Regarding Electoral Fearmongering

Now, in the final days of the election, I want to talk again about the practice of strategic voting. Parties are ramping up their rhetoric and encouraging voters to cast their ballots for one party just to keep a different party from winning. And our first past the post system is usually what takes the blame for this. But continuing to vote strategically, election after election, actively works against the interests of all Canadians and keeps us from ever moving beyond a failing status quo.

The Liberals are using the spectre of a Conservative government to frighten progressive voters into electing a Liberal majority. The NDP has been using the Liberals and Conservatives to pick up votes as well. That is not a platform, and it is not a plan. It’s a threat. And any party employing this tactic is insulting themselves. When they use the politics of fear as a crutch, they are advertising their party as being nothing more than the lesser of some number of evils.

I find it boldly hypocritical of the Liberal party to so actively promote strategic voting, claiming that it is the only way to prevent a Conservative majority. Four years ago, Justin Trudeau promised that, in order to “make every vote count,” the 2015 election would be “the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.” After emphasizing that proportional representation would strengthen our democracy, the Liberals backed away from their promise. Now, when they encourage people to vote for them in order to keep out the Conservatives, they are saying voters have to support them because of an unfair system that the Liberals refused to fix, despite an explicit promise to do so.

Even if a progressive voter decides to “vote strategically”, that does not mean their vote is best cast for a Liberal candidate. Pundits often point to national polls and give the impression that a Liberal vote in any riding is the strategic one. In some ridings, voting strategically for “Anybody But Conservative” would mean voting for the NDP, or the Green Party, or the Bloc Québécois, because they have more support than the Liberals in that riding. The NDP has certainly seized on this point, encouraging voters to cast their ballots, strategically, for them.

These attitudes are most telling in my own riding of Burnaby North-Seymour. Now that the Conservative candidate has been dropped by her party, any call to vote strategically for Liberal candidate Terry Beech rings incredibly hollow. Even though it is now impossible for anyone in the Burnaby – North Seymour riding to vote for a candidate who could be a Conservative MP, Terry Beech continues to use this threat, and insists that we must “elect a progressive government instead of progressive people.” When Beech uses this threat, it shows his belief that his party deserves a majority, and suggests that a majority is necessary for a functional government. I am not concerned about having to work with other parties or to listen to a range of viewpoints in the House of Commons. I urge voters to elect the best progressive people they can – locally. Voting as though one party must have a majority is to ignore how individual MPs will best serve their constituents. We don’t need a majority to get things done.

If we fall for rhetoric on strategic voting now, we will be voting strategically over and over again for elections to come. The meaningful action that is needed in order to alleviate suffering and catastrophe cannot be accomplished when we choose to vote strategically. Slight shifts in our government’s position on the political spectrum don’t help our most vulnerable groups. There are Indigenous communities that still lack clean drinking water and other critical resources needed in order to survive.

It’s time to set aside fear and compromise, and vote for the changes we want to see – the ones we truly believe in.