There were three by-elections in Canada this week. Each riding was held by the party that had the seat prior to the by-elections. The riding of Durham, Ontario was a majority win so there is no complaint there, but the other two races were very close with the “victors” only taking roughly 1/3rd of the votes cast.
But the biggie is the near upset in Calgary by the Liberal Candidate Harvey Locke who almost ousted the Harper Party Parachute Club member Joan Crockatt. Crockatt took 36.9% of the votes cast, Locke took 32.7%
This is where the cries of vote splitting kick in.
There are people ranting and railing about how the Green Party candidate Chris Turner screwed the chances of a “progressive” party winning Calgary Centre by not throwing his support behind the Liberal cause.
My question to them is why should he have?
If Chris Turner believed that the Liberal Party was the best option for the residents of the riding, he should have run for the Liberals.
He didn’t, he opted to run for the Greens because he felt the Green Party was the better choice. At least I hope that’s why he ran.
The people complaining about the vote split need to listen to the disenfranchised voters from the right side of the spectrum. These are the former PC supporters who now have no party to represent them. They have 3 choices (actually four). Some, a fair number I suppose, vote for the vestiges of their party that rest in the Harper Party. They aren’t that happy. Look at Calgary Centre, the Harper Party only managed 37% of the vote in a lead pipe cinch riding. The former MP for the riding took 55% of the votes in the 2011 election.
Some of them are willing to hold their nose and vote for the Liberal or other parties, the one that shares at least some of their former beliefs. This would account for the surge in votes for both the Liberals and the Green Party.
And the rest stayed home. That could in part explain why the turnout in Calgary Centre was so low.
The fourth option would be to vote for the Progressive Canadian Party, which is made up of former Progressive Conservative members and supporters who left their party rather than be part of the Harper Party.
Are you with me so far? So let’s “Unite the Left”.
Let’s just say that the NDP, Liberal, and Green Parties sat down and decided that each would get a shot at a riding where it looked like they had a chance of winning and the others wouldn’t field a candidate in that riding. So the NDP gets Victoria, the Liberals get Calgary Centre and the Greens get Durham.
So the results are a solid NDP win in BC, a solid Liberal win in Alberta, and a Green Party loss in Durham where the Harper Party carried just over 50% of the votes, right?
Maybe, maybe not. This isn’t a case of 1+1+1=3. If your riding was a targeted riding and your party was not running a candidate so that a progressive would have a better chance… would you vote for that candidate? Would you vote for another candidate because you refuse to vote for the “chosen party”? Would you bother to vote at all?
Be honest, if you are a card carrying Liberal or NDP member, would you happily vote for the other party? Would you just stay home?
Listen, some churches have tried similar things. Faced with declining numbers churches are combined in the hopes that 1200+1200=2400. It doesn’t work that way for them. Some people faced with the closure of their church would rather not go to church at all, or join other churches that are closer than their newly assigned church.
If it doesn’t work all that well for them, why should it work in politics? I’ve seen people who agree on just about everything ready to come to blows simply because of the colour of their lawn signs in election season.
Political divisions aren’t like the lane divisions on the highway, where the NDP drive in the Left Lane and the Harper Party in the Right one. It’s more like mixing water colours and where the two close colours blend is where the swing voters live. The thing is that if you take colour from the one side of your spectrum, say the right side, then you risk alienating your supporters on the opposite side who may move away from your party or just stay home on Election Day.
In the last Federal Election, Ontario Liberals were knocked down badly. I looked at the numbers comparing the 2011 Election with the previous election. The increase in Harper Party votes roughly mirrored the increase in the NDP votes. Apparently some Liberal supporters jumped to the right to prevent the left from sweeping into Ontario. The other thing I noticed was that the number of votes that moved to the left and right did not match the drop in the Liberal numbers. Liberal supporters stayed home.
From where I sit, the best thing for Canada right now is for the “progressive” parties to choose whoever they feel is the best leader for their party and to hammer out what they feel are the best policies for their party and for Canada and to sell it (the policies, not the country).
Part of the beauty of Canada is that we are not divided into two parties. We have choice.
But beyond that, I would love to see the day when our candidates run under a given banner, but have the ability to stand up in caucus and in the House of Commons and say to their party “This law is not a good fit for my constituents. I choose my constituency over the wishes of the party.” And not be penalized for that.
And banning all attack ads would be nice too.