Where to throw your vote, when your vote’s good only for throwing?


Angus Reid’s Liberal numbers have tended to be a few points below his colleagues’ during this campaign, so one mustn’t ncessarily run around screaming about today’s Star poll showing (a) the Conservative vote nearly double the Liberal vote nationwide; (b) Libs and NDP tied; (c) Stéphane Dion walking around with fully one-third of Paul Martin’s 2006 voter coalition gone somewhere else; (d) dogs and cats living together; (e) assorted other omens and portents of massive tectonic change. Let us treat this poll, as we must treat the approximately 42 quinjillion other polls in this campaign, as a piquant what-if. And consider only this.

Welcome to Elizabeth May’s nightmare.

If — because we are merely playing what-if, right? — this campaign were 10 days from its conclusion and a pack of polls showed roughly similar results to what Angus is showing this morning, well then your average Green Party leader and veteran Think Twice bringer-of-stern-election-eve-2006-warnings (“I was recently very honoured to receive and be made an Officer of the Order of Canada. I never felt so strongly that my country was at risk, I am standing up for Canada, I am standing on guard for Canada and urging Canadians to think twice”) would have some thinking to do once again.

At 7%, the totally hypothetical home-stretch Green vote would not be enough to get any Green candidate elected to Parliament, except maybe Elizabeth May in her Nova Scotia riding. It would be handy-dandy for blocking a Conservative majority, though, if very efficiently distributed elsewhere.

Two questions, in this entirely hypothetical and — oh woe! — poll-driven state of affairs, would then arise. One is, by now, almost traditional: Should the leader of a party at 7% hang onto her vote and watch it vanish into another dozen split-vote Conservative victories, or throw it to another party with better chances?

The other is more novel. Where should a leader with an exhaustively-documented fondness for the vote utile throw her vote? To the Liberals or the New Democrats? 

A note on morality. Some of our more excitable comment-board regulars have tried to demonize May for her presumed tendency to support the Liberals. And some in Green Party HQ have been annoyed at me for pointing it out. For me, I see nothing wrong at all with deciding your party’s supporters are well-advised to vote for the candidate of a stronger party. It does tend to hobble your own party’s long-term chances of survival, but at least sometimes, leaders must face higher considerations. And this is an interesting question. It defines the difference in strategic approach between the Layton NDP and the 2006 Think Twice chatterboxes. 

May would be foolish to make any decision about all of this before she gets her chance to shine in the televised debates. And she may well decide that Green growth is more important than some attempt to hobble the Conservatives. This morning, all we can say is that these questions look a little less hypothetical.


Where to throw your vote, when your vote’s good only for throwing?

  1. Kinda wants to make you take a triple dose of Excedrin followed by a bottle of Sominex and hope you’re unconscious until October 15th.

  2. it’s gotta be riding by riding – in my own (Van East, L. Davies) the NDP will cruise to victory but I will vote for the Greens as I did in the last federal election.

    Out here you never know – the libs are a joke almost incapable of being elected anywhere in the province – I would be surprised if they could keep three ridings – but hey the debates will tell the tale of what is what methinks.

    I’m sure our stats are bringing down the National average and the libs are actually doing better in Ont than the poll indicates

  3. I think May’s willingness to support other parties, in the name of the greater good, reflects a maturity and pragmatism that all parties could learn from. Harper and Layton seem to treat flexibility and consensus-building as weaknesses. It’s funny, because few of us can live our lives so rigidly and dogmatically, and expect to acheive anything. I don’t understand why our Parliament is any different.

    It must be hard for May right now, given the added complication of votes translating into future funding for the party.

    Does anyone have a sense of her ability to direct the vote of Green supporters? All of this assumes that they would tend to migrate their votes where May asked them too. The Green party is far more libertarian than the NDP, and I’m betting the support wouldn’t necessarily be easily directed.

  4. Layton has made it a lot more difficult for May to encourage any votes going to the NDP by attacking any carbon tax, federal or provincial, and making it clear that he will not support such action after the election either.

