Election Special – Final Thoughts

The 2019 Canadian Election Day is Monday. And I’ve been thinking a lot about my vote. I tried to have conversations with my local candidates and have them recorded for the Stories podcast. I met with the NDP and Conservative candidates for about an hour each. I was able to talk to the Liberal candidate after multiple failed attempts. And I’m still trying to meet with the Green Party candidate, who is still a student at University of Guelph and has midterms. Unfortunately, I was only able to get Salman Tariq from the NDP on my podcast. Hani Tawfilis from the Conservatives wanted to talk off the record first to make sure I didn’t ask any “gotcha” questions, and then we didn’t have time to record. Iqra Khalid’s campaign manager made it difficult to meet with her, kept interrupting my conversation with her to rush her away, and implicitly made it clear – don’t record your podcast with her.

Here are my thoughts. People might not like my “endorsement” and you might think it’s a cop out. This election, the best choice is a progressive minority government – a government that will be forced to work together with other parties that will keep the government accountable. But I’m not endorsing for you to vote “strategically.” You should vote for a candidate that shares your (hopefully progressive) values, that you can trust, and that you can feel proud of to represent you in Parliament.

I remember high school Civics class in grade 10. We were learning about Canadian politics, about Parliament, about electing Members of Parliament, about political parties, about who gets to be Prime Minister. We learnt about how we don’t vote for Prime Ministers, or parties, but that we vote for Members of Parliament in our riding. We learnt about “minority governments” – when a political party wins the most seats in an election, but not 50+% of the seats in Parliament. We played the roles of the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the leaders of the other parties and the Leader of the Opposition, and other MPs. We then simulated an election, with an actual vote.

At the time, I was just getting interested in politics. I admired Jack Layton. But I felt closer to the Liberals. I got involved in Omar Alghabra’s 2011 campaign. It was also a Harper Conservative minority government. It was also around the time that the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois parties threatened to form a coalition, defeat the Harper government, and ask the Governor General if they can govern. I felt excited: I liked the Liberals, I liked the NDP, and they would form a super team like when the Power Rangers morphed into a Megazord. But Stephen Harper and the Conservatives demonized the idea of a coalition, saying it was illegitimate and undemocratic. Harper asked the Governor General to “prorogue” or pause Parliament for a few months, and the coalition fell apart.

This election, we’re going to have to remember what we learnt in Civics classes. Polls are predicting that we will have either a Liberal or Conservative minority government. Our political system is that a leader must be able to have the “confidence” of the House of Commons – which means a majority of MPs – to be able to form government and become PM. Whoever “wins” the election will need to work together with the other parties to govern, make decisions, and pass laws. It’s also a constitutional quirk of our system that the incumbent PM (Trudeau) has the right to test for confidence first and get the support of other parties, even if another party (in this case, the Conservatives) wins the most seats.

A smart, thoughtful guy who’s become a friend to me recently – David Moscrop – wrote an article in the Washington Post giving his “endorsement” for the election:

“On election day, I hope to see Canadians return a minority Parliament in which progressive parties must cooperate to preserve a Liberal government. In another universe, I would support Jagmeet Singh and the New Democratic Party, full stop. But the universe in which we live is likely to return either a Liberal or Conservative plurality. Canada would be best served by the former having to cooperate with the NDP — and perhaps the Green Party, too.”

“A Liberal government carefully checked and pulled left by a progressive and cooperative opposition would be more likely to deliver, among other things, an ambitious climate plan, a national housing strategy and robust pharmacare. Canada has a long history of minority governments pursuing and delivering on ambitious plans (typically, though not exclusively, those are Liberal governments pushed by the NDP to do better). Minority governments have delivered medicare, pension plans, student loans, the flag, official bilingualism, freedom of information legislation, a health-care-funding accord, legal same-sex marriage, Keynesian stimulus during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and more.”

Minority governments work because cooperation is good. Sharing ideas is good. Compromise is good. One party can keep the other accountable. Under a majority government, one party can forcefully pass laws that are faced with a lot of backlash. Under a minority government, another party can keep the other in check and refuse to support an unpopular policy.

At the risk of sounding like the Liberals, we need a progressive government, not a progressive opposition. We need a government that will act on climate change, pursue Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and will support immigrants and refugees. We can’t let the Conservatives have the chance to test confidence and form government. We can’t have a government that will do nothing on or even exacerbate climate change, that will demonize Indigenous peoples, immigrants, and refugees, that will flirt with white nationalist/supremacists.

But remember Civics class: we vote for individual candidates to be Members of Parliaments. Getting to know the candidates in your riding, their stories, and their values is really important. It might be too late to meet with your candidates, but look at your local newspapers for profiles of your candidates or summaries of local debates. You don’t have to vote strategically if you don’t believe in that.

Ask yourself: Are your candidates honest? Do they seem fake? Do they share your values? Do they understand the policy issues? Will they listen to your concerns and not just shout over you? Has the previous MP done a good job in the past? Do they have independent opinions outside of the party lines? Will they stand up against their party if they, or the citizens in your riding, disagree morally with the party’s official stance? Do they have principles? Do you trust them to represent you in Parliament?

Vote for a candidate in your riding that will make you proud to have as your representative in Parliament. And I urge you to vote for a progressive candidate that will help elect a progressive minority government. We can’t wait any longer to act on climate change. We can’t let Indigenous communities go without clean drinking water, or let Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people go missing or be murdered. We can’t demonize immigrants or force refugees to return home to be killed.

In the end, I still haven’t decided how I’ll vote on Monday. But we all have a decision to make. I have to vote. You have to vote.