So Larry Bagnell wants his old job back as MP of the Yukon. The big question seems to be, will John Streicker let him have it?
Like it or not, during the 2011 federal election, Streicker, as the Green Party candidate, peeled away enough centre-left votes to cost Bagnell the election. And there’s no reason why it couldn’t happen again when the writ is dropped next, as it must be by the autumn of 2015.
Streicker and his supporters will dispute this interpretation, of course. They will note that voters should be free to vote for whoever they believe is the best candidate, with the best ideas. Why should federal elections necessarily be dominated by the established parties? Isn’t diversity of thought a good thing when it comes to the race that determines who represents us in Parliament?
Is it Streicker’s fault that he’s a good enough candidate that large numbers of Yukoners voted for him? And didn’t Bagnell, whose popularity was built upon his tireless defense of constituents’ interests during his tenure, seem, well… tired during the last election campaign?
Of course these are all valid points. But none of it escapes the fact that, under our current voting regime, the candidate with the most votes takes it all. And the odds of these rules changing before the next election are absolutely nil, regardless of how shouty the electoral reform lobby gets, because our governing party has no interest in taking up their proposals.
That leaves voters with the burden of considering the strategy behind how they cast their ballot. Today, it’s a problem for those on the left of the political spectrum, but of course it wasn’t that long ago when a fragmented right-wing faced the same problem. You can grouse about the inequity about it all, but at the end of the day, the only recourse is to consider the consequences of how you cast your ballot.
Some Greens may maintain that their party transcends the typical left-right divide with its environmental focus, and so you can’t assume that their votes were necessarily nabbed from Bagnell. And it’s true that you can find the occasional Green with conservative tendencies. But c’mon. If you were to poll a room full of the crunchy progressives that constitute the Green Party base and ask which man they would prefer as MP, Bagnell or Leef, there’s no question they would pick the former, hands-down.
At this point, Dippers will be wondering why – ahem – their party hasn’t received any credit for splitting the vote. Well, OK: the narrow victory of Leef is their fault, too. But their candidate in the last election, Kevin Barr, didn’t fare as well as Streicker, and as he’s currently parked in an MLA’s seat in our legislature, it seems less likely he will take a crack at the next federal election. To the best of our knowledge, there is no future Audrey McLaughlin waiting in the wings, but you never know.
Since winning office, Leef hasn’t had an easy ride. He’s faced protests over local cuts to Parks Canada and Revenue Canada, and he’s had to defend some of the dumber policies of his government, from the omnibus budget bills larded with unrelated measures that never underwent proper debate, to the latest tomfoolery over changing election rules.
But he gets to remind voters that the Conservatives are the ones currently airlifting more than $1 billion in federal transfers to the territory each year, which is no small thing. And Leef can take credit for at least one thoughtful proposal, in the bill he’s tabled that would help recognize fetal alcohol spectrum disorder within the justice system. It may be totally at odds with the Conservatives’ tough-on-crime schtick, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.
It would also be a mistake to underestimate the Conservatives’ formidable election machine. They probably know how to get the vote out better than anybody.
And, after all, isn’t underestimation what many Streicker supporters did in the last election, by casting a ballot to express a certain idealism, without expecting that the result would effectively be a vote for Leef?
Who knows. Streicker may well decide to keep his powder dry and stick to city politics, in which he is presently a councillor. Even so, vote-splitting could still be a big determining factor of who becomes our next MP. It’s worth thinking about now.