Strategic Voting…are you kidding me?

This is going to sound harsh but here goes….listen up you lily-livered-small “l” liberals (eg. Liberals, NDP and Alberta Party members) there’s NO SUCH THING as a “strategic vote” in the upcoming Alberta election.  A “vote” is an exercise of choice.  If your only choices are “the devil you know” (PCs) or “the devil incarnate” (Wildrose) then you’re choosing between the devil and the devil.  That is not a “choice”;  that’s an act of resignation and despair.

Furthermore a “strategic vote” in this election is not even remotely strategic.  A decision is “strategic” only if it helps you reach a goal or objective.  Re-electing the PCs under a leader to be determined later (let’s face it, the old guard will dump Alison as soon as this debacle of an election is over) is not moving the centre-left any closer to its goal of forming government.  So ask yourself what is strategic about refusing to vote for the centre-left at a time when the PCs are most vulnerable? 

The answer given by many centre-lefties is galling (I told you this would sound harsh). They won’t vote for the candidates who best represent their values because they’re afraid.  They’ve swallowed the PC line that only the PC party can protect Albertans from the wild-eyed fanatics because the centre-left is too diffuse and will split the vote.  Really?  

This is a very volatile election.  There are 2.3 million voters in Alberta.  More than 40% will turn out (bet on it) on election day.  Given this environment it’s a little early for the PCs to call the results in each riding, don’t you think?

Instead of stampeding like a startled gaggle of geese—no wait, not geese, they’re feisty birds, more like frantic lemmings pushing each other off the political precipice—we would be well advised to heed the words of others who are watching this election very closely.

John Ralston Saul, the philosopher, writer and former Albertan said “the concept of an open, inclusive and egalitarian society…is reliant on individuals seeing themselves as having the power to shape their civilization.”* Let’s not meekly give up our power to shape Alberta’s society simply because the PCs have frightened us into “voting strategically”.

And be aware that by “voting strategically” we’re actually punishing the centre-left parties and the MLAs who’ve struggled long and hard to protect the social institutions we hold dear—public healthcare, public education, a thriving environmentally sustainable economy, an equitable royalty/tax structure and, most important, a democratic transparent government.

Mr Mason, NDP leader, said it best when he urged voters to ignore the “family feud” in the conservative camp and elect as many centre-left MLAs as possible because they will hold the balance of power in the Legislature for the next 4 years.  (Of course he’s hoping that these power brokers will be NDP MLAs, but that’s your call).

If John Ralston Saul and the opposition party leaders can’t convince you, how about Calgary Mayor Nenshi?  He said “It’s always best to vote for someone rather than against someone”.** That deafening roar of approval you just heard came from Mayor Nenshi’s supporters who stuck with the underdog against overwhelming odds and had the supreme satisfaction of seeing him defeat two well known and well funded rivals.

It’s time for the small “l” liberals to man up, to fight the panicky urge to vote strategically and replace it with the analytical process of thinking strategically.  Take a page from John Ralston Saul—stay cool, very very cool.  Listen carefully to what your local MLA candidates are saying.  Weed out the rhetoric, the fear mongering and the overblown promises.  And then vote, coolly, calmly and analytically.

Here’s how I worked through my decision:

  • Not PC because Alison failed to deliver on the promises she made in the leadership race (it doesn’t matter why);  also she’s disavowed any responsibility for her part in the bad decisions made by the PCs during the 4 years she was Justice Minister.  I’m holding her accountable.  Her “I am frightened” campaign was the last straw.  A “frightened” MLA does not deserve my vote.
  • Not WR and not just because of their tolerance of intolerant MLAs (how did those yahoos make it through the candidate screening process?) but because the WR is founded on the belief that the free market is the best solution for all that ails us.  Economic formulae may be elegant but they create a false sense of reality;  when the formula fails to deliver the expected results, the fallout is devastating (the financial meltdown in the US is a prime example).
  • Carefully considered the non PC/WR candidates in my riding which, as luck would have it, is Calgary Elbow, Alison Redford’s riding.  Normally I’d turn to for guidance, but there is none.  So I attended forums, met the candidates and did my on-line research.  I’ve made my decision and I’m comfortable with it.

