Riding by riding strategic voting in the 2014 Ontario Election
Jun 7, 2014

Riding by riding strategic voting in the 2014 Ontario Election

I've always advocated for strategic voting on this blog where we vote based on promoting certain goals given the constraints of both our local riding and the broader election. This can take many forms; for instance, in "safe" ridings where the outcome is all but determined I often advocate voting for third parties that help to push the relative importance of particular issues. In contrast,  in closer, contested ridings, I am often going to stick closer to making sure the better of the two likely winners has the better shot. Or perhaps we have a particularly powerful local candidate who would be a good advocate for particular issues, or have broader multi-election goals, and so on. 

We thus have three main things to consider when deciding how to vote:
1) How is our specific riding likely to vote?
2) What is the larger jurisdiction wide picture; in this case, what are the likely outcomes of the vote Ontario wide?
3) What are our goals given these constraints?

Riding specific constraints: 
The poll aggregation blog www.threehundredeight.com/ gives a riding specific breakdown of probabilities in specific ridings here. For a quick check to see if your riding is one of the most contested swing ridings, click here. For past election results click here. Take some caution, however, as riding projections are quite a bit more variable than the already rather uncertain provincial wide picture due to limited data. 

Ontario wide constraints: 
This point is the same for all of us: In this election it is a pretty close race - certainly within uncertainty - between the Liberals and the Conservatives, with the NDP a distant third. A majority for either isn't out of the question, based on polling, but a minority situation seems like the most likely.

It is also worth briefly comparing the respective platforms. The Liberals and the NDP are very close, in relative terms, while the PCs budget is vastly further to the right. I've written here before how the Liberals took a step to the left with their budget while the NDP has made small tweaks and used a lot of more centrist or right leaning rhetoric. It isn't that there isn't any difference, but it is worth noting that we would have a much smaller shift if the Liberals were replace with some form of Liberal/NDP deal or coalition or even the unlikely NDP win, than if the Liberals were replaced by the PCs. If, perhaps, you have a different view than this paragraph presents it may change your subsequent election goals, but the importance of understanding the Ontario wide constraints remains. 

Election Goals: 
This is the trickiest of the three because what our goals are dependent on the riding specific and Ontario wide constraints. For instance, if there is a 0% chance of the Greens being elected and a rather small chance of the NDP being elected, it is pointless to have our goal be "I want the Greens/NDP to be elected". We could instead, however, have goals such as "I want to increase the prominence of the Greens/NDP so that the elected party will push policy closer to the NDP's" or "I want to build NDP support long term by electing strong members despite not winning a plurality".  

Our goals are also very sensitive to the riding specific information. In a safe riding - a riding where the outcome is all but determined - I still claim that voting is very important. It allows us to signal our preferences and the relative prominence of particular parties influences the kind of policies that end up being implemented - the green vote in Ontario from 2007-2011 was an excellent case in point of this. We are in a sense freed to vote for third parties, for issue specific reasons, for long term party building reasons, and so on. 

In this election, there is a very real risk of a very bad PC government forming. Voting strategically for a party you don't particularly love (such as the Liberals) for the strategic goal of preventing an even worse party (such as the PCs) isn't always palpable for people. The logic, however, applies most when it is both a close election Ontario wide and a close election in your specific riding between (usually) the Liberals and the PCs. If you don't live in a close riding, or if the election wasn't close, I think there are many laudable reasons to vote for the NDP or the Greens. But if you do live in such a riding in our close election, you should vote Liberal. 

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!

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