    I think environmental groups are trying to interpret this is opportunistic politics and rationalizing that, in the event it is at all relevant after the election (not likely from the polls, but only the election poll counts) that Layton could be brought on board to work toward battling climate change. Perhaps May will make a similar rationalization, but it must be very difficult for her, knowing that Layton is undermining the environmental movement for his personal gain. Fortunately for Layton, key environmentalists are muzzled, because otherwise he wouldn’t like what they have to say.

  5. If May truly believes the earth is in peril and that we need to price carbon in a way that we aren’t doing now, than it’s right for her to support either NDP or Libs and her party can take a long walk off short pier. She’s being consistent, at least more so than Dion is.

    Personally, I think May is nuts if she encourages Green supporters to vote for someone else. The key issue is that parties get funded based on how many votes they get. Unless something drastically changes in the next 2 weeks, we are looking at either Con minority or majority.

    May encouraging her supporters to vote for other party is going to reduce the money her party receives and it will all be for naught because Cons will still be in control.

    And I don’t think her supporters are going to move en masse to whichever party she suggests. Some will vote for whoever she suggests, some will vote green regardless and some will be disheartened and not vote at all. Humans are complicated and for her to think she can command them to follow her is hubris in the extreme.

  6. Mr. Tripper: your ability to vote Green as you like is supported by your knowledge the NDP will win handily anyway, so you can afford to show your support for the party of your choice.

    What if your situation, like mine, wasn’t that clear? What if you really wanted to ensure your vote kept the Cons from winning their coveted majority, but didn’t want to waste that power by vote splitting and still giving the Cons the riding?

    Then would you vote NDP? I’m not being a jerk — I am faced with this decision, have visited several strategic voting sites, and would like to know what others would do.

    We have for the first time in a long while a really respected Liberal candidate, but in a riding the Libs are typically distant third place. From signs (yes not a reliable way to decide), it would appear the Liberal is popular. This would be solely based on his own reputation and place in our community, and not on merits of either Dion or the Liberals (a SK riding where the incumbent Tory MP stepped down, so there is no incumbent and it was NDP for many years prior to 2004).

    Yikes. Any advice?

    Anyone, anyone? Bueller?

  7. I can’t wait to see how she performs in the debate.

    My guess is people are going to be fairly shocked by her, and not in a good way.

    The more you see of May, the more you scratch your head.

  8. This is exactly the strong leader I want to lead my country. The one that leads us to where we should be going, not leading us by following along with what is easiest for us as individuals.

    That said, this is exactly why she will not be the leader of my country.

    It is sad and frustrating, but I’m particularly impressed with her grasp of reality in spite of the economic hardship her party will have to endure because of it.

    Rising above self-interest! Now that’s a strong leader.

  9. The way I see it is none of these “so called leaders” are adequate enough to be Canadas Prime Minister other then Harper.

    I think he’s done a fine job so far, and frankly if may, Layton or Dion were given a chance to run this country, they wouldnt know where to start. Harper has made some good changes and obviously nothing drastic because hes trying to build his momentum. He’s a solid leader whos taken charge of this 2008 election.

    Seeing how Dion is the best canidate for the libs shows how unstable the party really is. And watching last years debate showed me how redicilous it would be to vote NDP. The bloc fell off the map and I don’t know enough about May to comment.

    I’m voting conservative.

  10. Fun times.

  11. To Catharine,

    For Layton and the NDP, he may at best grab 2% of the overall vote from the Greens. With such as strategy, the Conservatives would still be at the same level of support.

    Layton needs to go after Liberal and soft Conservative support in English Canada and Bloc supporters in Quebec. If Layton can grab 2% points from the Conservatives that means potential loss of a Conservative majority. It’s a 4% reduction of difference between the Conservatives and NDP.

  12. Mr. Tripper raises a key question re: the effectiveness of that 7%: how is it distributed? How many ridings are there where a 4-5% Green Swing would put either the Liberal or the NDP candidate over the Tory candidate? Enough to compensate for Conservative gains in QC?

