Votes have to be earned.
It’s easy to get locked into the ‘vote-splitting’ narrative during federal elections.
Most analysts, pundits, and commentators – myself included – find it easy to talk about vote splitting because it’s such a simple narrative when looking at polls.
One party goes up, another party goes down, margins rise, margins fall.
And when parties on a similar side of the spectrum move in the polls, ‘vote-splitting’ is the quickest way to describe the potential impact.
However, when we think more deeply about it, ‘vote-splitting’ is a tired and anti-democratic narrative.
In the context of the Liberals telling people not to vote NDP, or the Conservatives telling people not to vote PPC, the underlying assumption is that Liberals are entitled to ‘left-wing’ voters, and Conservatives are entitled to ‘right-wing’ voters.
But in a democracy, in a supposedly free country, political parties aren’t supposed to be entitled to anything.
Votes are supposed to be earned, not assumed or given.
If a party loses votes to another party, then that’s because voters are freely choosing to place their votes elsewhere.
When the Liberals lose voters to the NDP, it’s usually because the Liberals are perceived as ‘not progressive enough,’ or too corrupt/dishonest.
When the Conservatives lose voters to the PPC (as polls show is increasingly taking place), it’s because the CPC isn’t considered conservative enough.
But even that narrative gets it wrong, since it implies that those voters originally ‘belonged’ to the Liberals or CPC.
In a democracy, voters don’t belong to anyone.
According to the Polling Canada polling average, there has been a noticeable increase in PPC support during the election:
Poll Averages For September 11, 2021 (9 Days Till E-Day): pic.twitter.com/uLnRv4UqJ7
— Polling Canada (@CanadianPolling) September 11, 2021
Other polls have the PPC above the average, with EKOS, Forum, and Mainstreet putting the PPC near 10%:
Poll Tracker For September 11, 2021 (9 Days Till E-Day): pic.twitter.com/C6iW6omfIb
— Polling Canada (@CanadianPolling) September 11, 2021
As a result of this increase in PPC support, and the close race between the CPC and the Liberals, there is increased talk of the PPC ‘splitting the vote.’
And yes, while it’s true that every vote has a bigger impact on the results in a close race, the CPC can’t exactly complain about ‘vote-splitting’ at this point, since this seems to be exactly what they wanted.
CPC has purposely pursued a ‘centrist’ strategy
On issue after issue, particularly the carbon tax, and the overall tone of the campaign (trying not to say anything conservative and avoid any strong/contrasting policy measures), the CPC strategy under Erin O’Toole has explicitly been to narrow all perceived gaps between them and the Liberals in the hope of gaining centrist voters.
The CPC is clearly trying to ‘trade’ voters, prepared to sacrifice the votes of die-hard Conservative Canadians in order to ‘take’ votes from the Liberals.
As I’ve long said, this is a high-risk strategy.
If it doesn’t work, the CPC loses votes on the right, and gains no new votes in the center.
Right now, current polls show the CPC on average just slightly below their 2019 results, with the election close in large part because Justin Trudeau is even less popular than he was before.
It’s entirely conceivable that the CPC and Liberals both get a smaller percentage of the popular vote than last time, which itself was the lowest combined total for the two parties.
So, the CPC had to know that their strategy could end up driving voters to different parties.
A disillusioned electorate
Another problem with the issue of vote-splitting is that it ignores the fact that issues and policy matters to the electorate.
In the past year and a half, we’ve watched a massive expansion of government power, and an unprecedented intrusion on individual freedom.
The goalposts have shifted over and over again, and many politicians have shown themselves to simultaneously lack any sense of innovation and adaptation, and to use their repeated failures as a pretext to grab even more power.
Many things we felt were ironclad rights have turned out to be privileges that are given out or taken away at the whim of politicians.
While small-c conservative organizations and individuals like the National Citizens Coalition, and Yours Truly, have been pushing back and speaking out against these draconian restrictions and constant shifting of the goalposts, many ‘Conservative’ politicians have either refrained from pushing back, or have even embraced this massive expansion of state power.
Many ‘Conservative’ leaders at the provincial level often talked about defending individual rights and freedoms and claimed to oppose the expansion of government power, before imposing those exact restrictions. We saw it happen over and over again.
The federal conservatives – despite having many MPs who are certainly personally opposed to the draconian restrictions – made a political calculation that they would be relatively evasive and vague on issues like lockdowns and restrictions, making complaints around the margins.
During the campaign, O’Toole has certainly been better than Trudeau, as he has refused to demonize unvaccinated Canadians, and has opposed sweeping mandates. He has also, however, talked of coordinating a national vaccine ‘certification’ system.
This has left many conservative Canadians – many of whom are extremely opposed to the draconian actions we’ve seen over the past year and a half – feeling unrepresented.
That has left an opening on the political spectrum, and that opening has been filled by the PPC and Maxime Bernier.
Bernier has regularly spoken out against vaccine mandates, lockdowns, and restrictions, making the PPC the only nationwide federal party that has taken that position.
Bernier has made the arguments many expected to hear from the ‘conservative party,’ and he has done so consistently, even when he faced legal or political fallout.
Thus, it’s no surprise to see the PPC surging.
This isn’t ‘vote-splitting,’ it’s simply voters looking for who represents them best, and making their choice.
How to stop the Liberals?
Now, with all of this is in mind, there is the question of stopping the Liberals.
As I’ve said, my personal advice is that if you are in a riding where the race is only between the CPC and Liberals, a vote for the CPC would be important, since it can defeat the Liberals and help defeat Trudeau’s Cult of Personality.
But in a riding where the CPC wins easily, or where the CPC has zero chance, a vote for the PPC is a way of sending a message, and helping build up a party that has taken a strong and courageous stance in favour of individual rights and freedoms at a time when those values are under assault.
Beyond all of that, it’s up to each of us to make our own choice.
At the end of the day, Canadians shouldn’t be swayed by claims of ‘vote-splitting,’ since no party is entitled to our votes. Vote for who you feel has earned it.