The other day I got an email from a friend. He was inviting people in our riding to meet one of the candidates in the upcoming territorial election. My stomach dropped as he used the following reasoning for supporting his candidate of choice: he genuinely believes that Party X is best positioned to beat Party Y.
I have been voting in territorial and federal elections since the 1980s. Every single time I have had to choose between voting with my heart and conscience, and voting strategically. Almost every time I have voted for the party I believed was best able to beat the party I didn’t want, rather than voting for the party I did want.
Voting strategically is a corruption of the democratic process. It is a factor of the First-Past-The-Post system we use in Canada and Yukon for electing our politicians. It is a form of gambling. I vote for the party that has the best chance of beating the party I don’t want to win. If I vote for a party I feel is less likely to win, because it reflects my own values, I am not only throwing away my vote, but I am helping my less favourite party win, by splitting the vote.
The result: majority governments, with 100 per cent of the power, are often elected by fewer than 40 per cent of the public.
(In a spectacular recent example of what can happen when people vote with their consciences rather than voting strategically, I think we all remember what happened when those who didn’t want the federal Conservatives to win believed that the Liberal incumbent, Larry Bagnell, had enough of a lead that we could vote with our conscience. We were wrong: the vote was split, and Ryan Leef went to Ottawa.)
The federal government, with the support of most of the federal parties, has embarked on a process to review and potentially change the elections system to make it more democratic.
My question to each of the Yukon political parties is, will you promise to change the electoral process in Yukon to match the federal process, whatever it becomes? Or do you think that the current elections process is truly reflective of the will of the electorate? Please include your party’s position on this critical issue in your campaigning this month.
Tanya Van Valkenburg,