Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My two cents on strategic voting

I sympathize with everything JimBobby says about why he won't vote strategically. I wouldn't be able to do it, either. I grew up in a place where there were no choices I could believe in, and I would never voluntarily give up my hard-won ability to support a candidate I can truly get behind. I'm fortunate enough to live in a riding where I don't have to even consider it, but I wouldn't do it even if the circumstances were different.

On the other hand, I also have a lot of sympathy for the arguments being put forward in favour of strategic voting, as well. If it's more important to you to try to combat the Conservatives than it is to vote your conscience, then you should do that. Because of the voting system we're stuck with, progressives sometimes have to evaluate the situations in our individual ridings and make a choice between casting our single vote for something, and casting it against something. The "choice" part is key, though. Initiatives that propose to reduce the amount of choice are not the answer. Only when each Canadian gets to make a choice from our entire colourful spectrum can we really talk about living in a democracy.

I also agree with James Bow that there's no sense in getting angry at the various party leaders for asking people to vote for them. They're not "putting their selfish interests ahead of the country" or whatever people are denouncing it as these days, they're doing their jobs. A party leader's job is to try to convince us their choice is the best choice, and we as individual voters get to decide whether they're right or not. Strategic voting initiatives are fine, but they have to come from the grassroots, not from political parties.

The most important thing is this: if you do vote strategically, do it in an informed way. It only has a chance of working in a small number of ridings, and everybody who's not living in one of those ridings should feel completely comfortable voting with their hearts. So how do you find out whether your riding is one of the ridings where strategic voting might help? Well, you're in luck--while we used to have to do our own research, these days there are websites that do it for you. Find a site that's promoting strategic voting in this election, make sure its recommendations are completely non-partisan and truly data-driven (the strategic voting guide should be out on Monday, but in the meantime the Vote For Environment folks seem like your best bet), and look up your riding. The site should tell you how to best vote strategically, why that choice makes the most sense, and how they came up with that pick.

And of course, once you're done voting, swallow down that icky taste in your mouth and come join in the fight for the only real fix for the pickle we're in, which is proportional representation.

More Edmonton-Strathcona blogging

Three new posts over at

Edmonton-Strathcona: the Liberals

More Edmonton-Strathcona events

Harper's "bubble" and the competitive Edmonton races

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm imagining. It ain't pretty.

One of the things that disappointed me most about the culture I grew up in was the ideology that demanded that the only way to have unity was for people to be the same. Ethnic diversity? Well, fine, people can't help that, but everybody had durn well better make the effort to speak and dress like real Americans. Linguistic diversity? A threat to the supremacy of the English language, and it needs to be fought--or at the very least, viewed with great suspicion. Political diversity? You can't even dream of that in a country where a party whose policies are somewhere to the right of the Canadian Conservatives is as far left as things go.

In Canada, things are different. It's simply understood that immigrants and their descendants will of course maintain aspects of their cultures of origin. In my own fair city of Edmonton, you can send your kids to be schooled not just in English, and not just in English or in French, but in other languages like German, Mandarin, and Ukrainian as well, all within the public school system. And on the political diversity front, well, nearly every Canadian has the choice among candidates from all across a very colourful political spectrum.

I've been here going on twelve years, but I don't take any of this for granted. Being surrounded by that kind of diversity was hard-won for me, and I'll never forget what it's like not to have it. So there's very little that will get my back up more than people trying to rob me of it. In the U.S., racism and ethnocentrism used to make me feel defeated, but here it just makes me angry. People who want to do away with the multilingual education programs in my city turn me into an instant enemy. And bloggers who insist that the only way forward for Canada is the sort of two-party system I grew up in make me feel exactly the same way.

"Just imagine," Steve says. "Just imagine if all the Greens and NDP party members collectively joined the Liberal Party." Well, I've got news for you, my friend: I can't share your petty little fantasy because I am different from you. Just like the policies you prefer aren't the same as Stephen Harper's, the policies I prefer aren't the same as Stéphane Dion's. The "we" you speak of in your post when you say "divided we fall" doesn't actually exist, any more than that monolingual, monocultural singular "American people" exists in my country of birth. And when you tell me that those differences don't really matter, you've got the same basic message as the Americans who tell immigrants to conform or go home.

You want to rob me of the very political diversity I came to this country to be a part of because, what the heck, we're all just the same inside anyway? When there's already a perfectly reasonable solution to this predicament that doesn't rob leftists of their political identities--a solution that your party has rejected because the idea of sharing power is so foreign to them? I've never heard anything so arrogant.

