A few days ago, I got a message from a friend asking me if I thought they should “vote strategically.”
I didn’t respond for hours, trying to figure out my answer. The longer I delayed, the more I realized that my answer was actually another question: “It depends. What’s your strategy?”
In 2015, I ran Leadnow’s Vote Together campaign. Our goal was simple: Defeat Stephen Harper. In key ridings where vote splitting might lead to a Conservative victory, we united the non-Conservative vote around the candidate with the best shot of defeating the Conservative. It was an effective way to oust the big villain from office. But it wasn’t enough to make our new prime minister (who also won 100 per cent of the power with 39 per cent of the vote) follow through on some of his most important progressive promises.
In 2019, it isn’t enough to unite the vote against the lesser of the evils. Climate change and inequality are compounding crises for our communities. Entrenched interests are using organized money to try and convince us to vote one way or another. We can’t afford to elect another government that will backslide on critical progressive policies. We need to organize people to cast organized votes.
But organized votes for who?
If we’re going to rise to this historic moment, we need to elect a slate of candidates who will shake things up. I’m talking about people who will stand up to party leaders and the establishment, work across party lines and, quite frankly, refuse to fall in line behind the antiquated party and parliamentary rules that sour everyday people to politics. We need to elect politicians who are working for transformative policies that tackle the intersecting crises of our time — policies like a made-in-Canada Green New Deal.
That’s why I’m organizing with Our Time, a youth- and millennial-led movement to elect MPs who will fight tooth and nail to tackle the climate crisis. We’ve endorsed 35 candidates across the country and are organizing an intergenerational voting alliance to put them in office.
We can elect these champions. Voters in every riding believe climate change is a top election issue, alongside inequality. Add to this the nearly one million people who joined Canada-wide climate strikes on Sep. 27, and polls that show most Canadians support policies like a Green New Deal, and we have a real chance in this election.
We have to win. The stakes are too high not to, because it’s not just our electoral system that’s broken, it’s everything. Climate change threatens our very existence while the rich continue to get richer. Everyday people have to fight harder and harder to stay afloat while a rising far right tries to divide us and cast blame on the people who have done the least to cause these crises.
That brings me back to my friend. After texting her all of the above — albeit in a longer, more emoji- and GIF-laden stream of consciousness — she texted me back with a simple “thanks!”
It turned out she lives in Parkdale—High Park, where Our Time has endorsed NDP candidate Paul Taylor. She pledged to vote for Paul, organized her friends and family in the riding to do the same, and is now organizing with Our Time to get even more people to vote for Green New Deal champions.
At the end of the day, that’s strategic voting — organizing people to use their votes as part of a collective strategy to build the world we want.
Amara Possian is managing 350 Canada's Our Time campaign. She is a proud board member at the Center for Story-based Strategy and a Professor in Seneca College’s grad program in Government Relations. She ran Leadnow's Vote Together campaign during the 2015 election.