Andrew Scheer

Strategic voting: the only sane option, or Scheer nonsense?

Peter Wheeland and Matthew Hays argue for and against backing “the lesser of two evils” in next week’s federal election.

Tory majority? Scheer nonsense: vote with your heart

by Peter Wheeland

Strategies are the tactics you use to try to achieve an objective. So any discussion of “strategic” voting has to begin with that primary question:

What’s the goal?

In essence, strategic voting is an attempt to keep a party you hate from winning by voting for a party you hate less, instead of the party or candidate you actually like and support. If you’re a typical Cult MTL reader, that probably means you’re thinking of voting Liberal to prevent a Tory win.

The good news is that, as Quebec voters — many of us in heavily Liberal ridings — we’ve pretty much got that sewn up. The Tories are polling third or even fourth in most of Quebec’s 78 ridings and, according to’s latest electoral projection, only five ridings are safe Tory bets, with two others “likely” or “leaning” CPC. So unless you are in one of those rare Tory strongholds, you are perfectly safe to vote your conscience without worrying that you helped elect Andrew Scheer.

But the Liberals have worked very hard to make all Canadians feel unsafe in this election. Justin Trudeau knows the difference between a Liberal majority and a minority will depend on his party’s ability to bleed off support from third parties. So Canadians, he says, “need to elect a progressive government, not a progressive opposition.”

We won’t have a progressive government without a progressive opposition, however. We already gave Trudeau a majority, and he used it almost immediately to derail his promise that the 2019 election would end the “first-past-the-post” system that traditionally  rewards Liberals or Tories with majority governments (even as 30 to 40 per cent of voters cast ballots for other parties). He also reneged on promises to respect the United Nations’ recognized Indigenous rights, and he rescued an economically unviable pipeline expansion project with $4.5-billion in a taxpayer-funded bailout.

There are plenty of other examples of far-from-progressive policies, actions and inaction of the Liberal government. So, yes, we absolutely need a strong, progressive opposition to keep those neo-liberal impulses in check.

Like it or not, the Bloc Québécois is part of that check-and-balance. Although BQ identity politics (Bill 21 support) caters to a right-wing electorate, the Bloc’s social and economic policies still largely reflect Quebec’s communal and social-democratic strengths. Many of the close races here for the Liberals are against Bloc opponents, but there’s virtually no chance of a Tory upstart sneaking up the middle. It’s really too bad that much of the Bloc’s political resurrection will likely come at the expense of the NDP, but much of that, ironically, can be laid at the door of strategic voters who want to keep the Liberals in check and think the Bloc has the best chance of doing that.


I’ve stuck to the pragmatic arguments above, but one of the moral arguments against strategic voting is that it reinforces the notion that we have a two-party system and it undermines the ability of third parties to prosper and grow, to represent the considerable number of Canadians whose vision is neither red nor blue. Strategic voting can sometimes result in huge booms for those parties, like the the 2011 Orange Wave under NDP leader Jack Layton or the Bloc’s capture of 49 of 75 Quebec seats in 2008. But they can also result in massive busts, where deserving MPs are defeated by carpet-bag candidates for the partie-du-jour.  Meanwhile, whatever temporary success third-parties achieve, the Tories and Liberals sadly remain the only parties traditionally considered capable of governing.

Mixed proportional representation could go a long way to even out those rocky waves, stabilizing smaller parties and improving representivity in the Canadian Parliament. Unfortunately, electoral reform was destined to become Trudeau’s first big broken promise. If we’re still debating strategic voting in 2019, he deserves much of the credit.

So for most Cult MTL readers, voting strategically in Quebec in 2019 — i.e. voting Liberal rather than Green, NDP or Bloc — is unlikely to affect the Tories’ very poor (5 per cent) chance of forming a majority government. Though we could easily play a role in demoting the Liberals to minority by voting Green, Bloc or NDP, it’s not a “strategic” vote if it’s cast for a party or candidate you truly support. It’s a vote of conscience, of belief and of hope. As NDP leader Jagmeet Singh argues, fear is a shaky motivator. 

“How many times in your life have you done something because you’re afraid and got a good result out of it? And how many times have you taken the courage to take a chance on something that was good for you, and you did it and your life became better?

“It’s the same thing in this election. If you make a choice out of fear, we’re going to get cynical results, but if you choose something that you believe in with your heart, you dream big, that’s how you get big results. … We’re not going to get amazing changes by settling for less.”


By the way, for all those who say that if Scheer is elected, it will be the fault of those who failed to rally to the Liberal cause, who failed to hold their noses and vote strategically, I have two words: phoque oeuf.

Justin Trudeau has been the author of his own political misery, period. If it bites him in the ass, blame his ass, not ours.

To see part 2 of this article, wherein Matthew Hays argues FOR strategic voting, click p. 2 below: