3 min

Gays should embrace strategic voting

With a splintered left, we've gotta vote smart

Stephen Harper is on the verge of winning a majority. That’s the bad news.

But the good news is that Stephen Harper has not yet won a majority, and there is nothing inevitable about election results. Gays and lesbians across this country can make a decisive difference in election results when we vote as a block. We can easily sway the vote in a half-dozen cities, and by knocking on doors and talking to our families, friends and neighbours we can eke out a difference in another half dozen. It’s not over — the fat lady has not yet sung.

We need to keep in mind something about polls: they don’t always fully account for regional variations. So, a poll done for CBC recently suggested a Harper majority was pretty much in the offing. But a few days later, the Ottawa Citizen noted that the poll showed a concentration of pro-Harper voters in the western provinces. Aaah.

The West is not enough for Harper. He cannot win his majority without winning over suburban and urban Ontario, Quebec and Vancouver. And that’s not so easy. And that, frankly, is where we — you — come in.

Harper put on a mask of moderation at the beginning of his government, but it slipped at times. We’ve had glimpses of the real Stephen Harper. His autocratic instincts showed in the way he centralized government decision-making in the Prime Minister’s Office, conducted everything as a confidence motion — and hid from media.

His Christian Right, Reform Party beliefs peeked through with increasing frequency, from his vote on re-opening the same-sex marriage issue and raising the age of consent, his determination to stay in Afghanistan and the massive ramp-up of war machinery, his frequent rimming of George W Bush and his refusal to take global warming seriously. Add your favourite issue here.

Still, the mainstream media has swallowed the line that the Harper Conservatives have distanced themselves from their Reform Party past and moved to the middle. I don’t buy it: a guy who quits the party because he finds Preston Manning too moderate does not undergo a conversion to moderation — he just hides his spots and bides his time waiting for a majority so he can do real damage.

Most of us agree that Harper would be an unmitigated disaster with a majority. But many of us aren’t so crazy about the alternatives. The Liberals and NDP both sold us down the river on artistic freedom and age of consent in the past four years. They’re okay with us getting married but sex or freedom of expression scares them. The Liberals had from 1993 to 2006 to reform Canada Customs to stop it from censoring and discriminating — and they very deliberately did not. I know that a lot of us are angry about that.

And the Greens? If our political system awarded seats based on the percentage of the vote, they’d be a positive force in Canada. But it doesn’t work that way, and the Greens just get in the way of electing progressive parties and allow the Tories to sneak through in some ridings. The Reformers and the Progressive Conservatives united to create a (Reform-dominated) rightwing party in Canada. The centre-left is already split between the Liberals and the NDP; a three-way split with the Greens just makes it easier for the rightwing to come to power and stay there.

So, what’s a homo to do? The Reform Conservatives are clearly unreconstructed adversaries. The Liberals and NDP sell us out on the issues at the core of who we are. The Greens get in the way.

Well, here’s what I’ve come to terms with. The Liberals and NDP have left the door open to us; we can work with them to change their party politics and to lobby for a new attitude toward sexuality when they’re in government. They’re not fundamentally hostile to us. But the Reform Conservatives really don’t like us, have a diametrically opposite view from most gays and lesbians about how Canada and the world should work — and are not likely, to say the least, to reach out and learn from us.

So, the Liberals and NDP leave us with hope. The Conservatives want to set us back. And the Greens just confuse things.

Here’s what I propose. We really do have the numbers to make this work if we think it through. We shouldn’t just pick a party and support it across the country: that won’t work everywhere. Instead, do what you need to do to stop the Conservative candidate in your riding. In the final week of the election, figure out who has the best chance to stop the Conservative candidate. If the Liberal is leading the NDP candidate in your riding, vote Liberal. And vice versa. Ignore the Greens. Forget party loyalty. Settle for second- or even third-best if you have to. Aim for a Liberal minority government supported by the NDP. Or a Conservative minority with enough NDPers to force an agenda on them. Make a decision based on polling in your riding. Stop the Conservative bastards while you still can.

And lobby all your friends, all the people who love you, to do the same.