Be strategic: Vote NDP
By: Paul Moist
Fri 20 Jan 2006
If the polls are right. and that’s not always a sure thing, the Conservative party will form a minority – perhaps even a majority – government following Monday’s election. This prospect underscores the need for progressive voters to elect as many New Democratic Party MPs as possible.
Stephen Harper has evidently been successful in channeling popular anger at Liberal arrogance and corruption into support for his party. But voters can register their distaste for the Liberals in a more positive way: They can vote NDP.
Many centre-left voters are now considering “strategic voting” – supporting Liberal candidates in ridings where Liberals say they are more likely than the NDP to beat Conservatives. Such thinking is flawed on a number of fronts.
First, it doesn’t work. Not all voters are able to determine who has a chance of winning and who does not, and they shouldn’t rely on Liberal rhetoric to make their choice.
The 2004 federal election offers a case in point. Several NDP candidates in that election who were in strong positions lost by small margins after last-minute Liberal fearmongering scared some New Democrat voters into supporting the Liberals to fend off the Conservatives. The handful of seats the NDP lost denied the party a real balance of power in the last parliament.
Second, on virtually every policy front, the NDP clearly has the interests of working families at heart. The party demonstrated in the last parliament that it can force changes to government initiatives in order to benefit working people, their families and their communities.
Electing more NDP members will ensure better protection of public health care and workers’ pensions, keep the dream of a universal child care program alive and help push for financing of needed public infrastructure, among other priorities.
Finally, unions are founding partners of the federal NDP, creating a political force in Canada similar to what workers have built in every OECD country (except the United States). Our history shows in the party’s platform.
With the Liberal campaign collapsing, it’s becoming clear that voting Liberal will not stop the Conservatives. That means the best alternative to the Conservatives is a strong contingent of NDP MPs.
Unchecked, a Conservative government would dismantle progressive social and economic programs. Private, for-profit health care will flourish, child care will languish and aboriginal needs will go unmet while tax cuts diminish government’s ability to adequately fund crucial public services.
Slogans urging voters to “Stand up for Canada” notwithstanding, a Conservative government would assimilate our country even faster into the United States, speeding up the integration of our economies and virtually merging our foreign policies.
A strong NDP presence in Parliament would keep the worst aspects of a Conservative government at bay.
In 1966, the Manitoba NDP was a distant third party in the Manitoba legislature. People chided the party’s supporters for wasting their votes. But supporters held on. In 1969, the NDP formed government, and has since been in power for 22 of 37 years.
Supporters built the party vote by vote. Today, Manitoba’s NDP government, while not perfect, represents the interests of working families far better than any other party. Working people made that growth happen, and they can do it again at the federal level.
Now, that’s voting with a strategy.
Paul Moist is national president of Canada’s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).