VoteForEnvironment.ca guides strategic vote

Kevin Grandia confesses to being somewhat surprised by the magnitude of interest in his new Web site, VoteForEnvironment.ca. In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Grandia said that he and Alice Klein, cofounder of NOW Magazine in Toronto, spent six months designing the site, which gives citizens guidance on a riding-by-riding basis if they want to vote strategically to stop the Conservatives from being reelected.

What do you say to concerns that vote-splitting will reelect Stephen Harper as prime minister?


Dan Grice
Green candidate, Vancouver Quadra

"The Liberals had every single chance to [move] towards proportional representation.”¦My message to people is never vote for the lesser of two evils. Only vote for people who aren’t evil."


Michelle Hassen
Liberal candidate, New Westminster–Coquitlam

"If they [voters] want to do strategic voting, then I think they have to really look seriously at electing Liberal MPs in their ridings if they want to effectively block a Harper government."


Wai Young
Conservative candidate, Vancouver South

"I think that all voters in Vancouver want good government and strong leadership. And, therefore, they should vote for the Conservative government under Stephen Harper."


Bill Siksay
NDP candidate, Burnaby-Douglas

"In my riding, it’s very, very clear. The choice is to stop the Conservatives, and has for decades been the New Democrat choice. There is no confusion in Burnaby-Douglas on that issue."


Elizabeth May
Green party leader and Green candidate, Central Nova

"I have been trying for more than a year now to build some sort of agreement with the other party leaders for proportional representation by other means. Jack Layton won’t talk to me about any of this."

Since the site was launched late last month, Grandia said, it has generated almost half a million page views. "I can’t keep up with the e-mail we’re getting—the fan mail," Grandia said. "We’ve been saying it from the beginning: environment is a big issue in this election."

Grandia is operations manager of DeSmogBlog ( www.desmogblog.com ), a Web site that exposes how industry has financially supported those who deny the reality of climate change. He said that last December he started thinking about how to stop the Conservatives out of concern over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s climate-change policies.

Last month, UVic climate scientist Andrew Weaver told the Straight he recommends voting strategically to stop the Conservatives. Weaver, lead author on three reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was quoted in last week’s Straight condemning the Harper government for muzzling Environment Canada climate scientists.

Grandia noted how it dawned on him earlier this year that Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s climate-change plan is far more progressive than Harper’s, which focuses on reducing the intensity of greenhouse-gas emissions. "The only friend Canada had left with the stance Harper was taking was George Bush," Grandia said. "When George Bush is gone, we will literally be the international pariah on this issue."

In November 2009, countries will meet in Copenhagen to negotiate international greenhouse-gas-emissions targets for the period after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. If Harper remains prime minister, Grandia contended, there’s no reason to believe that Canada will play a constructive role. Grandia said he might bring his polar-bear costume to this conference, to highlight the importance of curbing greenhouse-gas emissions. "The polar bears are going on a slow boat to Copenhagen," he joked.

As for Metro Vancouver, the site offers guidance in eight hotly contested local ridings. In Burnaby-Douglas—where there’s a hard-fought race between New Democrat Bill Siksay, Liberal Bill Cunningham, Conservative Ronald Leung, and Doug Perry of the Greens—the site was recommending Siksay as the Straight went to press on October 1. In Vancouver Quadra, the site recommended Liberal Joyce Murray over NDP candidate David Caplan, Conservative Deborah Meredith, and Green candidate Dan Grice.

"If the NDP goes up and the Conservatives drop down, you might see our picks automatically change to NDP instead of Liberal or Green or Bloc Québécois or whatever in specific ridings," Grandia said. "It’s fully automated."

The Strategic Counsel, an Ontario-based market-research firm that does polling for CTV and the Globe and Mail, has identified nine "battleground ridings" in Metro Vancouver, including Burnaby-Douglas and Vancouver Quadra. In the two battleground races on the North Shore, VoteForEnvironment.ca endorsed one incumbent, Liberal candidate Don Bell (North Vancouver), and advised "You Choose" in West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country, where Green candidate Blair Wilson is the incumbent. The site supported Liberal candidates Brenda Locke and incumbent Sukh Dhaliwal in Fleetwood–Port Kells and Newton–North Delta, respectively. New Democrat incumbent Dawn Black was favoured in New Westminster–Coquitlam.

In Richmond, the site picked Liberal incumbent Raymond Chan as the best bet. Grandia used to work for Chan as a constituency assistant and policy adviser, but he noted that Klein is a long-time supporter of the NDP. He emphasized that the choices are made based on a combination of polls.

"Most of the people out there who are willing to fight for these issues usually have a political background," Grandia said. "I’ve seen the power of being able to insert yourself into a national dialogue. And if the parties aren’t going to talk about the environment, then I’m going to. That was really what it came down to."

Will Canadians decide to vote strategically?

> 54 percent of Liberal voters would vote for a candidate they dislike to reduce the chance of a Conservative government (Toronto Star/Angus Reid poll).

