Friday, April 22, 2011

Why I’m voting Green- and not voting strategically

Although I don’t think people are surprised that I’m voting Green, I do get the feeling that people think a vote for the Green’s is unwarranted, unhelpful, and frankly, rather useless.

I wanted to explain my reasons, as well as explain why I’m not voting strategically- even though, if my end goal is to ensure that the Conservative’s don’t end up with more seats, I should.

On Strategic Voting
I don’t like strategic voting. I think it undermines democracy and defeats the purpose of our democratic system and our multi-party commons. Unfortunately we have a voting system that encourages "efficient" voting, and one that has become a (mostly) two-party system.

I don’t think that the answer to a First-Past-the-Post electoral system is vote strategically and thus vote against the party you like least, versus the party you like the most. A democracy should have many parties, and many different representatives in parliament to represent the diverse views of the people of Canada. Simply voting against the party you dislike the most is not a good way to exercise our democratic rights, and not a good way to tell the government and the parties that you are unhappy with them and seek change.

I should be voting strategically though.

In the 2008 election I was still in school and voted in the Kitchener- Waterloo district. I voted for the NDP.
What happened? The liberal incumbent was defeated, by less than 100 votes for the conservative candidate.
Had I, and a few others, voted strategically would that race have turned out differently? Probably.

Last election in my home riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, and the riding I am voting in this year, Liberal incumbent Joe Volpe managed to keep his seat by 2260 votes. Should I be voting strategically this year for Joe? Probably.

Will I? No.

Why? Because we need electoral reform, and voting for the status quo does not a change make. Because I choose to exercise my democratic rights and vote for the party and candidate that best reflects my views, ideals, and vision of Canada and the future. And because strategic voting cheapens democracy by making a joke out of the electoral process.

Our First-Past-the-Post system is outdated, doesn’t reflect the actual views of the populace, and would radically change the face of Canadian politics if it were to be changed. This is one of the reasons I’m voting Green this year. They are the only party to stand up and agitate for electoral reform.
(They are, of course, the one party that would reap huge benefits from a change in our electoral policies. Of course I know this. And just as naturally, the Liberals and the Conservatives (and the BQ) will never want a proportional electoral system put in place because they would then lose seats overall).

So, why am I voting Green?
Obviously, and this is a very important issue to me, for the environment.

We need a solid, action-oriented plan for the future of Canada’s environment. The fact is, right now, we don’t have a plan at all.
Canada was even awarded a Fossil Award at the Copenhagen talks. This was an award given to whichever “country has done the most to delay and otherwise disrupt negotiations for an agreement on a global reduction in carbon emissions.” Great job there Conservatives.
Instead of action the current government has been ignoring the environment, which works really well when you love oil and Alberta.

Do I think we should all immediately leave our cars and walk to the nearest farm and start to grow our own food and can our own winter goods? No.
Well, not exactly.

I think we need to rely less on cars, and that means investing in public transportation and better infrastructure for our cities. I think we need to focus on agricultural issues and start promoting locally grown and sourced foods. I think Canada needs to be food self-sufficient before we start exporting our food. I think that our food prices are going to start going up (oil prices are increasing, and the climate hasn't been helping), and that we need to make sure that all Canadians have the money to afford healthy, local produce. We also need to make sure our farmland isn't paved over with subdivisions, or that limestone mines are not being planned for 2300 acres of it.

We need to improve Canada's image on the world stage, and one of the best ways to do that is to start doing something, seriously, about climate change and global warming. Business as usual will not cut it.

We need a federally mandated childcare program for Canada, so that all children can start their education on even footing, and so that parents that need to work to make ends meet have a place for their children.
We need a federally mandated school lunch program so that all kids can eat well and that those children who don't even get sent to school with a lunch can eat.
We need more emphasis on small, local sustainable economies - small-scale economies is one way to prevent the global issues surrounding recessions, food prices, oil prices and the free-market effect us.

