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.