Friday, October 22, 2010

How I'm Going to Vote

George Smitherman with puppetImage by Shaun Merritt via FlickrWith just three days to go, I've finally decided how I'm going to vote.

Deep breath... I'm voting Smitherman.

Now, on the one hand, what the hell? I'm 35 and I've spent my whole life backing non-competitive horses. I have not - until now - given much thought to the probability that the horse I back could win. I have regarded as insidious the notion that I should hold my nose and back the lesser of two competitive evils. I have wondered how far the progressive voice in this country might have progressed if on election day we have consistently had the courage of our opinions.

And now I'm selling out. It's not that Joe Pantalone is any kind of saviour or George Smitherman any kind of devil. But I do believe Pantolone would make a better mayor and that he has a better vision for Toronto. How can I contemplate not voting for him?

Well, it has a lot ot do with the nature of elections. We have an ability municipally to do something we can't provincially or federally: to vote for both our local representative and the overall leader. I've never voted for Prime Minister and I've never voted for premier. There are two layers of futility there: the fact that by and large local NDP candidates haven't had a chance in hell, and on top of that additionally the fact that even if my local MP or MPP gets in (and I have lived in both Oshawa and Hamilton), the NDP will not form the government. I've been okay with that - knowing that the prime minister or premier will be decided by forces outside of my control, I can attempt to send a representative to the opposition side. And even if I can't, well, I can contribute in some intangible way to the NDP anyway. In 2007 I had an opportunity to vote against the man I've decided I'll vote for on Monday, and I cast my vote for an NDP candidate named Sandra Gonzalez. She won 19% of the vote - less than one person in five - while Smitherman cakewalked his way into the Ministry of Health. I have no regrests about that whatsoever.

But municipally my vote goes directly to the mayor, who wins in a very primitive winner-take-all way. Joe Pantolone has no chance of winning whatsoever, but it's still very much in the air whether Rob Ford or George Smitherman will take it. I don't know if the current mania we have in Canada for opinion polling is a good thing or a bad thing - it seems strange to say Pantolone has no chance, that an election can be a foregone conclusion. But it's just naïveté in extremis to view it otherwise. Or rather to see this election as no foregone conclusion at all: anything could happen Monday. Well, that's not true. Ford could win. Smitherman could win. Pantolone can't.

So at 35 for the first time in my life, I'm voting tactically. Pantolone is the better choice, but Smitherman isn't all that bad, I guess. And he's a hell of a lot better than Ford. Plus he'll have to deal with the other half of my voting card: the one where I'll tick the name of the most progressive local councillor. Whether or not that candidate has a chance, I'll feel good that I'll have attempted to do the right thing with my local candidate. If he (it's a he) gets in, I can hope he makes things difficult for Smitherman. I can hope he'll do everything to stonewall any attempts on Smitherman's part to pull Toronto to the right.

And, if that's how it goes down, if I can have used my vote for mayor to stop Ford and my vote for councillor to slow down 'Compact Ford', what more could I ask for?

Except for my principles back, that is...

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