We’re at a fork in the road in Alberta politics.  It’s time to decide.  Do you break left or break right?  You have a split second to consider your decision.  If you break right and vote PC make sure you’re voting FOR the PCs and not AGAINST the WR.  That split second decision will determine whether you are willing to spend the next 4 years governed by fear.

Good luck on election day.  See you on the other side once the dust settles.

*Calgary Herald Online, Apr 18, 2012

**Calgary Herald, Apr 20, 2012, A5 


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27 Responses to Strategic Voting…are you kidding me?

  1. jillbrowne says:

    Wow, Susan, what do you really think?

    When the dust settles, no matter who wins, I will be paying much closer attention to Alberta politics than in the past.

    I appreciate your arguments, Susan. However, I look at my constituency and the party I would support isn’t even running. There are four candidates, but really it is a two-horse race.

    Post-election, one strong possibility is that we will have a minority government, in which case the WR are not likely to make alliances with any of the others, but the PCs are. That opens the door for the various progressive voices to have more impact.

    If there is a WR majority, everyone else is going to have to work hard to make sure Alberta stays on a reasonable course. Again there will be a need for PCs to listen to and work with the other parties.

    If there is a PC majority, under Alison Redford I do think there is an opportunity for the other parties to be influential. I realize that you are strongly critical of Redford and I am going to pay attention to what you observe in future, and also I will watch more closely for myself. The WR has done the PCs a huge favour by giving the extremists on the right a new home. This may leave the PCs better positioned to be more responsive to the rest of us.

    At any rate, the PCs will benefit from the strategic voting of people who would have otherwise supported the NDP, Liberals, and the Alberta Party. I think the PCs are well aware of that and while I may be unrealistically optimistic, I would hope their future actions will respect all the people who supported them.

    In the next government, I want to hear the voices of Brian Mason, Raj Sherman and at least one member of the Evergreen Party (my pick would be Janet Keeping from Calgary-Hawkwood).
    I’m looking forward to the election being over and to being, as much as I possibly can, a non-partisan observer of how my province is being governed.

    I think I can handle being lily-livered for a couple more days. (Said with a smile.)

  2. jillbrowne says:

    I should add that if my party of choice was running a candidate here, I would not consider voting for anyone else, strategic or not.

  3. jillbrowne says:

    Whoops, omitted Alberta Party leader Glenn Taylor from my list. That was unintended. Yes, I certainly do want to hear the voice of the Alberta Party! Sorry about that. I got distracted because I was listening to Brian Mason on YouTube at the same time. Dangers of multi-tasking.

  4. What do I really think…? Jill you should have seen the first draft of the blog (smile). Much of my frustration actually rests with the centre left. It may be a pipe dream but if 2 or more of the left of centre parties would amalgamate we’d have some real choice in Alberta.
    The prospect of a majority WR gov’t is horrific. A majority PC gov’t would be only slightly less horrific because the PCs would have proof that Albertans will elect them no matter what they do (yes, we’ll agree to disagree on that one). If we end up with a minority gov’t we’d get absolutely nothing done. I am hopeful that if the centre left puts a number of MLAs into the Legislature, everyone will be forced to cooperate in the greater public interest.
    PS I’m actually quite a nice person once you get to know me (wink).

  5. My daughter sent me this article by Marc Power which sets out in greater detail why progressive voters should consider NOT voting “strategically”. You may need to copy the link into your facebook account to access it. Let me know if this doesn’t work and I’ll try to get it out another way.
    Thanks again Marc.

  6. Elaine Fleming says:

    I have been voting with my “heart” for 40 years, and how did that work out for me? Not so good. I, and others like me, were never able to make a difference until we started making strategical moves. If the system is gamed, then …play another game. I have never been more thoughtful, objective and practical about voting before. It is for sure a gamble, but the stakes are high. The most positive outcome in this particular election would be a PC minority, and them having to work with other parties, particularly the NDP. Then maybe there would be some hope for our province seeing a more positive, progressive (the dictionary meaning!) future.

  7. Elaine, I share your frustration, but am prepared to take the gamble. The intolerant comments made by 2 of the WR MLA candidates did serious damage to the party’s credibility. People who liked the WR free enterprise model are not prepared to vote for a party that accepts this type of candidate. So some of the defecting PCs will return to the fold.

    Also I’m heartened by the fact that 30,000 people have visited the website and just this week 13,000 visited their facebook page and 13,000 visited their blog. That’s an awful lot of people looking for an alternative to the PCs. They may have been part of the 60% who didn’t bother to vote last time because it seemed pointless but will come out on Monday–they sense change is coming and they want to be part of it. We’ll know soon enough.

    Thanks for your comments Elaine. Interesting times ahead!

  8. cmajka says:

    I’m not from Alberta, so this issue, while very interesting, remains academic for me. There’s a substantial amount of sense to not panicking, and I agree with many of the points in the article. I do think there are a couple clear errors.
    1. To characterize the brand of conservatism represented by Alison Redford as “the devil you know” is highly misleading. It’s clear that Redford is dyed-in-the-wool Red Tory (a former senior policy advisor for Joe Clark, the canonical Red Tory). That is very far from the conservatism of Ralph Klein or even Ed Stelmach. You can agree or not with Red Toryism, but this certainly is no devil that Alberta has ever known.
    2. The notion that “the old guard will dump Alison as soon as this debacle of an election is over” is pure unsupported speculation. Who knows what will transpire should either the Conservatives or Wild Rose win, particularly if there should be a minority or coalition government, but should Redford win, it could well be that her political position will be significantly strengthened, particularly since the libertarian wing of the Conservatives have all defected to Wildrose.
    I do agree that ChangeAlberta is an excellent guidepost in those ridings where they have made a determination.

    • Cmajka, fair point on the distinction between Redford and her predecessors, they’re different types of Tories. In my mind Redford, Klein/Stelmach and the WR are all conservatives just at different points on the conservative spectrum.

      And yes the comment that Alison’s days are numbered is pure speculation…but based on my experience in large corporations. Both corporations and governments labour to get things done, the difference is how they’re funded, what guides their mission, who their “stakeholders” are and how they’re rewarded. The similarity is that they’re both organizations based on power (who has it, how it’s used and how it is lost). In my experience if a project goes horribly wrong, the last person to touch it will find himself out the door. It usually takes about 6 months to a year before that person leaves “to pursue other interests”. While it would be wrong to lay all the blame for the loss of PC seats on the Alison (she inherited a lot of baggage from the previous regimes) nevertheless, in any organization founded on power someone has to pay and I’m betting it’s going to be Alison. If I’m wrong I’ll do a Ki Ki Planet (Apr 11 post) and eat crow.

      Thanks for your comments, cmajka. Tomorrow will be an interesting day!

  9. Carlos says:

    Well this is one of the reasons I want this voting system gone. It is amazing to me that we actually not only take this garbage but do not even consider Proportional Representation. This system is creating the situation you so dislike. Like you say in your post, we should vote for who we truly want to be running this province. Unfortunately the voting system we have is making people affraid of doing that and get caught with a government that only had a place in Medieval times.
    I will never vote strategic because that is not democracy, that is Las Vegas voting, but this could also be the last time my vote does not count because I will not vote until we change the system. Only the NDP had PR on thier list of promises and they never talked about it. They do not seem to believe in it. To me this is a clear sign we no longer understand democracy. This is wrong and it just shows how backwards we have become.

  10. Carlos, you’re bang on with your comment that our voting system fails to represent the views of so many Albertans and as a result many have given up voting altogether. As you noted this system has created a situation where people are voting for the party they dislike the least instead of the party they want the most. So much for democracy!

    I must admit I know very little about proportional representation beyond the simple concepts that (1) all voters deserve representation and (2) all political groups deserve to be in the Legislature. I have no idea how that would work in real life. I checked the NDP website to see if there was some more information but came up empty. Do you have any links you could send us?

    This is going to be an historic day for Albertans. I just returned from my polling station. The scrutineer was complaining that the ballot boxes were jammed already and they still have hours to go before the polls close. I’m not leaving my TV set until the bitter end (hopefully it won’t be too bitter).

    Thanks Carlos…interesting comments as ever.

