With less than a month left of our longest federal election since sliced bread, people are buckling down to make a decision about their vote. For the party-secular among us, it can be a difficult time. We’re scrutinizing snippets of platforms on wide-ranging topics, brushing up on performance histories, and trying to get to know local candidates.
If we’re lucky, we find a party that perfectly represents our views and has promised to vote exactly as we would vote, and a local candidate who is trustworthy, capable, and intelligent. It’s democracy at its finest, and we all tuck ourselves into bed on election night feeling warm and represented.
For most of us, though, the democratic ideal won’t exist. We’ll probably find a couple parties that we could live with and a few candidates we like pretty well. At the intersection of those things, there will be probably be one or two outcomes that would leave us mostly satisfied.
For some of us, there won’t be an intersection. Our preferred party won’t be running a strong candidate, and our favourite candidate will be representing a party whose policies we dislike. So we’ll face the age-old question: do you vote for the party or for the local candidate?
Unfortunately, you can’t choose. There will be no check box on your ballot to indicate you only like the candidate, and would prefer they not vote with their party. There will be no memo field where you can let the party you love know that you’d like someone to keep the candidate you don’t trust on track for the next few years. No matter what philosophy or decision-making system you employ in choosing how to cast your ballot, it is read as both a vote for the candidate and a vote for the party.
In our current system, however, where votes are whipped and party lines are dutifully towed, your choice will contribute to a party’s marching orders and mandates far more significantly than to the power of any individual candidate to affect change at the federal level or even locally.
So if a particular party leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, or if you simply don’t feel their policies are in line with how’d you vote if you were wandering up to Parliament Hill every couple weeks to do it yourself, don’t vote for their candidate.
He or she is mostly likely a really great person. Most people running for office are. They want to make a difference, they believe in doing what’s right, and they are committed to making the city, province, or country a better place for everyone to live.
But make no mistake: they are good people who believe whole-heartedly that the party they are running for — the one you dislike — has the best plan for doing that. They are so invested in the ideology and policies of that particular party that they are making huge personal sacrifices in the hopes of ensuring it has more power in our country. They’ll vote with their party not because they have to, but because they believe in their party.
So the answer to that age-old question is this: there’s no such thing as voting for the local candidate. You’re definitely voting for the party, so choose wisely.
Originally published September 24, 2015 in Our London.