Strategic voting: it's just plain nonsense

Don't believe Buzz Hargrove for a minute. Voting NDP will not split the progressive vote and elect a Conservative government.

On December 2, 2005, CAW President Buzz Hargrove endorsed Paul Martin and strategic voting. He called upon NDP voters to support the Liberals in ridings where they have the best chance of winning. What Buzz and his new friend Paul Martin didn't tell you is that voting NDP will not divide the left-wing vote and elect a Conservative government. In fact, strategic voting helps elect Conservatives.

In the 2004 election campaign Paul Martin campaigned across the country begging NDP voters to support the Liberals. In the riding of New Westminster-Coquitlam in British Columbia he said, “If you are thinking of voting NDP, I ask you to think about the implications of your vote. In a race as close as this, you may well help Stephen Harper become prime minister.” In that race the Conservatives beat the NDP, who came in second place, by a very few votes, with the Liberals trailing at a distant third. If NDP voters had ignored Paul Martin's plea and voted NDP, an NDP candidate would have been elected.

This happened in many ridings across the country. In Regina-Qu'Appelle, incumbent NDP MP Lorne Nystrom was defeated by a Conservative. He lost because many NDP voters voted strategically for the Liberal to stop the Conservatives from getting elected.

In a Toronto riding named Trinity Spadina, many NDP supporters voted Liberal to stop the Conservative candidate. But Trinty Spadina was a two-way race between the NDP and the Liberals. The Liberals won with 43 per cent of the vote vs. the NDP's 42 per cent; the Tory candidate won only eight per cent of the vote. Even though Conservatives had no chance of winning this riding, many NDP supporters voted strategically to stop a non-existant Conservative threat.

Strategic voting helped defeat 12 NDP candidates across the country. The real tragedy behind strategic voting was that it elected only five Liberals and seven Conservatives. If voters in these 12 ridings had voted with their conscience and elected New Democrats, the Liberals and the NDP combined would have had enough seats to operate a working and stable minority government.

Throughout Canadian history voting NDP has never split the progressive vote. Since 1962, the Liberal Party has governed Canada for 34 of 43 years even though 15-20 per cent of Canadians during any given election voted NDP. With progressive voters voting Liberal over the past 12 years to stop the âeoethreatâe of the Right, what you instead got was a weakened NDP and a Liberal government that was more conservative than Brian Mulroney.

In one area the Liberals are right. Voting NDP does reduce the Liberal Party's share of the vote. But what gets them really scared is the idea of a minority government, forcing them to work with the NDP. Paul Martin and the right-wing of the Liberal Party dislike the fact that some of Canada's best social legislation was passed during the Lester B. Pearson minority government in 1963-68, Pierre Trudeau's minority government from 1972-74, David Peterson's provincial minority government in Ontario from 1984-87, and Paul Martin's very own minority government from 2004-2005.

History has shown that strategic voting has never helped Liberals vote out Conservative incumbents. In the 1999 Ontario election, many New Democrats voted Liberal to get rid of the Tories. What happened? The Tories were re-elected. Mike Harris' re-election was based on his personal popularity and Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty's poor leadership skills. Even if the NDP didn't exist in Ontario, the Liberals would still have lost the election.

Some people believe strong NDP support helped split the left-wing vote and elect Conservative leader Brian Mulroney in the 1984 and 1988 elections. This couldn't be further from the truth. In 1980, the NDP received 19.6 per cent of the vote. In 1984 election, the year Mulroney was elected, NDP support dropped to 18.8 per cent. The large group of centrist and independent voters who traditionally support the Liberals decided to support Mulroney. These voters rarely consider the NDP.

Some left-leaning voters may argue that Paul Martin has enacted a large amount of progressive left-wing legislation over the past 17 months. He shelved corporate tax cuts, invested money in our cities, and moved forward with the Kyoto Accord. What these voters may not know is that Jack Layton's NDP forced Martin to enact this legislation. If the Liberals had a majority government, Paul Martin would probably have reneged on Canada's commitment to the Kyoto Accord, cut corporate taxes, and supported George W. Bush's reckless foreign policy.

If Paul Martin loses this election, he has only himself to blame. The Liberal Party of Canada loses elections when centrist and independent voters swing their support to the Conservatives. Most political analysts believe these voters are not ready to trust Stephen Harper yet and will re-elect another Liberal minority government.

That is why NDP supporters should support New Democratic candidates in their ridings and elect 30-40 NDP MPs. The NDP is the only party who can stop Paul Martin's government from cutting corporate taxes, stand up to the Republican administration of George W. Bush, reinvest in health care and cities, and a number of other important measures that Canadians consistently say they want.

Strategic voting isn't strategic at all. It's just plain nonsense.

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