh well, we tried?
The notion is inconcievably misguided and naive, and it will never happen; not by me, and, I’ll warrant, not by any candidate. No candidate worth his or her salt would commit such a betrayal, such an abject breach of trust. There can be no honour in this. It cannot be “the right thing,” nor could it serve the national interest in any way.
So let me talk to you, each of you who have written, or mean to do so, or any of you who think that this or strategic-voting itself is in any way a good idea.
Firstly, as will no doubt be evident by now, I’m not a fan of strategic voting at the best of times, particularly when driven by opinion polls. The concept is faulty on so many levels.
Nor do I support the anybody-but-Conservative approach. If you’re willing to settle for just anybody-else, you’re not setting your sights high enough.
We don’t need just any other option. We need, each of us, to choose our own best alternative and vote for it. That’s how democracy works best. Vote for what you want, don’t just vote against what you don’t want.
But let’s look at the national polling numbers; they’ve inverted in recent weeks (we’ve been working hard, and Mr. Trudeau has been working harder!) The NDP peaked early, and has been in precipitous decline for a while now.
If you believe the polls, as it seems you do, the NDP has no chance of forming government, nor of defeating Mr. Harper.
If you believe the polls, as it seems you do, the Liberal party is now likely to form at least a minority government — well ahead of the Conservatives, and leagues ahead of the NDP.
I cite here, for example, the CBC Poll Tracker — which predicts (2015-10-15): 140 Liberal seats, 110 Conservative seats, and only 86 NDP seats, give or take.
Let me say that again — only 86 NDP seats! If you’re a strategic voter and believe the polls, as it seems you do, at this point the NDP is clearly not the place to put your vote.
But this also speaks to those who argue that “if we want to defeat Mr. Harper, the NDP is the only party that can do so!” — now that we’re at the top of the polls, by that same token the Liberal party would now seem to be “the only party that can defeat Mr. Harper” — Shouldn’t you now be telling everyone to vote Liberal?
(This whole strategic-voting idea seems to arise out of the observation, upon looking at the numbers, that “if only we could get all the non-Conservative voters to vote together, we could guarantee to defeat the Conservatives” — but we don’t actually have to pool all those votes — we just need one more vote than they get. One vote. Your vote, perhaps.)
But wait, you say: there are other opinion polls, and other results that vary quite a lot!
Exactly. That’s why the whole strategic voting scenario is so absurd. The polls are fun to talk about over coffee after a hard-day of campaigning, and maybe they give us a hint about whether our communications strategy is working, but they’re unsuitable for anything else, much less deciding how to vote.
In reality, while we’re doing very well in this riding, thank-you very much — there is no way that it is a given for anyone, certainly not the Conservatives, but most certainly not for the NDP either.
An Environics poll done here over the weekend (October 9-11) shows our NDP competion in a slight lead, and we ourselves only slightly behind the Conservatives. Much like the national polling some weeks ago.
This interactive voice response (IVR) poll was done on a random(!) selection of land-lines, and only 504 respondents; it claims an error range of ±4.4%. The difference between us and the NDP in this poll is only about 25 people. It’s really too small a poll to yield definitive results, and there’s no basis to determine the representativeness of the sample. It’s fun to talk about (Hey! We’re neck and neck and neck!) but it means little more.
This riding is a three-way race, in any event (but, if you believe the polls nationally, trending for us). If you merely want to defeat the Conservatives there’s no advantage here to voting NDP over us. We have a real shot, providing we keep our shoulders to the wheel and keep up the good work.
Elections are not determined by opinion polls or spreadsheets. They’re won by hard-working people pursuing a vision, and getting out the vote.
Strategic voting is a waste of a good vote, passing off your own judgement to some pollster with an unknown agenda. The only poll that really counts is the election itself.
Your role in this is straight forward, too, but no less important: take a hard look at the candidates, their platforms, and their leaderships, and make a decision about the Canada you want. Don’t just vote against what you don’t want — figure out what you do want, and vote for that. Better is possible. Vote for Better. Vote for Real Change.
So let me save you some trouble, you who would so passionately ask me to step aside or ask our supporters to switch to our competition: it’s not going to happen.
We will be here, all of us, swinging for the fence for real change, working hard for a bright new future for Canada — until the last ballot is cast and counted on election day.
It’s the right thing to do.