  13. There are many, many things which Elizabeth May has done or said which makes me seriously question her judgment. One of those things is her great faith in the Liberal Party of Canada’s commitment to doing something about Global Warming.

    When they had the power to do somethin, the Liberals did nothing. Oh, they talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk. Why does she think they’ll be different if they are elected again? Seriously, you have to be a Liberal kool-aid drinker to think like that.

    Speaking of bad judgment, Stephane Dion has hurt the Liberal brand in many ways. One such way was associating his party with Elizabeth May and the Green Party. Why would Canada’s most successful party in history associate with a rag tag fringe party with no MP’s? That was a high risk strategy which has exploded in their faces. The Environment is not the issue of the campaign, it’s the Economy, stupid. Associating with a fringe single-issue party was dumb. Mr. Dion and the once-mighty Liberals are reaping what they’ve sown.

  14. In the last two elections, the GPC vote remained static at 4.32% (2004) and 4.48% (2006). Right now, it’s hovering around 7-8%.

    I doubt there is much to play with here, even if May were to make a tearful plea to vote strategically for another party (surely it could only be for the Liberals as she seems quite negative towards Layton in the recent Tor Star editorial interview). Who of the core will listen to her, especially if they view the GPC in longer term views beyond her personal short term priorities?

    She’s already played most of her full deck, and while she may win a few hands in the interim, I could see her fading into the background post election. (52 card pickup anyone? Anyone?)

    Both she and the Libs have made a carbon tax shift the centrepiece of their platforms, and most Canadians appear to be rejecting it in its current form. Gonna be tough to continue hectoring on this subject for quite some time post Harper win, minority or majority.

  15. The Green Party is not a real party. It is a movement. Most people who say thay are voting Green have not thought at all about what the party stands for on other issues.

    I fully expect Liz to throw her support to her friend Mr Dion. That’s why Jack and Stephen were right in opposing her presence in the debate. But not all of her followers will drink the kool aid. As a result, te Conservatives will get the majority they expected to get from day 1.

  16. “The Green Party is not a real party. It is a movement.”

    You could pretty much say the same about any party in Canada, to varying degrees. To what extent was the Green Shift platform generated by grassroots input for the Liberals? Are the Conservatives or NDP relying on much more than the “charismatic” appeal of their leaders?

    I love how the uniting of the Reform/Alliance and the PCs was seen as necessary for the greater good, but how it’s made into a moral failing when May recognizes aligned interests.

  17. Chris wrote: “Harper has made some good changes and obviously nothing drastic because he’s trying to build his momentum.”

    Nothing drastic indeed, until he has a majority. Then, among other things, we will see
    1) The abortion debate reopened
    2) Ontario losing 10 seats from the HoC
    3) Canadians becoming criminalized for copying material they legitimately bought from one medium to another.

    These points are not “sky-is-falling” partisan fear mongering. These are CPC bills that were held up due to PMSH having a minority. They almost certainly will re-appear on the other side of a majority.

    Giving equal time to the other side, the LPC lost a lot of respect in my POV when they voted down a private members bill from their own party that would have made RESP contributions tax deductible.

    It’s true. We do elect the government we deserve. *sigh*

  18. AVD – you might well be right about what Elizabeth May will do. She has referred cryptically in a Green Party Press Release about the arrangement she has with Dion. But she’s refused so far to divulge what that arrangement consists of.

    I tend to agree with you that it won’t matter much at the end of the day. For every Green vote Dion will get from his secret deal with Ms. May, he’ll have lost 3 to 4 to people appalled at the left-wing drift into irrelevance that Mr. Dion has allowed the Libs to fall into.

    As for Ms. May, if she does attempt to pimp Green votes to the Liberal party she’ll wreck any chances that party has to break into the Canadian political scene.

    Dion and May are two political neophyte leaders and watching them is like watching amateur hour.

