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Strategic voting evolves in 2008

The Story

Strategic voting -- casting a vote for someone who isn't your preferred candidate in order to prevent an undesirable candidate from winning -- is nothing new. But in the 2008 federal election, Canadians are taking it to a whole new level. Thanks to the internet and websites like Facebook, voters are pairing up with people in other parts of the country to "swap votes" in an effort to make the most of their vote. "It's like [online] dating, but for elections," explains Peter Cleary of Vote Swap Canada in this 2008 TV report.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 8, 2008
Guests: Peter Cleary, Derrick de Kerckhove, Dana Dueck, Nik Nanos
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Susan Ormiston
Duration: 2:29

Did You know?

• The 40th Canadian general election took place on Oct. 14, 2008. • The party leaders running were Stephen Harper (Conservative incumbent), Stéphane Dion (Liberal), Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Québécois), Jack Layton (NDP) and Elizabeth May (Green).

• Voter turnout at this election hit a record low for Canadian federal elections, with only 59.1 per cent of eligible voters casting their ballots.

• Prime Minister Harper's Conservative Party won the election with 143 seats (of a potential 308), yielding a minority government. The Liberal Party won 77 seats, the Bloc Québécois won 49, the NDP won 39, and two independent candidates won seats in Parliament. The Green Party, despite garnering 6.78 per cent of the popular vote, did not win any seats in parliament.

• According to Elections Canada, the online vote swapping and other internet-based strategic voting tactics used in 2008 were all perfectly acceptable. "Elections Canada has investigated the vote-swapping scheme and declared it legal," explained the Toronto Star in an election day article.

• Most of the online strategic voting campaigns and vote-swapping websites were created by non-Conservatives and were aimed at making sure the Conservative Party would not win the election.

• Green Party leader Elizabeth May admitted in an Oct. 12, 2008 Toronto Star article (two days before the election) that strategic voting might be smart in some circumstances: "There's no question that there are some ridings where you might say to vote Green you ought to vote NDP to stop a Conservative from winning, and in some ridings you might want to vote Liberal to stop a Conservative from winning." The article went on to explain that May "also 'profoundly disagrees' with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's assertion that Green Party voters across the country should switch to the Liberals. May said she only envisions Green supporters switching their votes in tight races, most of them in Central Canada."

• On Dec. 8, 2008, Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion announced that he would be stepping down. His resignation took effect on Dec. 10 when Michael Ignatieff was chosen as interim leader. After resigning, Dion became only the second Liberal Party leader in Canadian history to never become prime minister (the first was Edward Blake, Liberal leader from 1880 to 1887).



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