Well, blow me down. Today’s Globe has an op-ed favouring vote splitting on the left. And bigger surprise, it’s penned by Tory Joan Crockatt’s new BFF, Chris Turner of the Green Party (Harper’s current BFF).
Turner is the single most important reason Harper’s Tories retained the Calgary Centre seat. And he knows it. “Even in Stephen Harper’s backyard”, Turner writes, “63 per cent of voters cast ballots for non-Conservative candidates. If the parties could work together… the opportunity for victory is obvious”.
But despite knowing it he argues against it, giving two reasons that don’t quite add up.
Reason one – once the campaign is on there is no turning back.
This is the “you owe it to your supporters to run” argument and it’s crap. What you “owe” to your supporters isn’t you. It’s the ideas you purport to stand for. And if your candidacy gets in the way, you’re not serving those ideas nor your supporters.
For example, people who vote green care about the environment. So how does a Green candidate splitting the vote impact that? It makes it much more likely that Harper gets to keep on supporting two pipelines, increased ghg emissions, mineral extraction overseas, bad transportation planning and delivery… yada, yada, yada.
To be specific. Turner’s campaign saved Crockett’s campaign making it easier for Harper to keep on harming our environment for the next three years.
Reason two – Non-voters. I’m worried I can’t really summarize what Turner says about non-voters because its too stupid for words. Here goes.
Non-voters don’t vote and the Calgary campaign demonstrates that when non voting happens non-votes aren’t counted. If non-voters voted they would have voted for someone and that makes everybody very important, so splitting the vote isn’t really splitting it because maybe someone could have attracted all the non-voters and won but that didn’t happen and I don’t know why, but it could, couldn’t it?
It’s interesting in a kind of a late night, too much doobie kind of way (I had a significant number of these arguments in my youth). But most people think that Alberta’s traditional voter apathy has to do with the fact that the Tories always win, so why bother if the result is always the same (see Calgary Centre for the most recent example).
The corollary is that showing that another party with different views can win might actually be the key to increasing voter turnout. In other words, the way to motivate non-voters isn’t to just represent their views but to show that there’s a good chance those views or something close to them will be made real after the bunting’s torn down.
But all this is besides the point. Because for all the Green Party’s disclaimers about vote splitting one truth remains.
The truth – and Calgary Centre proves it – is that three parties on the centre left is useful to only one person in Canada. And that’s Stephen Harper. With the Green Party’s intervention, it’s a good bet he’ll been looking at his second decade as PM soon.