Too Close to Call

[election lawn signs]

Sometimes I get excited about elections. I mean, I like talking about policy stuff I’m passionate about and I often find the democratic process invigorating and exciting. Other times, it just fills me with dread.

When last we met, Kitchener—Waterloo was holding a by-election to replace long-standing PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer. The victor in that race was NDP candidate Catherine Fife, which I felt pretty happy with, for reasons you can read about in the aforelinkedto blog post.

Now things are a bit different. The Liberals aren’t being complete jerk-asses. They’ve got a new leader I actually rather like and they’re running on a platform that’s pretty much everything I want them to run on. Even high speed rail between KW and Toronto, which I acknowledge is somewhat implausible, but I’ll take “we’re gonna do it! don’t ask me how” over “it’ll never happen; we hate you.” any day.

The PCs, however, have fallen back on faith-based economics and populist vitriol and stand in opposition to pretty much everything I believe in. They’d cancel Places to Grow and clean energy subsidies. They’d cancel all surface transit projects. They’d cut absolutely everything anyone cares about. Their plan, in a nutshell, seems to be to pour out as much gasoline as they can find, chuck a match and walk away with a smug grin.

I don’t like them very much.

Let’s dive into the candidates

Catherine Fife (NDP)

You know, I like Catherine Fife. If this were a job interview and we were looking at the candidate in isolation, I’d have a pretty easy decision. Catherine Fife is by far the strongest candidate. She’s a very good speaker and I think she’s represented the riding well in the last two years.

Unfortunately, that’s not how our parliamentary democracy works. Candidates are stand-ins for their party. And her party is kind of pissing me off. Their platform strikes me as populist and wrong-headed. I mean, they want to give people a tax incentive to waste energy.

And I don’t particularly see their justification for forcing this election in the first place. Faced with what was probably the most progressive budget I can remember, they decided to vote against it.

Because they smelled blood in the water over the stupid gas plant thing.

Tracey Weiler (PC)

Also back for the rematch, Weiler is more convincing and better trained than the last time around. But the party she stands for is reprehensible. And she mentioned her eagerness to apply her MBA-teaching to the Ontario economy.

So let’s move on.

Stacey Danckert (Green)

Aw, I like her. I really do. She’s not an exceptionally strong candidate and my heart is usually with the Greens anyway. But she’s not going to keep Tracey Weiler out of the seat.

Jamie Burton (Liberal)

Burton’s pretty good. She isn’t a great candidate, but unlike the former Liberal candidate in the by-election, she’s not a terrible candidate either. I only got out to one all-candidates meeting, so my impressions are pretty shallow. And I’m not even sure what it is about her that rubs me the wrong way. She’s partisan, and I don’t like that, but they all are (and kind of have to be, really). I just… want her to be better. I want her to give knock-down zinger answers to things and she doesn’t. I want her to give a great speech about the importance of transit or urban planning or infrastructure investment and she can’t quite manage it.

But there’s absolutely nothing offensive about her. And she seems like a wonderful person, helping to build a technology company that goes out of its way to hire people with disabilities. But can she win this riding?

Strategic Voting

Strategic voting is hard. It requires you to be able to predict what all your neighbours are going to do. And there are bluffs and double-bluffs and all sorts of misinformation out there.

I hate First Past the Post, by the way. But you knew that.

My primary goal in this election is to keep the Progressive Conservatives out. Because they’d be an utter, utter disaster. But what do you do? How do you keep from splitting the vote?

When the election was called, I figured I had a pretty simple choice. I liked the Liberal platform, the candidate was inoffensive and I have an algorithm. And things were different from the by-election. There is no longer a fear of giving Dalton McGuinty a majority, and the riding isn’t by any stretch a natural NDP riding, so I figured Fife’s win was an anomaly that wouldn’t hold up in a general election.

But then I looked around. Catherine Fife election signs were everywhere and there were no Jamie Burton signs. And talking to people, I further reasoned that incumbency was a strong force around here and Fife seems to be generally well-liked.

Plus people seem to care way more about the stupid gas plant thing than I do.

So it seemed like an easy choice again. If anybody was going to beat the PC candidate, it was going to be Catherine Fife. And while the NDP as a whole was pissing me off, I do kind of like her, so I can go along with that.

But then I started paying attention to polling. And the Liberal volunteers got off their butts and got their signs up. And it’s looking more and more like a tight three-way race.

So if it could go any of three ways, that changes the the strategy. Sure, if the PCs take the riding, I’ll be pretty upset. If the NDP takes it, I’ll be relieved. But if the Liberals win it, I’ll be genuinely pleased.

So I think I gotta vote for Jamie Burton.

This voting thing is hard if you over-think things. You should do it anyway. See you at the polls tomorrow.

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