  19. The Green Party wishes to reiterate that leader Elizabeth May has never advocated strategic voting.

    GPC Press release 26.09.2008

    Think twice

  20. You’re absolutely right, Jarrid, it is the Economy. Climate Change is completely irrelevant–either it isn’t happening due to human activities, or its too late to do anything about it.

    But following along behind the Americans isn’t exactly what I’d call an intelligent fiscal policy. And I don’t even mean the banking blow-up and Wall Street implosion. We know, as well as we can ‘know’ the future, that we are in for a recession. But following along with the same old tired remedies won’t work this time.

    First, because we can’t go to war with someone to rejuvenate our economy. We’re already at war, and going to war with an additional country will do little more than increase the funeral business–and I don’t know that they’re hurting.

    Second, while it isn’t a bad idea because we sure need it, spending massive sums on infrastructure can’t be done because we’re already overextended debt-wise as it is.

    Third, pumping massive amounts of money into businesses that are dying is just plain dumb as far as investment strategies go. No matter how much money we give to Ford, GM and Chrysler, people still won’t want to buy their gas guzzling cars and people will still be laid-off. We end up with more debt, more unemployed, and less revenue.

    What we need is to invest what little money we have in businesses, and bring in policies, that allow for alternative fuels as much as possible. To have these new industries employ Canadians in far greater numbers. To wean ourselves from ever-increasingly expensive and harder to find fossil fuels. Even with the most alarming strategies, this isn’t something that will happen overnight and Alberta and other oil-rich provinces will continue to boom as much as they can during a recession. We will still need oil for a relatively long time–probably until we’ve used it all up anyway.

    But if we don’t START to lessen our oil dependency, North American wealth and influence on the world stage will continue to erode. Hey, and if it helps curb pollution while we’re at it, that’s just a bonus.

  21. “Where should a leader with an exhaustively-documented fondness for the vote utile throw her vote? To the Liberals or the New Democrats?”

    Don’t think it’s as complicated for May as that. She has to ponder whether to support Libs openly or keep her mouth shut and not encourage her supporters to vote for someone else.

    I think she has gone to far, Nancy MacDonald’s interview with May is good example, to come out and support NDP now. Unless May says something like ‘I support NDP policies but still think Layton is a twat’ line of reasoning.

  22. I don’t know how to insert links here, but go check out David Sach’s piece today at thetyee.ca

    Adds another dimension to understanding how people are weighing their votes.

  23. The Liberal party, as it has operated since Trudeau, is an anomolous entity, as Data would say. It is a political party animated by ability, not ideology. “Vote for us”, they say, “We’re a bunch of smart, capable people.”

    Fair enough. Everyone enjoys a good meritocracy. But shouldn’t politics, at some level, be about ideology, that is, a vision for the future? Why not vote for a party – Conservative, Bloc, NDP, or Green – that stands for something?

    As for Dion personally, I don’t count a sentimental concern for Polar Bears as a vision for the future.

  24. Alphonso, I agree the Liberals are not defined by ideology, but isn’t it nice that one party should be a receptacle for temporary ideas? E.g. with the Environment. Dion’s Green Shift, sentimental or not, may not be much of a total vision for the future, but you have to admit it’s the first original idea Canadian politics has seen since, uh, well, 1988. I.e. my whole sentient life. Frankly if an anti-ideological party is the only one to deliver freshness, their ideological emptiness can’t be that bad.

  25. I almost feel sorry for Ms May here she was all warm and cozy with Dion at the beginning of the election more than likely certain that Harper was doomed and that this little tryst with the Lib’s would come in very handy and maybe she might actually become a king maker who would be honored with goodies from her new Leader to boost her partys interest only to wake up day by day to realize that even if she wows canadians at the debates and doubles her party support numbers it’s still not enough to help her political bedfellow what with the NDP starting to catch up to him … what to do … maybe a nice friendly little chat with Jack is in order or should she? Should she show interest in the new tall dark stranger or stay with agreeable, pleasant, noble and mr nice guy previous boyfriend … that’s the question when will it be time turn and kneecap the old partner oh why is it always the nice guy who gets it in the end – oh politics and betrayal they are such old stories being constantly renewed.

