Answering my own questions since 2001

How Much Does Your Local Candidate Matter When You Vote?

I voted today. Unfortunately, I’m going to be in the US on October 14. I voted for the Green Party, as I have done so in the last two (maybe three?) elections. For pretty much the same reasons. I have no expectation that my candidate will win, but I believe in supporting the party whose values most closely align with my own.

I’m not a big fan of strategic voting. Even if I was, I’m pretty sure that the Conservative candidate in Victoria has about as much chance as winning as, say, the Christian Heritage candidate. Er, that’s not technically accurate, but Victoria hasn’t elected a Tory since 1988. Besides, VoteForEnvironment suggests that I can take my pick.

Party or Person?

When voting, how much consideration do you give to your local candidate and how much do you give to the national party? I’ve asked this question before, and some thoughtful discussion resulted. Four years later, I can’t think of a good reason not to ask it again.

As I indicated, my choice skews heavily toward the party. Why?

  • I care more about national policy than local issues. I’m totally ambivalent about how my MP represents Victoria in Ottawa.
  • It’s kind of by default. I lived in Vancouver for many years. Can I describe even one of Hedy Fry’s accomplishments as my MP? Can you? I’m no political news junkie, but I think I’ve been as informed and well-read as the average Vancouverite over the past decade. It’s much easier for me to identify with a national party that holds particular values and positions, as opposed to my local MP whose accomplishments and goals I can’t imagine.

My perception of the party leader–of their competency and character–matters as well. Less than the party, but more than the local candidate.

How about you? Do you vote for the candidate or the party?

UPDATE: On a vaguely-related note, somebody sent me this video featuring local Vancouver candidates talking about their parties’ platforms on climate change.

UPDATE #2: Speaking of videos, I love the aesthetics of this one (thought its message could be clearer).

9 Responses to “How Much Does Your Local Candidate Matter When You Vote?”

  1. bz

    I voted yesterday as well, I’ll post my reasons on Tuesday after the advance polls close.

    Dont you feel your vote is wasted by voting green? If the candidate has no chance of winning, are you not just then giving support to the Conservatives?

    I’m not certain of the make up in your riding with incumbents etc, but strategic voting is sooo important this election.

    With 3 left leaning parties, a HUGE vote split will happen and Harper will take his smug sweater vest of the middle with a great shot at majority.

    He knows it, and he’s laughing about it.

    By voting green, do you not then give the Cons candidate a greater shot at winning?

    Like I said, the math in your riding may vary, but this will be the situation in many ridings across the country.

  2. bz

    okay, I wrote without fulling reading the post.

    apologies.

    as you can tell, I AM a big fan of strategic voting, and find it necessary that all Candians who arent Conservative supporters engage in it or be faced with a Harper majority.

  3. VancityAllie

    I’m mailing in my vote today as I’ll be away in Tofino on the day.

    I strongly believe in voting for the party, not the person. I agree with you about National importance rather than a narrower view with a local focus. Even the personality of the leader of the national party doesn’t matter as much to me as the platform.

    For me, I’ll be voting for the party that best supports small business and entrepreneurship as I believe it’s the backbone of a good economy.

    Thanks for continuing to write this blog. I’m a long time reader but have never commented. :)

  4. Derek K. Miller

    I’m in a bit of an unusual situation, living in the Burnaby-Douglas riding long represented by the NDP’s Svend Robinson and, since his, er, theft-related retirement, by his former assistant Bill Siksay. Both have been heavily involved in the local community, outspoken in Parliament (Svend more so, obviously), and involved in their party’s platform decisions.

    I’m also a left-leaning fellow, so going NDP has been an easy choice ever since I started voting 20 years ago in this riding — I know my vote is not “wasted” (Tommy Douglas was an MP here too at one point, so the NDP/CCF has always been a strong contender), and I agree with the party platform on many issues. Were I in a different riding, I might vote more strategically, choosing Green or Liberal. As it is, my decision was easy when I voted in the advance poll a couple of days ago, because my riding and national interests align.

    Buzz has a point about the vote splitting. We can recall the early-’90s era when the Reform and Progressive Conservative parties split the vote on the right, so that even with the Bloc dominating in Quebec, the Liberals maintained power for a decade. In B.C. the brief time when the Socreds, B.C. Reform (remember them?) and the Liberals all divided the centre-right and right vote kept the NDP in power.

    The lesson is that, while we don’t really favour formal multi-party coalition governments in Canada, we often get them, in effect, by other means: when groups of left- or right-leaning parties merge (into the B.C. Liberals provincially, into the Conservatives federally) in order to regain power after living in the vote-split wilderness for a few years.

    That’s what may happen federally this time. Alas, I fear that means bad things for environmental policy in particular.

  5. melanie watts

    Like Derek I too vote NDP. I have been a member of the party for nearly 25 years. This year is the first year I am not a member although I’m still voting for them.
    My riding, Prince George Peace River, has been a Tory/reform strong hold forever. I remember when the current MP, Jay Hill came to my notice at an all candidates meeting in Dawson Creek. The floor was packed with his supporters and I knew our NDP candidate Alan Timberlake had not much chance of getting any votes.
    The tables were reversed when I lived in Vancouver East where Margaret Mitchell (NDP) was an MP until she retired.
    Voting strategically has never been and never will be an option for me. Even if we had proportional representation I would still vote for the party whose values closely resemble mine.

  6. JohnB

    A couple of comments at a “slightly removed” distance.

    First, no vote is wasted. Political parties are partially subsidized in Canada and the the subsidy is directly related to the number of votes a party receives.

    http://www.mapleleafweb.com/features/canada-s-electoral-system-introduction-federal-and-provincial-elections

    and search for “Government Subsidies for Election Expenses”

    A list of the amounts for each party in the last general election can be found here:
    http://www.elections.ca/content.asp?section=fin&dir=pol&document=table1_06&lang=e&textonly=false

    Second, on strategic voting: non-Canadians will likely be unaware of the dynamics of Canadian politics. Taking only the major parties (Alphabetically: Bloc Quebecois, Conservative, Green, Liberal, NDP) all but the Conservative party are to the left of centre. It is, therefore, advantageous for the Conservative party to have multiple “left” parties splitting the vote. In some ridings, of course, it makes no difference because one party is truly dominant. But in the cases where it is close, the strength of the third and fourth candidates can make a difference in the outcome. It is left (no pun intended) as an exercise to the reader to look at the existing number of seats for each party as it currently stands and then again as it would have been if all votes that went to the Bloc, Green, liberals and NDP had gone to a single left-of-centre party.

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