New Brunswick

Fredericton targeted by Leadnow with anti-Conservative campaign

Fredericton is one of 11 ridings across the country that has been targeted by Leadnow as a riding that could be swayed away from the Conservatives through strategic voting.

Leadnow says it's signing up hundreds of voters to defeat Conservative Keith Ashfield in Fredericton

Fredericton is one of 11 ridings across the country that has been targeted by Leadnow as a riding that could be swayed away from the Conservatives through strategic voting.

Julia Hansen, the volunteer co-ordinator in Fredericton for Leadnow, said she believes many Canadians feel really disempowered by the electoral system. (CBC)
In 2011, Fredericton's combined vote for the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates came to 51 per cent of the popular vote. Conservative Keith Ashfield was re-elected in the riding seat with 48 per cent of the vote.

"I think a lot of Canadian voters feel really disempowered by our electoral system," says Julia Hansen, Leadnow's Fredericton volunteer co-ordinator.

Leadnow, a grassroots organization, claims no political affiliation apart from its goal to defeat the Conservatives in the federal election.

Her group has been canvassing in the city for months and making regular appearances at the Boyce Farmers Market.

"We have almost 600 people who have committed to vote strategically in this riding," said Hansen.

"And we're building those numbers weekly. We're getting up to 60 to 100 new pledges per week."

The strategic voting group may be focusing its efforts on Fredericton but the 2011 election showed, it didn't have the largest vote split in the province.

While Ashfield won with 48 per cent of the vote, Conservative Robert Goguen was elected in Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe with 35 per cent of the ballots. 

In that race, the Liberals pulled 31 per cent of the vote and the NDP earned 28 per cent.

Leadnow plans poll

Hansen said Leadnow is raising money to conduct its own poll on the ground in Fredericton in October. 

She said she's also hopeful the organization can raise enough funds through crowd-funding to conduct a second poll closer to election day.

"We're going to be sharing that [information] with everybody who has signed the pledge," says Hansen.

"We're also going to be sharing information on each of the party's platform so people can decide whether the candidate who has the best chance of defeating the Conservative is someone who really aligns with our values and [whether] we want to endorse them."

Tom Bateman, a political science professor at St. Thomas University, said Canadians do not tend to be strategic voters. (CBC)
Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said the strategy a bit of a gamble because polling is rarely done on a riding-by-riding basis, although sometimes the winning choice becomes more obvious as election day approaches.

He also points out that voter promises are ultimately unenforceable because ballots are secret.

Historically, Bateman said, studies indicate that Canadians are not strategic voters.

"Even when they know the party of their choice is certain to lose and that their vote, in a way, is wasted. Still, they tend to vote for that party," he said.

"That indicates sort of a tribal character to party politics in Canada. And that kind of attachment works against strategic voting."

CUPE criticizes strategic voting

Four months ago, Canada's largest union condemned the strategy in an open letter written by CUPE's national president, Paul Moist.

Leadnow is targetting 11 ridings in the federal election, where it hopes to defeat Conservative candidates. (CBC)
"Promoting strategic voting and ignoring the platforms of political parties and the issues voters care about, only serves to add to the cynicism of the Canadian electorate and contribute to low voter turn-out on election day," writes Moist.

"Both parties have very right-wing economic policies, do not stand for working families, or public services. Only the NDP has a progressive platform."

Jason Stephen, the president of the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Party, said the strategy seems to come dangerously close to taking voter's rights away.

"They're trying to stack the cards to eliminate somebody," said Stephen.

 "We urge everybody to vote and use their franchise. Everybody's vote does matter."

CBC News reached out to the campaign office of Keith Ashfield but no comment was provided.

As of Aug. 19, Jamie Biggar, Leadnow's executive director, said 53,142 Canadians have signed the Vote Together pledge.

Other ridings being targeted in the Leadnow campaign:

  • Fredericton
  • Willowdale
  • Etobicoke Lakeshore
  • Kitchener Centre
  • London North Centre
  • Elmwood-Transcona (Winnipeg)
  • Regina-Lewvan
  • Edmonton Griesbach
  • Calgary Centre
  • Vancouver Granville
  • Port Moody-Coquitlam


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