  26. Stephen Taylor.ca has the audio of a Liberal conference call.

    Gives a whole new meaning to unknown agenda, Liberal -style.

  27. If May really believes that Green votes should be redirected elsewhere, then she should resign and shut down her party.

    But we know that will not happen, because her personal success is far more important than the pending “global apocalypse” (that term came from her mouth). You can’t believe a word coming out of her mouth.

  28. Alphonso: when a politician governs based on ideology, (s)he cannot evolve with the times, so the vision remains stagnant and doesn’t speak to the here and now — let alone the future.

    I don’t like the idea of anyone governing according to ideology, especially religious ideology. That is dangerous.

    I prefer to know we have intelligent, flexible people at the helm. Take a look at harper’s caucus — even he doesn’t have faith in them, evidenced through the fact that he won’t let anyone speak in public during the election.

    Just steve. One-man show.

    Did you know that here in SK, Gerry Ritz hasn’t been seen since being caught out? It’s an election, and he’s not door knocking or answering calls from any media — local, national or otherwise.

    Cabinet ministers are not even trustworthy. Yet they’re handling vital portfolios — ie FOOD SUPPLY.

  29. People, the pollsters are reporting that the Liberal support is bleeding both to the left (NDP, Green Party) and to the right (Conservative party). While Dion trolled for votes to the left with his secret pact with the Greens, he exposed the Liberals’ right flank to the Conservatives. Harper has governed from the centre and is scooping up those votes.

  30. I see nothing wrong at all with deciding your party’s supporters are well-advised to vote for the candidate of a stronger party.

    Which begs the question: Why even form a political party to begin with?

    On another note, does she even have a mandate from her own party to endorse another party?

    I might also add that, to further justify her inclusion in the debates, May has rejected any possibility of endorsing the Liberals.

    In other words, whether or not she should do it I think does matter.

  31. I will vote strategically against the Conservatives.

  32. I’ll go Dennis one step further. Why not withdraw hopeless candidates who can do nothing more than siphon the vote away from a stronger Dipper or Liberal?

  33. It would certainly be a beautiful moment for the Liberals and the NDP to merge. They each pull half their candidates (after negotiations), the weird Dion episode is cancelled, Layton gets to croon a bit about “absorbing the Liberals” (or whatever) and they probably win a majority. Maybe they could do a Spartan Dual Kingship thing for one parliament, then elect a single leader. Methinks the Liberals would be up for it; not sure about the NDP.

  34. Am trying to think of names for this new party of mine…

    Liberal Democratic Party (a bit shopworn)
    The Coalition (nice late-90’s basketball team name flavour)
    Whig Party (not sure if the NDP would go for this, and it’s sort of open to satire)
    Progressives (already taken)
    The Reform Party (ditto)
    Yo’ Mama (punchy)
    New Vision Party (objectively debatable, also kind of creepy)
    Maple Coalition (I can get you the recipe, but don’t eat too much)
    Hmm (very popular)

    Any ideas?

  35. The Shifties ?

  36. The New Demorals


    The Lippers

  37. What you really need is some temporary name that can get you by while the public invents a hopefully-not-too-derogatory name for you (i.e. not “the CRAP”), like “Tories” & “Whigs” in the old days – I think those both referred originally to a type of Irish bandit.

    “The Lippers” would be awesome for that – great band name, too – but I think you can’t adopt it officially from the get-go.

    What about “The Shi’ites”? There’d be copyright issues but it’s got name recognition and they’ve always been populists.

  38. I guess the Allied NDP and Liberal (ANAL) Party would be out?

  39. Elizabeth May should not be under-estimated, but she probably will be.

    I’m voting for my Green candidate so that the party will get its $1.90 or whatever it is now per vote. If we can pull in an 8-10% vote, that’s pretty good money.

