We got what we wanted.
Harper is gone.
I think we may have overcompensated though.
This time, yesterday, I was contemplating whether I would be driving through the streets in the evening, honking the horn like we do when the Canucks win a playoff series.
But, now that results are counted, I just feel empty, like a breakup after a bad relationship. I don’t take joy in our new Liberal majority, just relief the worst-case scenario didn’t happen.
This time, we voted strategically, and it worked. Oh boy, did it ever work. We listened to the pundits who told us voter turnout was a problem, and our voter turnout went up to 69%. Our youth voted. Our First Nations voted. And we all voted strategically.
We got more that we bargained for. In our fear of Harper, we threw all our votes at his strongest opponent, and the result is a Liberal majority.
In doing so, we have become victims of the broken first-past-the-post again. We did not want a majority. Popular vote for the Liberals was 39.5% — almost exactly the same popular vote that elected Harper in 2011. We wanted a minority that would force parties to work together, to compromise across party lines.
Past estimates of the effectiveness of strategic voting put the effect at about 5% at most. But, the effect in this election was far greater.
We started the election a more or less dead heat. The left vote was split; we needed strategic voting and local polling to figure out who to vote for so we could defeat Harper. 30% of us wanted a Liberal government, another 30% wanted NDP to win.
The popular vote in the final tally put Liberal support at 40%, and NDP at 20%. The Conservatives attracted 30%: The same percentage they started the election with. The Liberals basically took 10% of the votes from the NDP, or about 1/3 of their supporters. The Green party also dropped by about 1/3, from 5% to 3.5%.
That 10% is the strategic vote.
There’s a trap here. The strategic vote started to swing as soon as the polls started to show a clear winner. The infamous niqab debate that cost Mulcair support in Quebec, even temporarily, became a signal that the Liberals were the stronger party. And the dogpile started.
In an ideal world, all the strategic voters would have been watching local polls, and the strategic voters would have split according to the strength of their local ridings. That didn’t happen, because local polls are expensive and infrequent.
It was much easier to watch poll *projections* on threehundredeight.ca (aka the CBC poll tracker) and other similar sites. These projections were more accessible and more widely publicized, and thus constituted the most frequent source of poll data for strategic voters, to our detriment.
The problem with projections is that they are derived from national polls, which only report provincial-level variations, not riding-level ones. Thus, when Mulcair’s support dipped in Quebec, all the Quebec projections started to favour Trudeau, even though this was not uniformly true across the province. And a Quebec dogpile started.
Once the swing started in Quebec, it started to affect the national polls … which began to affect projections in other provinces. The whole thing snowballed, leaving only the NDP’s base (mainly urban pockets in B.C., Ontario, and Quebec).
This election validated everything we were told about the power of strategic voting, the power of voter turnout, and the power of the Youth and First Nations votes. We found our voice. But, we found it in a immense primal scream, not an articulate oration.
I regret not voting Green. I regret voting strategically. I regret the cynicism that I gained in 2011, when I could have sworn that the momentum was against Harper, and I could have sworn that the Youth would show up at the polls. I was wrong in 2011, and it affected my expectations for this election. It made me mistrust the anti-Harper rhetoric I was hearing, and trust the polls that gave Harper a legitimate chance of winning the election.
We have a danger now. The Liberals have promised electoral reform, but they have just benefitted massively from our winner-takes-all first-past-the-post voting system. I am sure the powers that be within that party are thinking of ways to delay or avoid their promise of electoral reform.
We needed a cooperative minority to ensure electoral reform, a minority in which the lines of power weren’t clearly drawn, where it wasn’t so clear who benefitted from first-past-the-post.
Will the political momentum for reform be as strong when Harper is 18 months in our memories — when Trudeau has promised to introduce legislation? It will not be.
So, while I will quietly celebrate our new, non-Harper Prime Minister, I only have half of what I wanted in this election. The other half requires holding Trudeau to his promise of electoral reform.