Strategic Voting

I heard Elizabeth May leader of Canada’s Green Party discussing election results on an open line radio program. She was lamenting that support for her party seems to have declined, at least as a share of the popular vote.

She said that the message she heard from many voters during this year’s federal election campaign was that people liked her personally, and respected the Green platform, but that they were voting strategically in this election to rid the country of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. She said next time she expects those voters to support her party.

I think she is dreaming – and maybe that is why the Greens have only elected May and no-one else since the party was founded in 1983. In the 2019 election voters will probably be looking for “anyone but Trudeau” and once again the Greens will be relegated to fifth party status.

May’s hope is for proportional representation, something that to me seems to have more cons than pros. I look at countries such as Israel and Italy, and the issues they face in forming a stable government, and I remain happy with Canada’s first-past-the-post system. It may not be perfect, but it has worked pretty well for almost 150 years. Yes, it is difficult for a new party to make much of an impact, but it can be done. Proportional representation seems to me to be a recipe for perpetual minority parliaments. I am not convinced a government that is forced to implement the agenda of a party with perhaps five per cent of the vote in order to survive can really provide good government. It becomes too much about avoiding an election and not enough about making the hard choices that sometimes need to be made. I know a case can be made for the compromise that comes with a minority Parliament, but it depends on how many parties have to be appeased to get anything accomplished. I have the impression that peace in the Middle East might be easier to accomplish if not for some tiny parties with representation in Israel’s Knesset, thanks to proportional representation.

The Liberal party, victors in last month’s Canadian election, promised that it would be the last one held under the first-past-the-post system. Mind you, that was before they moved from third-party status to majority government. Their appetite for change might not be as fervent as it was a couple of months ago when they were trailing the public opinion polls. There are a number of Liberal MPs who would not have won under any proportional representation system. Do you expect them to be clamoring for change?

If you were the Liberal Party, what would you do now?


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