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The Case for Strategic Voting in Calgary's By-Election

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So in case you hadn't heard there is a by-election coming up on Thursday, three in fact, and the polls look interesting.  The most exciting is the by-election in Calgary Centre where polls indicate a three-way race between the Conservatives, the Liberals and (deep breath) the Green Party.

Now I'm on the record as being very in favour of strategic voting in elections so I won't go over all that again. Check out this amazing site run by 1CalgaryCentre which is trying to organize voters to choose a single progressive representative for their riding. If this works it could be a template for how to elect progressives going forward.

For all the talk of the NDP and Liberals merging to defeat the Conservatives, Canada is a multi-party system for a reason. Canadians recognize there are more than two sides to any issue. But this reasonable mentality is a handicap within our winner-take-all voting system which is rigged for two parties.

What could the parties do about this? They could support proportional voting for a start. But short of that the most I think parties could consider in future elections is strategically cooperating to not run against each other in a selection of ridings to increase each other's chances. Even this seems unlikely to happen. So barring the complete collapse of the NDP or the Liberals, it is up to voters to take it upon themselves to vote intelligently and strategically to achieve the goal they want.

Remember that the goal of voting is not simply to show support for the one party which you prefer. We have lots of polls for that and you can donate money to parties as well. I consider myself a progressive non-partisan voter, so rather than pick one I recently donated an equal amount of money to four progressive political organizations: The Green Party, the NDP, the Liberals and just to keep them all honest LeadNow.

An election is still a poll, the best possible poll in terms of accuracy, but the true purpose of voting is to elect someone to represent you in Ottawa who is closely aligned with your point of view. As a progressive voter these days that surely means if your favourite candidate or party is one of the three progressive, federalist parties and they cannot win, then the next best outcome is for one of the other progressive candidates to win.

By voting for a losing candidate, to show support, you may be helping to elect the worst possible outcome from your point of view. That simply isn't rational. Despite all the attempts by politicians and even the media to make elections about emotions and gut feelings, we all know it should be about rationally choosing the best candidate for you, for your riding, for your province and for your country.

So if you live in Calgary Centre and are an NDP voter, a Green voter, a Liberal voter; if you voted for Joe Clark in days gone by, then I suggest you consider yourself, first and foremost, a progressive voter. Let this guide your choice rather than the label of a single party and take a look at all the options before you vote. Consider not only which candidate or party you like the best but which one is most likely to win as well. Then go out and vote on Thursday and send a message that no one will be able to forget.

If the Conservative party wins Calgary Centre as expected, but with much lower support than ever before it will be a message politicians will take notice of but which the media will talk about for a few days at most. But imagine an actual member of parliament for the NDP, the Liberals or the Greens (!). They would rise in parliament regularly for the next three years and be announced as "The honourable member from Calgary Centre" and then proceed to tear into the regressive Conservative policies of this government. No one can ignore that. Make that happen Calgary, for all of us.

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