Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Strategic voting fails in federal election - look at Saanich-Gulf Islands results for proof

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday October 21, 2008

Strategic voting doesn't work


Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy.

- Sun Tzu, The Art Of War, 500 B.C.

I come not to praise strategic voting but to bury it.

Perhaps the obituary is premature but a hard look at what happened this federal election in Saanich-Gulf Islands should give even the most ardent strategic voting fans serious pause to reconsider.

If strategic voting was ever going to make an enormous difference in the results it was in Saanich-Gulf Islands, where Conservative Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn was widely expected to be handily defeated.

Not only were several environmental strategic voting websites targeting the much-unloved Lunn but in mid-campaign skinny dipping New Dipper Julian West was forced to drop out in a controversy and the NDP could not replace him.

Federal Liberal candidate Briony Penn was practically packing her bags for Ottawa, as it was presumed that NDP voters would move from West to the popular former television environmentalist.

And as a former member of the Green Party, Penn expected to drain votes from the Greens' Andrew Lewis as well.

To make it even better, B.C. NDP MLA David Cubberly endorsed Penn, as did wildlife painter Robert Bateman and former federal Liberal Environment Minister David Anderson.

And strategic voting website http://www.voteforenvironment.ca/ weighed in, urging Saanich-Gulf Islanders to shun Lunn:

"Vote splitting elected oil-friendly and pro-nuclear Conservative Cabinet Minister Gary Lunn in this riding .... Briony Penn is our recommendation and has the best chance at defeating Conservative Gary Lunn," Vote For Environment said.

"The NDP candidate has dropped out of the race. This is now one of the most important ridings in the country and Conservative candidate Gary Lunn will likely go down if the NDP votes move to the Liberals and voters vote for the environment instead of based on partisan politics," the website concluded.

What could make for an easier win?

But the best-laid plans went astray when real voters got into the polling booths and refused to put Penn to paper.

Lunn won re-election with 43.4 per cent of the vote to Penn's 39.4 per cent and Lewis' 10.5 per cent.

Most surprising though, was that the NDP's West - whose name was left on the ballot because of his late withdrawal - picked up 5.7 per cent and a significant 3,667 votes.

That total would have easily erased the 2,625 vote gap between Lunn and Penn. So would have a fraction of Lewis' 6,742 Green votes.

To recap - in a riding environmentalists identified as among the most critical in Canada, with the Liberals running an environmentalist and former Green Party member against a despised Conservative, and the NDP candidate having publicly withdrawn - strategic voting failed to deliver a win.

Time for a new strategy.


BC Mary said...


On Election night, I looked up the vote-count for my old home-riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands fully expecting to rejoice at seeing Biony Penn racking up an electoral victory.


My jaw dropped, my eyes popped, I could scarcely believe that Mr No-Neck had already received 2,000 votes more than she had.

How in heaven's name was that possible? Or believable?

Seems there might be more to it, Bill.

Keep drilling, eh?


Anonymous said...

It should hardly astonish us that people as dependant on the ferries as Gulf Island residents should vote against a party that wanted to impose a carbon tax.

DPL said...

It didn't help Briony when SOME FOLKS pretending to be the NDP executive sent recorded messages to known NDP members telling them to still vote for West. But no legal problem says the cops, Telus says nothing to do with them. Politics can be a dirty occupation and some supporters will do just about anything to see a lesser candidate win. Mind you , the greens can't see reality and a lot of NDP in that riding were not bothering to see the back of the incumbent. The riding lost a real environmentalist . But voting is a right.

Shunster said...

C'mon Bill,

Another art of war is 'know thy enemy.'

Lunn's re-election was due to a number of factors the least of which was a failed attempt in strategic voting.

Chris said...

Time for BC-STV

Anonymous said...

Since 2002 the Liberal Party of Canada has made up for a lack of any comprehensive and effective national policy by running "Quisling" STAR CANDIDATES and floating bovine-excrement like the Green Shi_t.

Until LPC & LPC/BC can dump the politically correct bull and offer real policy alternatives, along with "honest" and effective candidates they will contine to wallow in the Mr. Dithers and Dion the Dud cess pool.

All that matters is results, and nothing of the sort, let alone any policy "with balls" has even remotely happened since Chretien was deposed.

Certainly when you have BC's Senior Fossil, the Hon. David Anderson PC, MP. making excuses for continued Grit failure you know they have really hit the bottom of the outhouse.


Anonymous said...

The re-election of Mr. Lunn was hardly a surprise despite the fairytale result hoped for by some 'environmentalists'. Mr. Lunn now enters another term and has overcome more real challenges and challengers in the past. His views may not always be popular but thinking folks know the issues. I worked at one of the polls in this riding on election night and if the questions asked by voters is any indication, the general voting public is (was) ill-informed on voting procedures and very naive on issues, particularly as it related to the non-candidate on the ballot. The fairytale ending never had a chance in the end.

