Strategic voting advocates go door to door in key ridings

With the election day quickly approaching, websites such as StrategicVoting.ca and VoteTogether.ca say their online traffic is spiking.

VoteTogether.ca says it has crowdfunded more than $100,000

'We've put in a countless amount of time into the site,' said VoteTogether.ca organizer Amara Possian. (J.P. MOCZULSKI / THE CANADIAN PRESS/Screenshot)

There's always talk of strategic voting before an election. 

And with Oct. 19 quickly approaching, websites such as StrategicVoting.ca and VoteTogether.ca are encouraging Canadians in key ridings to vote — not for their preferred candidate — but for whoever stands the best chance of defeating the Tories. 

Both sites say their online traffic is spiking. 

However, traffic is only part of the plan for VoteTogether.ca.

Whereas most strategic voting websites only provide information, generally about which ridings may be close enough for strategic voting to matter, VoteTogether.ca is taking things a step further this election by going door to door, informing others how to vote strategically. 

"This is the first time we've had field organizers," said Amara Possian, a Toronto resident and organizer with LeadNow, the activist group behind the site. During previous elections the group has organized one-off events, but nothing ongoing. 

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I didn't vote for a winning MP,ever.— Hisham Abdel-Rahman

"There's anywhere from 10 to 250 people out knocking on doors during a shift. They're happening in 11 targeted ridings," across Canada, she said. 

"We have 2,682 people which are part of our virtual phone bank. They make phone calls from home into our target swing ridings."

Possian said the group has crowdfunded more than $100,000 which has been used to commission polls through Environics. Its operating costs are covered by more than 2,000 monthly donors.

Along with many other strategic voting sites, VoteTogether.ca would like to see electoral reform, shifting Canada from a first-past-the-post system to one incorporating proportional representation. 

The Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party have all made some sort of commitment to change the current electoral system, which sees the governing party chosen by how many ridings it wins, not by the overall percentage of votes it receives.

"We've put in a countless amount of time into the site," said Possian. "I hope we have electoral reform so that we don't have to do this again." 

StrategicVoting.ca started in 2008 but did not participate in the 2011 vote. It re-launched in late August to cover this election.

It's the brainchild of Calgary resident and information technology engineer, Hisham Abdel-Rahman, who lives in the riding of Calgary Rocky Ridge.

Over the years, Abdel-Rahman, 42, has dutifully shown up at the polls and voted for every shade of party other than blue. So far, he's had no luck.

"I didn't vote for a winning MP, ever," he told CBC News.

'Sketchy and non-scientific' 

Not everyone agrees with the concept of strategic voting.

"It concerns me because it brings voters not to vote with their conviction, but rather with a calculation," said Antonia Maioni, a professor of political science at McGill University, on CBC Radio's As It Happens. "I think that's a very sketchy and non-scientific way of thinking about voting."

"I can't imagine that voting with conviction is a wasted vote, even if it doesn't translate into your exact preference outside the ballot box."

Jean-François Daoust, a researcher at the University of Montreal's department of political science who has studied strategic voting as part of his doctoral work, told CBC that "if you identify with a political party, you're twice less likely to vote strategically.

"Also, if people take a clear stance on an issue, like the niqab, they're also less likely to vote strategically."