Elections shouldn’t hinge on strategic thinking

By the time you read this, it will be too late, and you’re probably not happy.
The longest federal election in modern history will be over — OK, maybe you are happy about that, and we can’t blame you. But bear with us a moment. Regardless of whether you supported John Weston, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Ken Melamed or Larry Koopman, the odds are that more than half of you will have voted for a person who wasn’t elected your Member of Parliament last night.
Which puts you in good company with… well, the majority of people in Canada, actually.
No doubt you’ve heard about the fact that our 19th-century first-past-the-post electoral system regularly delivers majority governments to political parties with less than 50 per cent of the popular vote.
And when you look at the 2011 election results, the same thing happens right down to the local level. Of the 308 riding races in that election, the winning candidate got more than 50 per cent of all the votes cast in less than half of the races — 146 times, compared to 162 where the winner got less than his or her opponents combined.
That has led to many agonized and passionate arguments across Canada in this election about strategic voting. In our riding, Green party candidate Melamed was subject to immense pressure from voters opposed to the Conservatives not to split votes away from the Liberals’ Goldsmith-Jones, seen by many as the candidate with the best chance of unseating Weston.
We’ll know this morning how that all turned out. (The Question had already gone to print before the final results were known. )
But whatever that result, we are in uncharted territory as of this morning. If the polls are correct (and yes, that’s a tremendously big “if”), no single party will have a majority of the seats in the House of Commons. And two of the parties which between them should have a majority of the seats ­— the Liberals and the NDP — have openly committed to reforming our horribly broken electoral system.
We’ll see if they have the will to use the power granted to them by the voters to actually do that, of course. But if they do, this could be a momentous occasion — the last first-past-the-post election. The last time voters have to agonize about supporting their second or third choice over their first. The last time you have to think about what you’re voting against rather than what you’re voting for.
And while it may be bad form, or even nausea-inducing for some, to think about the next election the morning after this marathon ends, that would make the 43rd federal election something to look forward to.

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