We need to take another look at NAFTA and make sure if reflects the best needs of Canada (and not the best needs of the United States).

We need electoral reform in Canada. Our first-past-the-post system does not properly illustrate what Canadians want to see out of our elected representatives. In a country as large, diverse and wonderful as ours we need to make sure that every province, territory and township can be represented properly.

In the last federal election the Bloq Quebecois managed a whopping 49 seats in parliament, with 1,379,991 votes. The Green Party, on the other hand had 937,613 people who cast their vote for them, and yet didn't manage one seat in parliament. There is clearly something wrong with our current system. Equally odious is the fact that the NDP had over 2.5 million votes for them and only 37 seats in parliament.
You tell me if that sounds right to you.

We need more and better transparency in government. The Conservative Party - not so good on that front. Canada has no "open-data policy," which we clearly need when our elected representatives don't bother with notifying parliament of anything.
The CPC is still running on the platform of accountability, small government and (gasp!) transparency. And this is the party that won't allow journalists to ask certain questions, a Prime Minister that simply won't answer questions if he doesn't like them, and a party that requires the people who attend rally's and events be pre-vetted by the party. This is a party that likes to stifle it's MP's, their opinions, and generally run things like a one-man Steven Harper Party.

This is a party which has clearly stated that they won't open the "abortion debate" in Canada (which is great), but also a party that has no compunctions about ending funding to international aid organizations that offer abortion as one facet of family planning in developing countries (this is what happened at the G8 in Toronto).
I'm not sure which reality the CPC is currently living in, but it can't be this one.

Do corporate tax cuts really help unemployment - not always and not so much. So why is this such a huge issue for the CPC? I don't know. Because it makes a good sound bite, or because most people will simply hear the statement and not look into it?

Why is the CPC so keen on making the word "coalition" such a dirty word? Perhaps because if elected to another minority government the Conservatives will have to court the other parties through his Throne Speech, and if that doesn't work then the Liberals, with the help of the other parties can defeat the Conservatives and form a government themselves.
Is this legal? Yes!
Is this how our parliament is supposed to work? Yes!
Does Mr. Harper not like this fact? Obviously.

Those are the reasons I'm voting Green this year. They are the party that has addressed the issues I think are important for the future of Canada, and that are important to me.
I can only hope that if enough people vote for the party they truly believe in that the other "main" parties will stand up and notice us, and perhaps not ignore these issues.

Why else should you vote for the party you feel best represents you, and not simply strategically? Because each party will receive approximately $2 per vote that they receive to spend on the next federal election. Your vote means that your party will be better equipped for the next election. (Although a Harper majority has pledged to end this).

Why else? Because you should vote for the party that you believe in. The party that you feel will truly make a difference and the one that represents you best.

But don't just listen to me - read the party platforms and make an informed decision when you cast your vote on May 2nd.

The Green Party Platform
The Pirate Party of Canada
The Liberal Party of Canada Platform
The New Democratic Party Platform
The Conservative Party of Canada Platform


  1. Thnx Maxine for writing this! Great job! I recently heard Tim Flannery, the author of The Weathermaker's, speaking about democracy. He rolled his eyes at Canada's plight (having a right-wing Govt) and said that Canada needs to do what Australia does: 1. Proportional rep voting (so no more FPTP) 2. Mandatory voting 3. Elected Senate.

    I think he's absolutely right.

    BTW, I voted in today's advance poll. I voted FOR the Economy -- so does that mean I voted Conservative, Liberal, or NDP? Nope.

    I voted for The Green Party, because a Healthy Economy depends 100% on a Healthy Environment.

  2. Thanks Franke!
    And I know that Tim Flannery has a new book out, which looks interesting- but I completely agree with you about the economy.
    Despite what they are saying, and the platform they are running on, the Conservatives have not been phenomenal for our economy.
    Glad to hear you're voting Green!