> 47 percent of NDP voters would vote for a candidate they dislike to reduce the chance of a Conservative government (Toronto Star/Angus Reid poll).

> 44 percent of Green voters would vote for a candidate they dislike to reduce the chance of a Conservative government (Toronto Star/Angus Reid poll).

> 64 percent of Canadians think a Conservative majority would result in less funding for arts and film programs (Toronto Star/Angus Reid poll).

> 52 percent of Canadians are worried about Stephen Harper forming a majority government (Globe and Mail/CTV poll by the Strategic Counsel).

> 81 percent of Canadians are not likely to switch their vote, even if the Conservatives are going to form a majority (Globe and Mail/CTV poll by the Strategic Counsel).

> 45 percent of B.C. voters in battleground ridings feel it’s time for a change, and that a new government should be elected (Globe and Mail/CTV poll by the Strategic Counsel).

Comments (12) Add New Comment
janfromthebruce
janfromthebruce
""If the NDP goes up and the Conservatives drop down, you might see our picks automatically change to NDP instead of Liberal or Green or Bloc Québécois or whatever in specific ridings," Grandia said. "It’s fully automated."

Nope. If one goes to Central Nova they have a thumbs up for EMay, but the fact of the matter is that she is running a poor third in that riding according to all national and local polling. So the hidden hand on the site is manipulating the controls.

In both the 2006 and 2004 elections the NDP placed 2nd behind the conservative with the liberal far behind and the Greens getting only 671.

As of today the best combined polling shows this seat projection for Central Nova at DemocraticSPACE - http://www.democraticspace.com/canada2008/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/seat-projections.pdf
pg. 11.
Conservative: 43 – 47%
Liberal: no candidate
NDP: 31 – 35%
Green: 19-23%

So where vote for the environment gives May the thumbs up, and where even their own polling reveals that May is running a poor third, obviously there is a "technical problem" with those automated controls.

It should be giving the "thumbs up" to the NDP candidate who has the only realistic chance of beating the Conservative.

Votefortheenvironment and similarly votefortheclimate appear to pretend to be doing it for a noble cause, but it presumes - wrongly - that a liberal minority government would be good for the environment. The best predictor of future behaviour is their past behaviour - and we all know they just didn't get it done.

I find these no-think strategic voting sites very manipulative and full of hidden self interest.

With that, I think that folks need to "think twice about voting strategically".

For a non-partisan view of these dangers and what voters should really do see http://www.punditsguide.ca/2008/09/think-twice-about-voting-strategically.php
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RodSmelser
The article doesn't mention Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, where www.voteforenvironment.ca recommends Mike Bocking, the New Democratic Party candidate. The riding has been identified the Globe and Mail and the Strategic Council as one of about 40 to 50 key battleground ridings across the entire nation.

It's passing strange that this district was not included in the article.

Rod Smelser
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RodSmelser
I did a quick review of the voteforenvironment.ca recommendations across the Lower Mainland's 21 seats. They recommend supporting 7 Liberal candidates, of whom 5 are incumbents, and 5 NDP candidates, of whom 3 are incumbents. Of these 12 recommendations on the site, only 7 are mentioned in the article. The 7 mentioned break down as 5 Liberal and just 2 NDP.

There are very some curious things about the judgement calls made in this site. For example, in Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam the vote for the Liberals was about 15 points behind that of the winning Tory. In South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale that gap was 16 points. Yet Liberal candidate Higginbotham in South Surrey rates a "vote for" thumbs up symbol, while Liberal candidate McKinnon in Port Coquitlam is left to his own devices, getting a "you choose" from voteforenvironment.ca. How does this figure?

Also, voteforenvironment.ca seems to take the position that only party matters. Is that really strategic voting in the full sense, at the riding level? How does one not recommend incumbent Tory John Cummins, who's well known in environmental circles and has differed with his own party, and yet recommend the likes of Joyce Murray, Gordon M. Campbell's idea of a smoothly performing environment minister? Would someone from voteforenvironment.ca please tell me what environmental issues have ever been raised by Hedy Fry in the fifteen years she has been in Ottawa?

Rod Smelser
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Charlie Smith
Rod Smelser wants to know why only seven choices were mentioned in the article. There's a simple explanation: there is a limited amount of space on the page. We distribute a lot of copies of the Georgia Straight in Vancouver and the inner suburbs, so that's where I placed the most emphasis. I was able to squeeze in the Surrey ridings as well. Surrey has a huge population--it's the second largest city in Metro Vancouver--plus there are several SkyTrain stations where we distribute papers. In addition, Surrey is home to Kwantlen University College, and we have a lot of readers who attend postsecondary institutions. In retrospect, I should have included Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, where we also distribute some papers. I'm not perfect, and in the newspaper business, we always operate under space constraints. James Moore is a slam dunk in Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, though the Georgia Straight will have a recommendation for that riding next week, as well as for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission.
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RodSmelser
Charlie:
I know space is always limited, but I think that could be solved by a small tablular presentation, perhaps with a link to your riding profiles.