  11. Carlos says:

    Susan I have had experience with proportional representation and witnessing this show here in Alberta is as frustrating as possible. There are many different versions of proportional representation but my favorite one is the pure PR. You get 30% of the vote, you get 30% of the seats in the legislature. It is simple and easy. One of the criticisms is that in many, not all, PR systems, especially in Europe, the people running are in lists provided by the party. People that support our system say that we do not even know the candidates that are selected by the party. It is a valid criticism but here is my answer to this – First of all despite the fact that I like politics and I am moderately involved, other than Sue Huff I do not know anyone running in my constituency. So what is the difference. Another criticism is that the list being put together by the party causes a lot of in party manouvering and corruption to get on the list. To this, I say that first of all in our constituency the situation is not much better. Furthermore, the party lists defines a party life that is all year round rather than at election time like ours. I do not think any of these reasons justifies not having the PR system. Also there are PR systems with constituency organizing like we have. Examples are New Zealand. PR is a system that does not leave a bad taste in your mouth after the election is done. People get the seats according to the percentage and so every vote always counts. Now the number one problem of PR according to the defenders of our system is that it creates many minority governments. I am not sure this is true. It does create more than ours but democracy was created to avoid majorities, not to create them. We have to learn how to govern together and with participation of different ideas. The real problem is that we cannot stand each other. Just look at your centre left in Alberta. They cannot even see eye to eye never mind any possible alliance for an election. They all want power period. That is the real problem.

    For more information and for helping get PR in Canada please visit and support Fair Vote Canada at So far it has failed in BC but only because the premier considered 61% to be a majority and they achieved something like 59%. If one eliminates those that did not vote, which could very well have been at least 30% then the result was quite positive. The problem is that no politician in Canada wants to change a system that allows them to have all the power once they make it. We might as well just implement a rotational dictatorship and let them all have a round.

    Susan the site above has quite a lot of resources.

    I am done with this system and I will probably not vote next time unless my vote counts.

    Thank you for reading.

  12. Carlos says:

    Once again my vote was not only did not count, it did not make any difference whatsoever. What a disaster this is. No wonder people do not bother. I am done with it as well. Hopefully next time 15% of people will vote and they will so something about it.

    I am glad the WR did not win and had no chance to win. The polls were all wrong. People are so fed up with them that they lie to them. Good for them. Ban the darn things at least in the last week of the election. They take away all the fun and project what is going to happen and turn people off. Gosh do we ever have a democratic deficit in this province.

  13. Carlos Beca says:

    I apologize for that first sentence in my last post. I meant to say that ‘Once again my vote not only did not count….’ not sure what that ‘was’ is doing there. 🙂

    This election is finally over and the most important lesson to me is that fundamentalism did not win. I am proud that Edmonton did not elect any Wildrose candidates. I know Calgary likes to call us Redmonton, but the fact is that we do well the way we are and extremism is not very welcome here. I was surprised with all this fireworks about the WR but again it was a creation of the media and the big oil and big money that could not wait to take over this province. Despite the fact that I do not care for the PCs either, I am happy we survived what could have been a disaster for this province. Extreme ideology alwyas has bad consequences and Danielle Smith is nothig but that. I believe she will now realize what true politics is about and I doubt they will continue in the extreme right.

  14. Carlos Beca says:

    I just read a couple of articles in the Edmonton Journal and one of them is on the level of participation in this election. A level of 57%, the highest since 1993 is the title. Amazing that 43%, almost the same level of support the Conservatives got, is missing in action. What is even more amazing is that we congratulate ourselves for having reached this great level of 57%. To me this is terrible and just reflects the bad state of affairs our democracy is in. It also reflects our level of concern we have for what supposedly we value and even fought for in the second world war – democracy. For years we have been telling ourselves and call ourselves consumers instead of what we really are and should be – citizens. So the brain washing is working and will continue until one day we realize we are no longer free to choose anything including how we want to be governed.

