Strategic Voting in Canada Could Elect You the Exact Opposite of What You Want
What is it and When Should You do it?
Strategic voting occurs when a person chooses to vote against their preferred candidate in an attempt to keep a less desirable choice from attaining office. People participate because they feel it will increases the odds of a party with preferred principles and policies winning that seat. Does it work? Sometimes but not always. It depends on the actual likelihood of a specific candidate being elected to that seat and what influence he will hold in Parliament once elected.
There has recently been a wave of encouragement out there for people to participate in strategic voting. Some of this is legitimate but it is important to realize that a great deal of this noise is also propaganda. Those ads, articles, and memes out there encouraging you to vote strategically may actually be attempting to do nothing more than to sway your vote in their favor.
For those who truly want to make their vote count, all that noise can make it difficult to know what to do on election day. When strategic voting it is important to visualize the likelihood of each candidate achieving the winning seat and what degree of power that seat will give their party. It is generally the leading party and its main opposition who are most likely to enact the principles and policies that will affect you. So what should you do? Let's take a look at the facts as well as some of the misinformation. Then we'll try to figure that answer out.
Have You Ever Voted for a Candidate Who Was Not Your First Choice?
Have You Voted Strategically?
It's All in the Odds
In most countries there are two or three main political parties. In the U.S., these are the Republican and the Democrat parties. In Canada, it is the Liberals, Conservatives, and the New Democrat Party (NDP). In Federal elections, it is generally the Liberal or Conservative parties who form the governing party and the bulk of their opposition. This is an indication that odds favor one of these two parties winning the next election. Thus you would logically vote for one of the two leading parties to insure that your vote would have an overall greater influence on the outcome of the election.
This is especially true if your first choice was for a fringe party or for one with fewer than 3 seats in the house. It is however quite important to also take into account the candidate running in the riding you are voting in and this is where strategic voting comes into play. Party leaders and high profile candidates are much more likely to win their seat than a lesser known candidate, meaning that your vote could in this circumstance make a difference even if it were for a minor party candidate.
Your choice becomes a little more difficult if it is for the NDP which is the third main party. They have a very low chance of gaining the most votes in a federal election but there is always the hope that under the correct circumstances that they would be able to. It is up to you to decide if the stars are lining up in conditions favorable enough for them to pull off a win. Overall the odds are against it so if you threw your vote that direction it would likely not win this party the leadership role. It could however elect your candidate to a seat in parliament if the person you are voting for is highly charismatic, a party leader, or another highly recognized / respected figure. It can be confusing what to do, i.e., Elizabeth May.
An exception to this comes into play when a highly charismatic leader emerges onto the political scene. In Canada that person would be someone like Jack Layton and in the U.S. Bernie Saunders. These leaders have the personality and drive to pull a third place horse into a winning position. They dramatically change the odds of their party achieving a political win.
It's a Propaganda Game With a Huge Pay Off
Ah but in all high stakes games there comes an underhanded element to sway your vote in a not necessarily accountable way. A split vote can change an election dramatically and there can be ways and means to encourage a voter to place their vote in such a way as to bring this factor into play.
Anyone who uses social media has likely been exposed to some degree of political propaganda. For the past couple of years it has rained down on participants of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Youtube despite numerous attempts by these networks to get it under control. The misinformation shows up as memes, doctored images, shared articles, tweets, and comments. It can spread like wildfire.
Some of the propaganda is initiated out of country but much is coming directly from those who's political fortunes or monetary interests are at stake. It's an advertising campaign with high dollar stakes and those who are posting these items will use misinformation if it increases their odds of a win.
A split vote for a minor party left or right can have quite the influence to the end goal of an election so propaganda is frequently used to encourage voters to vote strategically. Often these requests will come with links to further information or polls that are designed to sway you to a specific candidate. The end result is generally that the vote will split to insure a favourable result for the propagandist's preferred candidate.
The misinformation can be difficult to wade through as propaganda and polls can be easily manipulated. The main rule of thumb is that if you seriously want your vote to count then ignore the propaganda and focus on the big picture. It is best to toss your vote for one or the other of the two main political parties if you want principles and policies that are similar to your own to come into play.
Of course there are always exceptions to this rule and as stated earlier if your local candidate is the leader of a minor party or a highly regarded charismatic figure then your vote will likely elect them into a seat in Ottawa. They are the most likely candidates to win their seat.
Another factor that can dramatically affect the vote lies in regional sentiment. Some areas of the country have an extremely strong sentiment toward a specific candidate and this not reliant on whether or not they are of a main political party affiliation. It is up to you to realistically judge if this is occurring in your area. If it is then the likelihood of a main party winning the vote is not realistic so voting for the minor party candidate could elect them to office.
Have You Shared a Social Media Meme That Was Not Factual?
Intentionally or Unintentionally Have You Participated in the Propaganda Spread?
Canadian Political Parties Most Likely to be Elected Via a Split Vote
New Democrat Party (NDP): Being the third largest party this is where vote splitting can have the greatest influence. Generally votes here would take away from the Liberal vote and increase the likelihood of a Conservative leadership.
Green Party: Although this party does maintain a seat in Ottawa it is still a minor party and due its restrictive agenda, likely to remain one. Green votes will most likely be taken away from the NDP and Liberals thereby benefitting the Conservative Party. In this case a Green Party vote could actually put into office the exact opposite of what most environmentalists look for in political policy.
People's Party: A new party but one that is attracting those with more extremist views and those with a disappointment in the current status quo. Can Maxime Bernier influence this election? If so it would likely be to split the Conservative vote and thereby increase the likelihood of a Liberal win. If elected his party would be more likely to lean Conservative than Liberal in house votes.
My Advice is to Fact Check Everything
Justin Trudeau has predicted that the 2019 Canadian election will be one of the dirtiest and thus far into it he is being proven quite accurate in his assumption. The rhetoric is heating up to almost the same degree as that which occurred in the 2016 U.S. election. It is a battle of mistruth versus fact, deceptive manipulation of propaganda, and school yard bully taunts.
My advice is that you fact check every piece of information that comes your direction. Don't let the propaganda sway you into strategic voting. Fact check who the information comes from and who it benefits, and don't share anything that may not be the gospel truth. If you decide to participate in a strategic vote visualize the likelihood of that candidate achieving the winning seat and what degree of power that seat will give the party itself. It is the leading party and its main opposition who are most likely to enact the principles and policies that will affect you.
Strategic voting and splitting the vote will be key words in our upcoming elections. Learn what they mean, how they work, and how they could affect you. We are blessed to live in a democracy which means that we each get a vote in deciding how our country will be run. Make sure yours counts.
© 2019 Lorelei Cohen