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Consider Strategic Voting This Election

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Comstock Images via Getty Images
Comstock Images via Getty Images

What we each need to decide is whether to bother voting in the federal election, and if so, who to vote for. Both are important questions.

I begin with the premise that Stephen Harper's majority government is a disaster for Canada. We are all familiar with his short-sighted economic and environmental policies, and his dismissal of scientific research that would do the U.S. Tea Party proud. Even G.W. Bush seems to be less grounded in Christian fundamentalism than does Harper. It's uncertain, but he might be a true believer in End Times ideology. This is a deeply problematic worldview for governing with the long-term in mind.

It's unclear what Harper's awareness of reality is. Does he truly not recognize that he and his family, as well as the rest of us, are part of and dependent on the biosphere? I don't know. As a tasty thought experiment, it might be fascinating to be a fly on the wall of Harper's mind for a week. Well, perhaps for a day -- make that an hour or two. More than that might send one screaming for the exit.

And remember his outrageous move to prorogue Parliament--three times--when things weren't going his way. That dictatorial approach to governing was and is grounds for removing him as Prime Minister of our democracy.

Having a majority government, especially led by a prime minister who ignores all perspectives but his own and who was elected by a minority of voters (and an even smaller minority of the Canadian population as a whole), is simply unacceptable. But what to do about it? I agree that proportional representation is a fundamentally important electoral change. Even run-off elections between the two leading candidates in each riding would be very helpful, to insure that our elected representatives have secured a majority of the popular vote in their respective ridings and are not simply first-past-the-post.

But neither of these changes will happen in the 2015 election. What we can do is work to ensure that the Greens, the NDP and the Liberals don't split the progressive vote.

What would Charles Darwin counsel us to do? Mainstream biology sometimes teaches that natural selection "tries" to maximize fitness by selecting for certain physiological traits and behaviours. But this is a distorted, if not erroneous, view. Natural selection actually selects against physiology and behaviour that don't work; that don't allow an organism to survive, reproduce, and hopefully flourish. The genetic lines of those organisms that don't manage to survive and reproduce are removed from the population. This allows for enormous freedom and diversity. Nature isn't heading toward some ideal state, but rather is bumbling along as best it can.

This seems to be the case in cultural evolution as well. We aren't closing in on some ideal cultural state, but rather bumbling along toward social realities that allow us to continue to survive, reproduce, and hopefully flourish. I'd like to suggest that this perspective can also guide our voting behaviour.

Instead of insisting on voting only for an ideal candidate with whose orientation and policies we fundamentally agree, and feeling guilty if we vote for the "lesser of evils," perhaps in voting for the lesser of evils we're fulfilling our evolutionary responsibility.

Instead of being resigned and not bothering to vote because anyone elected prime minister will be less than ideal, perhaps we should vote and celebrate that we've kept the worst of the candidates out of power.

I tend to waver between voting for a candidate I actually believe in, but who has virtually no chance of winning, and a candidate who might win but who seems only marginally better than the alternative. Harper and his Conservative government are so awful, that the 2015 candidates for all three of the other parties are significantly better.

My preference is Green and then NDP, but I've become a believer in strategic voting as Leadnow.ca is urging. An "anyone but Harper" approach. Decide which candidate -- Green, NDP or Liberal -- in each riding has the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate and (holding our nose, if necessary) vote for him or her.

This is equivalent to natural selection weeding out individuals or species that are not fit enough to survive. We might not end up with an ideal prime minister and party in power, but if we can avoid the worst, we might be able to muddle through and restore Canada -- environmentally, socially, and politically -- to something we can live with and in.

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