British Columbia

OPINION: If you care about climate change, it's time to reject strategic voting

It’s no time to listen to those who are urging you to vote strategically, writes former B.C. Green leader Adriane Carr.

Former B.C. Green leader angry that B.C. NDP describes a Green vote as wasted

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is photographed outside the Legislature Library in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, April 3, 2017. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

British Columbia is at a critical turning point. There is no time left for tepid efforts to stop the biggest threat facing us — climate change. And it's no time to listen to those who are urging you to vote strategically.

This provincial election is pivotal. The outcome will determine whether B.C. continues with an obsolete and environmentally ruinous fossil-fuel-based economy, or moves to a renewable energy economy that can avert catastrophic climate change, deliver vast numbers of well-paying, truly sustainable jobs, and safeguard our children's future.

It's clear that the B.C. Liberals are pushing to aggressively expand fossil fuel production and exports.

While the NDP in this province waffle — "yes" to gas, "no" to Kinder Morgan — they also, astonishingly, voted against Green Party leader Andrew Weaver's bill to ban U.S. thermal coal exports down the Fraser River.  

The B.C. NDP is calling on voters to not 'waste a vote on the Greens.' (Farrah Merali/CBC)

Only the B.C. Greens advocate unequivocally for everything that's needed to avert disaster. Weaver is a renowned climate scientist who ran for office because the other parties rejected serious climate action.

Climate change and the environment are not side issues for the Green Party, they are core issues that bolster a stronger economy, improved health and intergenerational equity.

So imagine the impact of a huge increase in Green votes in this election and a caucus of Green MLAs (more than just the four needed for official party status) relentlessly pushing for new jobs in the solar, wind, geothermal and energy conservation sectors.

Realistic solutions

Imagine the Greens with a balance of power so that those MLAs could follow Weaver's example of dropping partisanship and working collaboratively across party lines, precisely what's needed in government.

This election, the Greens have a comprehensive, visionary, fully-costed platform and a solid team of candidates. They offer realistic solutions like basic income, with plans to tackle affordable housing and homelessness, health care, education, childcare and jobs.

Public support is at a record high, with the B.C. Greens moving from 17 per cent of decided and leaning voters across B.C. at the beginning of the election to 21 per cent in Mainstreet/Postmedia's poll released April 18.

That same poll showed 38 per cent support for the Greens -- higher than any other party -- on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver councillor Adriane Carr doesn't think British Columbians should vote strategically in the upcoming election. (CBC)

So what threatens this momentum and potential electoral success? Strategic voting.

Ever since we founded the B.C. Green Party in 1983, the NDP has lured, pressured, and harassed people to vote "strategically." Strategic voting means you vote not for the party you want to, but for the party with the supposed best chance to stop a party you dislike from forming government. People will never get good government if they always vote for somewhat better than bad.

The NDP's line of  "Don't waste a vote on the Greens" is particularly galling. How undemocratic to tell people they shouldn't vote conscientiously for the party they believe represents their values and concerns. How arrogant to think all Green voters are "theirs" when Greens aren't left or right at all.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver discusses his party's platform. (Michael Mcarthur/CBC)

And who really knows who has the best chance, anyway? Previous election results aren't always a good indicator. In 2013, Andrew Weaver won in Oak Bay-Gordon Head despite the Greens getting only 8.9 per cent of the vote in that riding in the previous election.

Breeds cynicism

Strategic voting discourages people — especially youth, who are attracted to parties like the B.C. Greens — from voting. Everywhere in Canada that Greens do well, voter turnout is higher. The largest voter turnout in B.C.'s last election was in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

Strategic voting also breeds cynicism, especially when the incoming leader behaves as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done. By abandoning electoral reform and approving Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion, he broke the two key promises that made strategic voters abandon the Green Party and NDP to vote for the Liberals.

In this B.C. election I implore you to reject strategic voting being promoted by parties that want power more than they want real democracy. If you believe, like I do, that we can't wait any longer and must act now to avert climate catastrophe, vote Green.

Adriane Carr is co-founder and former leader of the Green Party of B.C., and currently Vancouver's only Green Party city councillor.  

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