    57% is pathetic and it is time to get our democratic deficit to be dealt with appropiately. I am tired of just talk and polls and studies. The reason why people are not participating is simply because it is not important because it does not matter anymore. In order to matter we have to change it and make it serious, real and without all the controls by media, lobby groups and whoever else has moeny to play in it. Furthermore we have to have a voting system with whatever name, that represents us all andd not just the winners of constituency races. We no longer have two parties for that to work. Most of all we need to be sincere about what we really want as citizens. The world can no longer afford to be playing games with reality, the results are catastrophic. We just spent more than 30 billion dollars in Afghanistan and soon it will be back in the hands of the Taliban. OOPs we could have used that money for what matters to us, not to what matters to Peter Mackay and friends. For that we need real democracy, not jokes.

  15. Carlos, I’m dismayed that Albertans would continue to go with the status quo given the PC’s record on healthcare, public education, openess and transparency. I’m frustrated by the whole process–I can’t begin to imagine how the centre left candidates must feel. There was so much hope when the election started, hope that the opposition would grow and more fresh creative people would learn the ropes and perhaps form government some day. Now we have a conservative government with a hard right conservative opposition. Not exactly uplifting.
    Thanks for the information about PR and the link to FairVote. Looks like an interesting and informative site. I’m going to do some serious thinking about all of this.
    PS. All of you Edmontonians are to be congratulated, I was particularly impressed with the NDP’s ability to grow its support. Nicely done!

  16. Carlos says:

    I am also dismayed and very concerned about the future of this province. We have everything we need to be prosperous and we choose to be a real pathetic joke. I fully agree with you, we now have a right wing, tired government and a lunatic rightest wing opposition. We then get surprised the rest of Canada questions our sanity. It is clear that social democracy, a political system that has created the most developed nations on the planet right now is seen as a disease and designed for left wing nuts. We are now paralyzed with false beliefs about anything that does not approach right wing fundamentalism and the media, for the most part, supports these false ideas and promotes anti moderate politics in a way that borders the insane. Reading the Sun this morning is like reading a recipe for disaster and I just wonder where are these people coming from? Nazi Germany?
    The outcome of all of this is very much something all of us should be concerned. It is not a joke really. It is our lives on the line and we do not seem to be able to have a decent conversation about it.

  17. Carlos says:

    I have to correct another sentence and again I apologize – ‘ We are now paralyzed with false beliefs that approach right wing fundamentalism……
    I will be better next time I promise. 🙂

    • Thanks for this Carlos…PR does sound relatively simple doesn’t it. I was impressed by the number of countries and their caliber (I’m thinking of Switzerland) that have successfully adopted the PR model.
      I can’t wait until the Legislature is back in session and the Premier and the Opposition Leader start to work on the Alberta agenda. Reading Hansard (already a favourite past time) will likely become the highlight of my day.

  18. Hi Susan,

    I have a request that I think you might be able to help out with.

    Pretty much the only argument that Wildrose succeeded with on Monday was the “property rights” issue in Southern Alberta — the party is now a rural rump that those of us who were around in 1971 find exactly the same as the Social Credit caucus then (as Peter Lougheed also observed today).

    I do remember the old Socred “property rights” paranoia and knew that a lot of rural Albertans were angry with the Tories for this (although it appears that anger did not find a home north of Calgary, which is where I thought it would show up).

    So my requests (since I know you are a lawyer who can both understand and explain these things) are:

    1. Just what did the Tories do that provoked this issue (Morton lost his seat so they obviously held him responsible)?
    2. In public policy terms, was this a good or a bad thing (I’m not willing to automatically assume that Southern Alberta ranchers are, by definition, right)?
    3. Why did it have such a big impact south of Calgary and virtually none north of Red Deer?

    I realize that this kind of issue is not really what this blog is normally about but I also know that none of the mainstream media has anyone who has even a minimal understanding of it. For what it is worth, I don’t think it is going to go away — the pressures on land use in Alberta are significant and going to increase. On the other hand, I also think that Ms. Redford is the opposite of Ralph Klein — she listens and seeks compromise. A successful resolution of this issue would leave Danielle Smith with nothing but her homophobic and racist candidates and I don’t think that crew is going anywhere.

