Above: Tim Tessier speaks with a student at VIU.
Vote-splitting and strategic voting is not a concern for all federal election party candidates, despite the tight race between the Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP in the national polls.
Vote splitting is an electoral effect in which the distribution of votes among multiple similar candidates reduces the chance of winning for any of the similar candidates, and increases the chance of winning for a dissimilar candidate—in this case, the Conservative Party.
Nanaimo-Ladysmith Green Party candidate Paul Manly said in an email interview, “Strategic voting and vote-splitting are voter suppression tactics that discourage people from voting because they are warned their vote will be wasted if they vote for what they want rather than voting against what they fear.”
“Strategically, we need to get the people who didn’t vote in the last election to vote,” Manly said. “I am reaching out to non-voters, those who are turned off and disillusioned by politics. When people are inspired, they vote.”
At the VIU candidate meet-and-greet on September 24, Nanaimo-Ladysmith NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson said she sees vote-splitting as a threat.
“First-past-the-post isn’t working and we want to bring in proportional representation,” Malcolmson said. “In the past elections, we have seen Conservative MPs get that make sexist, racist, and hophobic comments get elected. At the doorstep, the NDP is the most popular vote and the second is Conservative. In the 2011 election, seven per cent [of voters in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding] voted Liberal, while 45 per cent voted NDP, and 40 per cent voted Conservative. So the NDP is the party to vote for to defeat the Conservatives.”
CEO of Abacus Data polling firm David Coletto states that polls show Greens in BC do take away some potential votes from the NDP, which may raise the risk of a split vote.
“I think the Greens could be a spoiler in a number of ridings, especially in BC,” Coletto said in Maclean’s article “Vancouver Island’s election petri dish”. “Among those who said they would vote Green, 52 per cent would consider voting NDP, 40 per cent would consider [the Liberal party], and only 15 per cent would consider voting Conservative.”
Nanaimo-Ladysmith Liberal candidate Tim Tessier also said at he was not concerned about vote-splitting at the meet-and-greet.
“I believe it is the voter that makes the decision and you should vote with knowledge of the parties’ platforms,” Tessier said. “People vote the same as they did in the past, and the 50 percent that are undecided vote for the party that makes the most sense to them. Unless you have a platform built around vote-splitting, a party shouldn’t say otherwise.”
As for what sets the NDP and Liberals apart from each other, Tessier said that they agree on many of the social programs but the Liberals have different economic priorities.
“We have the more progressive goal of growing the economy by investing more in things like infrastructure and childcare,” Tessier said.
Malcolmson said one of the most common concerns she hears from students about the difference between the Liberal and NDP platforms is that the Liberals voted for Bill C-51, and the NDP voted against it.
“It’s a free speech issue,” she said.
Candidates from the Conservative Party were invited to attend but declined the invitation.