Among Yukoners looking for change in the coming election there’s evidence of a disturbing trend. Some influential voices are calling on their friends and community members to engage in strategic voting to ensue that Ryan Leef is defeated, along with the Harper government as a whole.
It’s little wonder that left-of-centre voters are engaged in discussion on how best to defeat the Conservatives. After years of corruption, job loss, attacks on democratic rights, elevation of corporate interests above human rights and preservation of the environment, and all the policies of division and fear mongering, we naturally want the best chance to elect a truly progressive government. But strategic voting is fraught with risk and often creates the opposite of what’s desired.
To start with, polls are notoriously unreliable. No one predicted what happened in 2011, not even the most experienced political analysts. Who could have anticipated that the NDP would take three times as many seats as the Liberals and come in second in most of the other tight races?
This is a good time to revisit the sage words of Ken Neumann, director of the United Steelworkers, who noted in the Toronto Star: “The 2011 federal election surely is proof that strategic voting is misguided and counterproductive. In fact, if you were using the ‘most likely to win’ criteria, you would have worked against the vast majority of the NDP candidates who got elected, let alone those who came closest to defeating a Conservative. Elections matter. Polls are increasingly unpredictable. And candidates or parties who argue that you should ‘hold your nose’ and vote based on some calculation of what is ‘strategic’ are both factually misguided and are asking you to use elections as cynical tools devoid of principles. Both of these aspects are bad for democracy and establishing good government.”
Yes, we want to get rid of Harper and his local mouthpiece. But it’s more important to ask what kind of a government we really want to take their place. I’m looking for real transformative change, not more of the same old, same old. This time around I hope we’ll give the NDP the chance to implement policies based on a heartfelt commitment to universal social justice, equality, and thoughtful stewardship of our finite, wounded planet.
For me, Melissa Atkinson is the clear choice, but whoever you decide to vote for, ensure that person really embodies your core values and vision for the future. Strategic voting undermines and cheapens our election process, and may well backfire in ways that can never be undone.