Sat, Sep 26, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Strategic voting threatens Harper

Reuters, VANCOUVER

Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is so out of favor with some voters that they said they are prepared to back a political party they do not usually support just to unseat him in the Oct. 19 general election.

A number of groups have been formed to encourage Canadians to vote strategically by taking a “Anyone But Conservative” or “Anyone But Harper” stance.

That would mean backers of the two left-of-center parties, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP), voting for whichever of their candidates is the biggest challenger to the Conservative rival in a particular seat. It can also mean backers of smaller parties, such as the Greens, switching their vote to a Liberal or NDP candidate.

The three main parties have been neck-and-neck in the polls with about 30 percent support each. Even with Canada’s first-past-the-post system, no party looks set to win a majority of seats. With a minority government likely, strategic voting has the potential to change the outcome.

Strategic voting campaigns are not new in Canada, but this time around the groups involved say they are better organized.

They include Leadnow, a non-profit group funded through individual donations, which is doing polling in closely fought districts, or swing seats. It has enlisted about 2,000 volunteers to recruit voters who will back candidates with the best chance of beating the Conservatives.

The group, which organizers stress is not affiliated with the Liberals or NDP, said interest has been so strong it has been able to nearly triple the focus of its “Vote Together” campaign to 31 ridings, as electoral districts are known in Canada, up from 13 last month.

It said 68,046 people so far have pledged to vote strategically.

The group has not set a target, but hopes to recruit as many voters as possible and said more than 3,700 people have signed up in the newly created riding of Vancouver Granville, where the three-way race is tight.

While past strategic voting campaigns have been primarily online-based, Leadnow is favoring old-fashioned outreach work like telephone calls and door knocking.

“It’s the first time that anyone has done anything of this scale, with this kind of [polling] information and with this kind of volunteer capacity to get out the vote,” Leadnow national campaign manager Amara Possian said.

The strategic voting campaign is especially strong in the last-to-the-polls western provinces, particularly British Columbia, where for the first time, results from populous Ontario and Quebec will be broadcast before the local polls close. This gives late voters a chance to see where the momentum is before casting their ballots.

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