A non-partisan group of local citizens is moving ahead with a poll to assist voters who may wish to vote strategically.
Speaking on the group’s behalf, Warren Bell said they are in the process of raising $1,250 to have Oraclepoll Research conduct the poll in the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding. The end result will be made available to assist voters with how they might vote.
“The poll is to facilitate strategic voting on the part of individual citizens who are trying to decide which of the parties they will vote for if the party they would choose to vote for isn’t in a position to be elected…,” said Bell, who expects the polling to take place sometime this week. “We’re going to publish the results for everybody to see, and give them to the candidates too so they can have them.”
Bell said the intentions behind the poll is not to tell people how to vote. However, he said the current Conservative government, and the actions of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are driving the poll.
“I think if Prime Minister Harper had not been so inclined to move in directions that are quite different from the directions that… the previous Conservative governments, the previous Liberal governments, and of course the NDP, if he hadn’t gone beyond where any of them have gone before, I think we wouldn’t be bothering to do this,” said Bell, noting he is part of another local group, Renewing Democracy Through Co-operation, whose members are keen to see the existing first-past-the-post electoral system replaced by a more progressive proportional system, which he says would make strategic voting unnecessary.
“What happens when you get a proportional system are really quite compelling,” said Bell. “You get a greater turnout, you get more diversity, you get less contrast between one regime and the next, you don’t get a sort of swing from one side to the other, you get more parties involved, you get more negotiation involved, you get more co-operation involved.”
Each of the North Okanagan Shuswap candidates had their own thoughts on the proposed poll and notion of electoral reform.
Conservative candidate Mel Arnold, said he couldn’t believe people would abandon their political loyalty and vision to vote against something.
“We have a party system in Canada because people believe in certain party policies and there are definitely differences between the major parties in this election,” said Arnold. “So why they would abandon their policies to end up with something they really don’t want either is surprising to me.”
Regarding electoral reform, Arnold said the Conservatives are not considering proportional voting, that it would “lead to MPs being appointed in ridings where they actually weren’t elected by the greater portion of the vote.
“Would they truly represent the riding’s interest at that point if that was the case?” said Arnold.
The federal Liberals, Greens and NDP have each committed to bringing an end to first-past-the-post, with the Green Party of Canada and the NDP committed to a proportional voting system (the Greens would also lower the legal voting age to 16). The Liberals, however, have stated they would undertake a national engagement process that would consider electoral reform measures, including ranked ballots, mandatory and online voting and proportional representation.
Back to the local poll, Green candidate Chris George has spoken against strategic voting, arguing people need to focus on the issues and vote with their heart.
“It may well be people think they are doing the right thing, but I think we need to roll back a generation, I guess, back to when… people actually voted what was in their hearts and kind of let the chips fall where they may,” said George.
NDP candidate Jacqui Gingras said she supports the grassroots group and its efforts, but adds polls are not typically good predictors of outcomes.
“We want absolutely to differentiate between polls and past results, which reflect evidence,” said Gingras. “Past voting results reflect evidence and according to the recent evidence… and the evidence, based on past results, clearly demonstrates that the NDP is best positioned to restore democracy to Canada.”
Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz, however, says basing the present election on past result is unreliable. She noted recent polling shows her party pushing past the Conservatives.
“People want to see something as far away from Stephen Harper’s government as they can find. Going back to 2011 or 2008 is not at all helpful or predictive,” said Derkaz.
As for voting strategically, Derkaz said people have to make up their own mind on who will do the best job for them as MP.