Anonymous said...

Andrew McLeod's piece in
The Tyee may shed some light on Lunn's luck.



Charles Menzies said...

Your point is well made Bill! The first time I every heard of 'strategic voting' was in the late 1980s in Ontario where I spent a couple years at graduate school in Toronto (North York or Downsview, actually). I was there during a federal election and this was the first time I heard people saying that they would want to vote NDP but didn't want to 'waste' their vote and thus would vote Liberal.

Personally I don't see any clear 'strategy' in voting for a party that one doesn't agree with or like. At the time I thought, being the typical west coast BC'er. this must be something uniquely Ontario or Toronto. But then in every election since I have seen the growing discussion on 'strategic voting.' It's too bad that we don't have a proportional representational system. But in the meantime I intend to vote my conscience. I'm not intersted in gambling with my vote.

AngryRabbit said...

It is the height of hubris to TELL people how they should vote.

How dare any party or candidate tell me to vote against my wishes only to further their agenda.

Who the hell do they think they are?

I will vote for whom I damn well please.

Just how stupid do they think the populace is that we would follow their advice on how we should choose to exercise our rights.

Anonymous said...

Moving from the federal to the Vancouver civic scene, can't the agreement between VISION and COPE be seen as another disasterous attempt at strategic voting. In 2006 it led to 8000 voters supporting a VISION/NPA slate rather than a VISION/COPE alate,resulting in the the NPA 6-5 stranglehold on council. I shudder to think what it will lead to this time around.

GC said...

Another argument in favour of electoral reform. The problem is the first-past-the-post system you favour, Bill.

Anonymous said...

Strategic Voting 2008 was brought to you by the not-so good folks in the Conservatives Party of Canada.

Look at Burnaby Douglas - a longtime NDP stronghold that would have gone Tory without some lukewarm Liberal movement.

More than 1,200 additional voters over 2005. Reversing the national trend.

The Liberals LOST 7,000 votes.
The Conservatives GAINED 3,700 votes.
The Greens GAINED 1200 votes
The NDP GAINED 600 votes.
And the Commie GAINED 60 votes.

The Bby Doug. NDP was in third place among the gainers, but still enough to win. That's a bad trend.

Frédéric Van Caenegem said...

But strategic voting unfortunately does work sometimes. I live in the riding of Vancouver-South, a supposedly safe Liberal riding where even the very liberal biased www.voteforenvironment.ca said "This is a safe Liberal seat. Vote with your heart."

My instinct told me differently and the Conservative had way more ads than the well known Ujjal Dosanjh (the Liberal candidate). For the first time in my life, I voted strategically for Dosanjh (I don't like the Liberals, but I do like Dosanjh, so that help my conscience). Election Canada has not finalized tallies yet, but Dosanjh won by 33 votes! Let's just say I, at least this time, don't regret having voted strategically. I'm not proud, but have no regrets (even if the final tallies shows that Dosanjh looses, which I hope not).

Strategic voting does work sometimes. But there is no way of being sure, even relatively sure, where it will work. The human being has a complex and subtle mind (at least I hope).

But it does suck that we have to sometimes vote strategically. At least with Proportional Representation, strategic voting will almost completely disappear.

Gazetteer said...

I'm not sure I agree with your analysis on this one Mr. T.

After all, Ms Penn received almost 40% of the vote, which must be one of the highest totals for a non-winner in the entire country.

And, to take things one step further, given that the Green's Mr. Lewis held 10% and almost 6% went for the non-existent phantom RoboCall-assisted Mr. West, I would like to humbly suggest that the problem in Saanich and the Isles was not that there was too much StratVoting but rather that there was not quite enough of it defeat Mr. Lunn and his third party advertiser-assisted* 43%.

*which, as was pointed out above, has been very well documented by Andrew MacLeod in The Tyee.


Anonymous said...

Or maybe there were other things afoot in Saanich which actually requires "touching down" in the topography of the land rather then keeping ones eye only on the horizon of "strategic voting."
It thus would require actually talking to "real folks there" and why some folks might have voted for the NDP as in party and not West. West who perhaps really wasn't a NDP but a "Green plant" in a long term strategy to say "destroy" the NDP which is perhaps on the island stronger than actually getting rid of conservatives.
The environmental community is tight there, so news travels fast "on the ground." Appears enough local voters would know the "real lay of the land" and those "strategic voting grooves" and just did not want to "reward" skulduggery.
Perhaps strategic voting was more purposeful to ensure Green/Liberal deceit was not rewarded in the "sandbox of dirty politics".
Bill should really touch down there and go to ground zero.