    And after you have done that post 🙂 perhaps you could address the other outcome that Postmedia seems to want to ignore. For urban Albertans who are not Tories, we have five Liberal MLAs, four NDs and two Wildrose (one of whom is a fired, incompetent ex-Tory cabinet minister). Surely from an urban perspective, this result is an indication of progressive thought in both Calgary and Edmonton — I know the Herald and Journal are transfixed by Danielle, but the outcome says she was an absolute, total, complete failure in both Edmonton and Calgary — while Raj Sherman and Brian Mason were quite successful. I would be interested in your thoughts (once you have addressed my previous concern, of course).

    • Wow…that’s quite a homework assignment Kevin! Here’s my take (bear with me because I haven’t followed this issue as closely as the healthcare issue). The furor started when the PCs introduced 4 new pieces of legislation that gave the government the power to expropriate land, in some cases without compensation. The land owners were upset because: first, we already had the Expropriation Act and the Surface Rights Act, which allowed for expropriation and compensation so why did the government need more legislation to do what it already had the power to do? Second, unlike the Expropriation Act and the Surface Rights Act some of the new statutes did not allow for compensation or the right to appeal a decision to the courts (these short comings were addressed later by amendments). Third, the landowners were not consulted prior to the legislation being passed and felt the legislation was “rammed through” the Legislature with minimal debate. This fueled their distrust. The most controversial statute–the Land Assembly Project Area Act–had an additional wrinkle. It allowed the government to take control of land for large infrastructure projects (power and transportation corridors, etc) without the benefit of a public hearing under the Alberta Utilities Board Act. This infuriated landowners, environmentalists, etc.

      The landowners made their displeasure known. The government created a task force to “listen” to the landowners concerns, it tinkered with the legislation and said it was going to appoint a property advocate. The landowners were not satisfied because they want the same level of protection that they presently enjoy under the Expropriation Act and the Surface Rights Act. (I had a moment of deja vu here–this sounds an awful lot like the promise of a public inquiry into physician intimidation which morphed from an inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act to a scaled down inquiry with no right of appeal under the newly enacted Health Quality Council Act (complete with patient advocate).

      So re: Q1: the Tories enacted legislation which was seen as unnecessary and draconian. They did so without adequate consultation. The landowners squealed and Tories responded with the usual “task force and advocate” solution (both of which were seen as nothing more than window dressing).
      Re: Q2: In my view it’s always bad public policy to enact any legislation that takes away property rights (or impacts any rights and freedoms for that matter) without clearly stating that the landowner has the right of appeal to the courts.
      Re: Q3. You got me!
      OK that’s a long enough answer in a “comment”. I’ll come back to your intriguing question about why the urban voters were less enchanted with Danielle than the rural voters after I’ve had a chance to mull it over. And here I thought I’d be able to “turn the page” on this election! Nice to hear from you. We’ll talk again soon.

  19. Carlos Beca says:

    Thank you Susan – I had no idea what was going on, and now I do.
    Interesting, expropriation without compensation – this in the good old days was what the communists did and it was called nationalization. To me that is called robbery.
    I surely hope we are not going to have these flip flops for 4 years. If we do, it will not only be a pain in the ass but will bring about another 4 years of WR. This is their last chance in government.

  20. Thanks for that quick and thoughtful response to my question. I still don’t understand why the government felt the need to introduce new legislation — we do seem to have managed to build more than a few pipelines and serviced thousands of wells quite adequately with the old laws.

  21. Carlos Beca says:

    Kevin I have the same question about why the new law. One thing I know for sure, if it was created was certainly to benefit companies, otherwise they would not bother with new laws to benefit the public, Yes this is harsh to say but just look back 20 years and show me when Albertans and for that matter Canadians have benefited from any major new laws. Of course they all say that is for the PEOPLE, that is in every speech, every sentence, but the reality is quite different. It is not difficult to notice anyway. Our standards of leaving despite the fact that Canada has almost tripled its output since the early 80s, is in the best of cases the same and for most of us worse. Only the top 5% have benefited tremendously. Of course for Neo Conservatives this is just what they worked for so it is a success. In the Legislature 25 of them now leave to the total of 15 million dollars in handshakes and so they do not have to worry about pensions…etc. They have done the damage and we take the consequences.

  22. Pingback: Reflections on an Election: AB Votes 2012 « A Robin Hood's Musing

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