I'm hardly a Liberal-hater, all right? I've said many good things about Dion, and I've meant them. I'm even on record as saying that the idea of the NDP trying to replace the Liberals is a terrible one. But posts like that piss me off enough that I won't be able to help a certain amount of glee on election night when I watch your party get taken down.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Orphan voters, and Edmonton-Strathcona: the New Democrats

Two links today:

Have you ever cast a vote on election day only to realize when the results were in that your vote hadn't made any difference--i.e., that the outcome would have been no different at all if you'd just stayed home? Well, you, too, were one of Canada's seven million Orphan Voters. And now, in the Democracy Disaster contest, you can guess how many orphan voters there will be in a) your riding, and b) the country. If you come closer than everybody else who enters, you'll win $1000 cash!

My new EdmontonStrathconablogging post "Edmonton-Strathcona: the New Democrats" is up over at

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Edmonton-Strathcona: the Conservatives

Today's post is called "Edmonton-Strathcona: the Conservatives" and deals with the sitting Conservative MP, Rahim Jaffer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Elizabeth May on electoral reform

I have an electoral reformer's fondness for the Green Party. Although I disagree with many of their stances, the thought appeals to me that a group of Canadians can perceive a lack among all of the current parties, start an entirely new one, and grow that party into a mainstream force that regularly polls between eight and ten percent across the country. It reminds me that no matter how broken our current system is, it's still better than the system I was born into. Even under first-past-the-post, a Canadian's options really do span the spectrum, and that's incredibly exciting to someone who grew up in the land of the bad choice and the worse choice and that's all she wrote.

The fondness I have for the party, however, does not tend to extend to its current leader. More inter-party cooperation is absolutely necessary in this political climate, but only after the voters in every riding across the country have had a chance to vote for whichever party's policies they feel most aligned with. Any "non-aggression pact" that deprives voters of that full spectrum of choice flies in the face of democracy, and that's something I can't condone.

So keep that in mind when I tell you that Ms. May was just plain terrific on Rex Murphy's "Cross-Country Checkup" yesterday. Again, I couldn't agree with a lot of what she said about other topics, but when she talks about electoral reform, she's definitely worth listening to. I probably won't have much chance to say this again, but today, Elizabeth, I salute you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Edmonton-Strathcona blogging at

I'm not going to be crossposting everything here from my blog during this election, in part because I don't want IP to become all Edmonton-Strathcona, all the time, and in part so as to concentrate discussion over there.

But I did want to give folks a heads-up that although the site doesn't officially go live until today, my introductions post and my Edmonton-Strathcona: a snapshot post are already visible over there. (For data junkies, the latter has some of my infamous charts and maps.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Verkiezingsmoe", and the view from down south

There's a terrific word in the Dutch language: verkiezingsmoe. It means, essentially, "sick and tired of elections."

Do I really need to elaborate on that?

Anyway, you can take it as an excuse for why I haven't been blogging more. Although as of tomorrow, I'll be blogging my local Edmonton-Strathcona race in particular and the Edmonton races in general for, so while you're not terribly likely to hear much federal-level commentary from me this year, those who have been missing me will be able to follow my local-level commentary over there. (There's a real race this year, people! Yes, a real race, in Edmonton! And arguably even two!)


There's not a lot of coverage of Canadian politics in the U.S. news, and what there is usually gets my back up because it tends to range from horribly unnuanced to just plain false. But this Slate piece is a great and surprisingly in-depth look (for a piece that short) at what the heck is so wrong with our political system that we're having our third federal election in four years. Nearly every bit of it is true. Sadly.

[And I only say "nearly" because of the line about "Italians and Israelis may have learned how to function under minority governments, but Canadians are still working on it." I have two quibbles with that. A factual quibble: Italians and Israelis actually don't tend to have minority governments, they tend to have often non-functional majority coalition governments. An ideological quibble: the reference to Italy and Israel in a discussion of coalition governments is annoyingly typical and tiresome when you consider the fact that most of the democratic world has perfectly functional majority coalition governments. But the rest of the piece is great, really.]

Friday, September 05, 2008

The NDP strategy 2008

Jack Layton is letting his strategy hang out.

For the most part, I like it. I like the positioning as a future prime minister, because regardless of whether it ends up ever being effective, it will make him look like a stronger leader. I like the ignoring the Liberals as long as they don't do or say anything too ridiculous or misinformative, because Harper is the primary opponent this time, both for government and for seats in a lot of individual ridings.

The part that makes me cringe are the rampant analogies with the U.S. Democratic Party. No, cringe isn't a strong enough term--"horrified" is more like it. I know that they're trying to play off of an completely idealized vision of Obama. I know they're trying to benefit from the way Canadians have been paying more attention to the glitz and glamour of U.S. politics lately than they have to the frustrating gridlock of Canadian politics. And it might just work, and that would be great, of course. But I still hate it. I just hate it.

As long as the analogies stay superficial, I can live with it, but if they actually start trying to emulate the U.S. Democratic Party on policy, they will be hearing from me more than just in my blog. Because Canada's New Democrats are still lightyears away from the U.S.'s Old Democrats on things like health care, crime and punishment, security, and human rights issues. And as a new Canadian who the Democrats frustrated enough to flee that country to the south of us, I'm still very very very happy about that.