This is probably the most important election in Canada in a generation.
Stephen Harper is asking for a fourth consecutive mandate, and in return he is offering more of the same: more ideology over evidence to the detriment of the economy, more foreign policy that talks loudly and carries a twig – diminishing our global influence and reputation; more secrecy, corruption and scandal (including election fraud in each election he’s won); and most of all, more fear and division. On fear and division, he’s upped the ante by focusing much of his recent political attention on non-issues (niqabs, ‘barbaric cultural practices’ snitch lines) designed to fan the flames of Islamophobia, in order to win votes in Quebec and fire up parts of his base. Even prominent conservatives are finding it hard to support Harper this time (e.g. see here, here and here), and this should come as no surprise: Harper’s penchant for corruption and secrecy, his lack of respect for veterans, and his policies limiting personal freedoms are at odds with many bedrock conservative values. What’s more, Harper’s star cabinet members have largely deserted him – leaving behind a very thin bench.
In short, Stephen Harper has to go. No difference between the other parties and leaders is as important as this. Therefore, I must endorse strategic voting to defeat Harper’s Conservatives. Detailed riding-by-riding polling information to help with this can be found here and here. The approximate instructions for strategic voting are: vote Liberal in Atlantic Canada, southern Ontario, parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and the Montreal and Vancouver areas; vote NDP in rural Quebec, rural British Columbia, northern Ontario, parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and in Alberta; and vote Green in Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Everyone strategically voting would quite likely lead to a Liberal minority government, which would have to be supported by the NDP (and optionally the Greens) to govern. Aside from the fact that this would defeat Harper, I also happen to believe it would be the best possible outcome for Canada, for the following reasons.
1. Cooperative minority and coalition governments could become very common very soon. All three opposition parties (Liberals, NDP, Greens) have promised to eliminate the first-past-the-post electoral system if elected – replacing it with some type of proportional representation (PR) or ranked ballot system. Under many of the possible new systems (PR in particular), minority or coalition governments would become the rule rather than the exception – as they are several in other countries (e.g. Germany, New Zealand, Israel, Finland). By first forming a coalition (or otherwise functioning minority) government before changing our electoral system in this way, the Liberals, NDP and Greens would have the chance to prove to us (and to themselves) that coalition governments can work in modern Canada.
2. No party or leader in this election has a monopoly on good ideas or personal strengths. As is evident in my shadow platform, I don’t think any of the parties has a monopoly on either the good ideas or the bad ideas in this election. For example, I would love to see the next government adopt a combination of the Liberals’ stimulus plan, the NDP’s childcare and pharmacare plans, and the Greens’ carbon pricing plan. The same goes for the leaders. Wouldn’t it be great to see a government that benefitted from Trudeau’s vision, positivity, youth and ability to connect, but also from Mulclair’s and May’s experience and grasps of some of the key issues? Imagine a Trudeau cabinet with May as the Minister of Environment and Mulclair as the Minister of Justice.
3. A working multi-party collaborative government would be the ultimate antidote to the previous hyper-partisan, dictatorial culture under Harper. The levels of hyper-partisanship and concentration of power in Harper’s government have both been unprecedented, but the increasing trends in PMO power and arguably also partisanship long pre-date Harper. These trends have bred a public cynicism about politics among Canadians that has allowed Harper’s government to survive and flourish. A functioning, collaborative coalition government would be a great counter to these trends, and would offer a path to rebuilding public trust in our institutions.
4. Trudeau and his Liberals are the best choice to lead the new government. I have always liked Elizabeth May and think she would make a great Prime Minister, but her party is not deep enough in its talent or strong enough in the polls to be much other than an accidental boon to the Conservatives through vote-splitting. Though I have supported the NDP in some of the previous elections under Jack Layton, I have had mixed feelings about the party and Mulclair this time. I have caught whiffs of Harper in some of Mulclair’s ‘angry Tom’ moments and in some of the NDP’s positions (e.g. their Sherbrooke Declaration to pander to Quebec separatists, their commitment to balanced budgets, and their flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)) and tactics (e.g. their commissioning of a highly misleading poll to create false headlines that Trudeau was trailing in his own riding). In the recent weeks, Mulclair has regained my deepest respect with a series of principled but politically disadvantageous positions. For example, he stood up to Harper on the niqab issue (and the ISIS mission earlier) despite the hit he took in his stronghold of Quebec for it; and he has both seemingly offered Trudeau an olive branch and focused much of his closing campaign on Conservative ridings instead of Liberal ones, which backs up his claim that getting rid of Harper is his number one priority. But it’s not quite enough to regain my support.
Trudeau has consistently offered a positive, big-tent campaign. He has demonstrated a refreshing commitment to evidence-based policy, even when it led him to politically risky positions like legalizing marijuana and investing in infrastructure with short-term deficits. He has – far more than any of the other parties – sought out Canada’s best and brightest both as candidates and as collaborators in his policy-crafting (think Chrystia Freeland, Adam Vaughn, Andrew Leslie, Bill Morneau, Marc Garneau, Bill Blair, Mark Holland, Ahmed Hussen). As a result, the Liberals will have by far the strongest bench in the next parliament, regardless of who wins the election. The Liberal platform isn’t perfect, but on balance it is the best available. To be fair, the Liberals have had a few politically-motivated blunders of their own – most notably their support of C-51 and hard-to-comprehend position on the ISIS mission – but they have had fewer of these than the other parties by my count. Trudeau has also had his share of growing pains over the last few years as leader, but he has convincingly demonstrated his coming of age and readiness to lead over the last few weeks of the campaign. If any party was going to win a majority, the Liberals would be the best option; if any party was going to be able to lead a successful collaborative minority or coalition government, Trudeau’s Liberals would again be my choice.
To be honest, I have a hunch that the Liberals will win a majority on Monday (on the strengths of red waves in Ontario and Quebec). If they do, I hope they still live up to their campaign promise of restoring positivity and consensus-building in Canadian politics. If they win a minority – as I hope they do – they will need to accomplish this to survive.