Strategic voting groups have lofty goals

Websites that promote strategic voting in the federal election are hoping to have a bigger influence this time around.

Gerry Kirk sees himself as a strategic voting conduit — along with at least a dozen other such Canadian websites and Facebook sites such as his — that can make a difference in the May 2 election results.

What they want

Catch 22: To defeat 30 Conservative Party candidates

Pair Vote: Strategic vote swapping to elect Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and others

He envisions at least one seat in this federal election changing hands thanks to his site's vote-swapping efforts, and if he had his way, it would be Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in the British Columbia riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands who would be the main beneficiary of the swaps.

"It's absolutely scandalous when [the Green Party] gets a million votes and no seat," said Kirk, who is the creator of the website Pair Vote. "We want to fix that and we are aiming for a breakthrough."

A number of online strategic voting campaigns have started up again after surfacing in the 2008 vote, with hopes of playing a bigger hand this time in who gets elected. Catch 22 — which is registered with Elections Canada as a third party and also has a presence on Facebook — certainly has high hopes, with the stated goal of defeating more than 30 Conservatives in 2011.

Catch 22 has its sites clearly set on the Conservative Party. (CBC)

"If Catch 22 and other groups working for the same cause are able to orchestrate a significant shift in voting patterns in just a few seats, it will be a remarkable day in Canadian politics," said the group on its website.

In a news release, the group pulled no punches: "The Catch 22 founders realized that, given the usual vote-splitting among squabbling opposition parties, only a smart, targeted campaign run independently of the parties could deny Stephen Harper his goal. This Catch 22 upstart is starting to inspire discouraged voters in 52 of Canada's 308 electoral districts to vote together against Harper and astonish Canada."

The group, which fears Stephen Harper would "dismantle Canada as we know it," is not backing one particular party, and is suggesting people vote for Liberals, NDP and Green Party members instead of Conservatives. To defeat Tory candidate John Baird in Ottawa West-Nepean, for example, Catch 22 suggests people vote for Anita Vandenbeld of the Liberals. Catch 22 backs May.

The site Project Democracy also has a goal of stopping a Harper majority government.

Pair Vote, by contrast, attempts to connect voters in different ridings, ridings where a voter's candidate of choice has no chance of winning. It seems simple enough: the person in the other riding will vote for your party in their riding and you vote for their choice in your riding.

The group said 6,000 people signed up in 2008 and 2,800 pairings were made. Kirk hopes for, with help from partner sites online and on Facebook to reach the 15,000 to 20,000 level this time.

"We would be ecstatic if 15,000 votes were swapped," said Kirk.

Unlike Catch 22, which makes clear its opposition to the Conservatives, Pair Vote does not back a particular party but stands on guard for democracy.

Kirk explained that it's not right when a party like the Conservatives gets to form the government and not even come close to gaining 50 per cent of the vote, so the group's goal is to prevent such a "false majority."

The strategic voting initiative is picking up in popularity, said Kirk, with a number of groups popping up on Facebook and online. His group has partnered with a number of them in order to increase awareness as a group.