Strategic Voting


For the last several elections, various people have suggested strategic voting as a way of avoiding splitting the progressive vote and, thereby, defeating the Harper Conservatives. I’m sure we’ll hear about it again this election. So far, the proposals have largely fallen flat. Certainly they didn’t stop Harper from winning the last three elections.

There are a multitude of reasons for this. First and foremost, most people don’t pay that much attention. Hell, a significant percentage of people don’t even bother voting – so to expect them to spend some extra calculating time to vote strategically is not likely to have a big impact.

Secondly, it is hard to figure out how to do it and even harder to be sure that you are doing it right. How are we supposed to guess who is likely to win in our riding? Very few constituency level or even regional polls are held so it is tough to know who might be ahead. One might use the seat projection models from or the individual riding guesses at the Election Prediction Project but even then, the accuracy rate is seldom as high as 80% — and even worse when trying to figure out the best bet for defeating the local conservative incumbent.

I generally don’t have this problem. My riding hasn’t gone conservative since 1984 and it is extremely unlikely that the local NDP candidate will lose if the polls are remotely accurate. But I’m still happy to give some advice.

First of all, if you are in a riding that already has a Liberal, NDP, or Green member – vote for them. They have the best shot of beating the local conservative. Beyond that, you can rely on provincial level polls. So in Atlantic Canada and Manitoba, a Liberal vote is most promising. Everywhere else except Ontario (and the Liberal Island of Montreal), I’d go with an NDP vote. In Ontario you might be able to parse the votes a little more closely. In the North and far south, the NDP have the best chances of defeating conservatives, while in Toronto and eastern Ontario, it is the Liberals. In the suburbs and cities around Toronto, it is mostly Liberal territory though the NDP have a chance in places like Oshawa, Hamilton and Waterloo.

Of course, voting strategically is not everyone’s cup of tea. Most people actually want to vote for the party that best represents them. I know I do. That’s why I prefer an alternative to strategic voting – which no-one would ever talk about if it weren’t for the first past the post system of elections we now have. I’d prefer some form of proportional representation or as a second choice a ranked ballot (see what I did there) so I could ensure that the least worst candidate got elected.

In any case, whether you vote strategically or not – and no matter whom you favour (even the Conservatives) I hope you will all get out and vote when the time comes.

And that’s ten minutes.


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