    In my riding there’s no chance of a Conservative win. They’ve been sunk since they married the Reform-Alliance and dumped the Progressives.

  40. Strategic voting is a trap.

    If you want certain values advanced you have to vote for the party that espouses them.

    Did Tommy Douglas ever encourage it, or did he dig and scratch until he accomplished something?

  41. Elizabeth May should not be under-estimated, but she probably will be.

    I’m not sure what that means.

  42. Jack Mitchell:

    Soylent Green Party

    -NDPers like health foods like soy

    -Liberals understand lent to be a time to contemplate resurrection

    -Green for the Greens

    And all three are nourished by the wisdom of their elders.

  43. Jack M

    I think it should be People’s Front of Judea.

  44. Correct me if I’m mistaken but don’t the parties with official status get operating funds based on their vote count – money opposition parties can use to do research on important issues making them more effective? I guess there could be an argument made that voting for the Greens might save government spending if they don’t get enough seats.

  45. She’s walking a very fine line as it is. If she officially and emphatically endorses the Liberals at the ballot box (she’s very nearly there already) she should resign as Green Party leader and call for the Party to be dissolved / merged into the Liberals. She owes that to Green Party supporters/workers/candidates at the least.

    I fear Canadian politics would become unworkably dysfunctional if every fringe lobby could re-register as a ‘political party’ and demand equal time from the media/public without seriously competing for votes.

  46. GP: The Green Party wishes to reiterate that leader Elizabeth May has never advocated strategic voting.

    I can hardly imagine what Green Party staffers/volunteers/candidates are thinking considering she has indeed said exactly that, publicly, almost every chance she gets.

    As if the mainstream Canadian political parties aren’t top-down leader-centric enough! The Greens are literally a one-woman show, acting in DIRECT OPPOSITION to the desire of the party membership. Harper could only dream of that kind of personal control!

  47. That’s actually pretty good, jwl. “PFJ” has a good ring to it, too.

    “Soylent Green Party” definitely has potential in terms of reducing it to good adjectives and nicknames, Archangel. “I’m fed up with the Soylent line,” or “The Soys just won’t talk about healthcare.” “We are not just green, we are SOYLENT GREEN!” (cheers).

    The great Latin American parties are all named after Glorious Leaders of Yore, right? Peronistas, Sandinistas, etc. What about the Laytonistas? Or the Trudists? You could have a good rallying cry with “Are we the Trudists? True Dat!” vel sim.

  48. Why is it that the conservatives call immigrants filthy and thugs who make Canada unsafe??
    Many immigrants are pissed off- I’m not sure where the media is getting it’s polls but definitely not from the immigrant population….all across Canada- the real polls will show- trust me- it will be another Obama turn around in Canada.. Immigrants don’t take lighly being called filthy… watch and see..

  49. I have been a slave to these blogs for a couple of weeks now (mostly Paul’s and Andrew’s). All you folks on here are fascinating, stimulating, and hilarious!
    As a political junkie stuck in political nowhere (VERY southwest On), I am hooked on these blogs to the detriment of my starving, bedraggled children. (What would Steve, “family values” Harper say about that? Gasp!)

    Most of my opinions have already been shared. “PFJ” for the new Lib/NDP/other lefty parties is good.

    One might ask Mr Williams if “ABC (Anything but Conservative)” is copyrighted yet.

    All I can say is I wish more of my fellow countrymen/women saw through Harper’s smoke-and-mirrors game. The man wants only to win, and will sing any tune to do so. I have no doubt that his real social agenda is already written, waiting for a majority.

    I like Dion. In fact, I like him DESPITE the fact that he’s a liberal….

    why is it that he personnally is tanking so badly?
    I understand if folks still want to spank the Libs for the ad scams and kickbacks of the old boys club, but….really! I’ll take a little graft over a LOT of US a** kissing, absentee health and safety regulation, muzzling of scientists, censorship of the arts, and a ban on abortion….

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