My main point is about voteforenvironment.ca itself. Their recommendations as between Moore's riding and the South Surrey seat seemed inconsistent, given the results of the 2006 election. If Moore is a slum dunk, isn't Hiebert as well?

As for their methodology, the explanation sounds rational enough. Apply provincial level current polling data to the riding's last election standings, compared to the BC average for each party in 2006. But again the two key simplifying assumptions are that only party matters and that the pollsters' estimates of the provincial level changes is being replicated equally in all 36 BC ridings.

Rod Smelser

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kewljim
On VoteForEnvironment, Raymond Chan (Liberal) is somehow anointed for Richmond. The big Richmond issue is the Garden City Lands, 136 acres of prime farmland at the western end of the Lulu Island Bog, and Raymond Chan is on the rampant-development side of the issue. In the past year, the public has turned against the deal to fill much of that green space with high-density urban sprawl and a trade centre that no one will fund, but Raymond Chan used to take credit for the deal as his crowning achievement. Some environmentalist!

In contrast, candidates Michael Wolfe (Green), Alice Wong (Conservative), and Dale Jackaman (New Democrat) were all in the vanguard of the fight to save the Garden City Lands, and all three have obviously strong environmental values. Michael Wolfe, a 26-year-old conservation biologist and teacher, is a future leader who deserves votes. However, if I were voting strategically, the choice would have to be Alice Wong.

A wise vote for the environment takes into account both the individual candidate and the party.
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RodSmelser
kewljim, you make some interesting points about the Garden City Lands, and Raymond Chan's environmental blind eye. Have you emailed any of this to either of the operators of the voteforenvironment.ca website? If so, what response did you get?

Rod Smelser
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davecro
Why voteforenvironment.ca doesn't quite work - it's a shame really!

The website voteforenvironment.ca gets one enthused about doing something about vote splitting, until we understand that it takes the current polling company results for a party in a province, and then divides these votes into each riding based on how many votes each party received in the riding in 2006. This assumes that the quality and efforts of each candidate is identical to what it was in the 2006 election, which unfortunately means that this model is of course flawed.

Like many ridings, the Okanagan-Shuswap riding has a totally different mix of candidates.

The Green Party candidate Huguette Allen is a well known incredibly passionate environmental and local food activist and very well spoken. She is running a fully funded campaign with a large team of volunteers. Her signs are everywhere, her support at debates is wide and enthusiastic, coverage in the media is good and support using website, email lists and online video is very good. Because of Huguette's profile, the Okanagan-Shuswap was the only riding to receive a visit from Elizabeth May on Sept 19th (OK, she visited nearby Kelowna too because that's where the airport is).

In 2006, the Green Party candidate was not known in the riding, merely placed his name on the ballot and rarely visited the riding during the campaign as he lived 100 miles away in Penticton and still got 4.1% of the vote.

The incumbent Conservative has some questionable performance issues and was also one of Stephen Harper's selected team of muzzled MPs after various gaffes. The Liberal candidate is new to politics and unknown, whereas last time the candidate was a well-liked mayor of one of our communities. The NDP candidate is running for the third time and seems passionate enough but a little uncomfortable in the role.

If there was a web site which actually had statistically significant polling in the riding, you can rest assured that Green, Liberal and NDP voters would respond to this. But unfortunately this is not it!

(See http://www.voteforenvironment.ca/about_our_project for more info on the polling model.)
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kewljim
Thanks, Rod,

I emailed Kevin just over one week ago with a briefer version of the comment I later posted here. There has been no response.

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RodSmelser
kewljim:

I emailed Kevin and Alice today, with a copy to Charlie Smith at the Straight, and to Dale Jackaman, the NDP candidate in Richmond. I wonder if you should email Charlie Smith as well?

Since Kevin worked as a member of Raymond Chan's staff, I specifically asked him what he would like to say about Chan's involvement with the GCL issue.

Where I live in Maple Ridge we have a similar issue around a farm property called the Jackson Farm, just off 240th Str and 100th Ave. It's now in the hands of the Metro Vancouver board to decide if it will be removed from the "green zone" and housing development permitted on about half of it, with the rest set aside as park. Many people in Maple Ridge believe the entire property should be purchased by either Maple Ridge or Metro as parkland, but some Maple Ridge councillors, including former BC Liberal MLA and 2009 candidate Ken Stewart, are opposed to that.

Rod Smelser
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RodSmelser
The principal organizer of the voteforenvironment.ca website, Kevin Grandia, used to work in Victoria for the BC Liberal Gov'ts Public Affairs Bureau.

Rod Smelser
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RodSmelser
kewljim:
I did receive a reply today from Kevin Grandia. While it didn't answer every question, I did get an answer. Perhaps you should write again.

Rod Smelser
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