Even votes for the losers says something important.
If you’ve ever heard someone say “my vote doesn’t count,” what you’re really hearing is someone admit they know their candidate or party won’t win. In Alberta, the Conservative heartland of Canada, voting for any other party sometimes feels like an exercise in futility. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I spent a few years volunteering for a political party and I love statistics. Do you know who else loves statistics? Political parties.
Canada has, statistically speaking, tended to favour Liberal governments, with 52 per cent of all elections going to the party, not counting Monday’s result.
The remaining 47 per cent have favoured Conservative governments with Liberal minorities. The Union Party, a liberal-conservative coalition, took one election in 1917.
Statistically speaking, when the Conservatives form the government, the Liberals are the official opposition, aside from 2011 when the NDP rose to form the official opposition.
The reverse is true for the Conservative Party when the Liberals form government; aside from 1993, 1997, and 2000 when the Official Opposition was the Bloc Quebecois, Reform and the Canadian Alliance, respectively.
During the last 150 years, even though only the two main parties have formed government in Canada, the existence of the NDP, Greens, Reform, Alliance and even the Bloc have had an effect on policy. Even though these parties have never formed government, their policy ideas have been picked up by both Conservatives and Liberals in some variation.
Because people support those parties with their votes. Make no mistake; the winners, and losers, are all paying attention.
Take the recent Alberta election for example.
The UCP took the most votes of any party in Alberta’s history (and they won’t let anyone forget it); but that wasn’t really a surprise. Here are the surprises:
The NDP received more votes in 2019 than in 2015. The Alberta Party quintupled their support from 2015. The Independence Party received just over 13,000 votes. These numbers inform the party that won the government as well as the parties that did not.
Strictly by the numbers: more people liked what the NDP had been doing since they were elected than voted for them in 2015. Even if they lost (strategic) votes, they gained overall. That tells them they’re moving in the right direction. The Alberta Party gained steady support across the province, and the independence movement is growing.
What has Premier Kenney talked about since the election? Separation (thank the Alberta Independence Party), digital pink cards (thank the Alberta Party), and either maintaining or increasing education and health-care spending (thank the NDP).
This is what happens when you vote for the loser – the winner takes notice.
It doesn’t matter if your candidate wins, in the long run.
What you want is the party to keep putting forward policy that matters to you – and they need your vote to tell them that.
What you want is for the governing parties to take notice of what you feel is important – and your vote tells every party what is important to you.
This is why you should vote, even if you’re voting for someone who isn’t going to win; everyone is watching; and your vote does, absolutely, make a difference.