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.
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).