. . . All politics is local.
We all know we don’t vote for Prime Minister, right? I hope we’ve all had enough of a Canadian civics education to remember that traditionally the Prime Minister was chosen by the House, like the Speaker continues to be, rather than by the somewhat aborted attempts by the Parties to make their Leader selection process U. S. style Presidential Primaries. I expect that deep down we all know that when we look at that ballot, it is printed not with the names of potential Prime Ministers, but with (ideally) neighbours who are offering to be our representatives in the House of Commons. Except for the few who live in a riding in which a Party Leader is running, the vast majority of Canadians do not vote for a Prime Minister.
So, what do the vast majority of us do with the partisan expressions of hope that a Leader can “count on our vote”?
Well, here’s what I’m going to do:
I live in Edmonton-Strathcona, the only non-Conservative-held Federal riding in Alberta. I like living here. I like being one of the outliers. I expect Linda Duncan of the NDP will win again. I like her. I see her around the neighbourhood. She goes for walks without an entourage. In thirty years or so of living in this neighbourhood I’ve never seen another MP just going for a walk.
I don’t want Thomas Mulcair to be Prime Minister. His pigheadedness and apparent ignorance about our Senate frightens me. I don’t want Stephen Harper to be Prime Minister any more. His vision of Canada is so antithetical to my own that it’s agonizing. I’d honestly be content with another Prime Minister Trudeau.
But, all politics is local. If I were to let my vote be determined by who I want to be Prime Minister, I’d probably throw it away by voting for the Liberal candidate in my riding. But I know my neighbourhood well enough to be convinced that a plurality want Thomas Mulcair as Prime Minister and/or Linda Duncan as their Member of Parliament. I feel comfortable voting for the nice lady in the neighbourhood but I do not feel that it is a vote for Thomas Mulcair. If I thought the Liberal candidate had a hope of winning, I might grudgingly vote for her, whoever she is, and through that I would vote – under protest because we don’t vote for Prime Minister – for a hypothetical PM Trudeau. But, of course, it would be up to the voters of Papineau to decide whether Mr. Trudeau even returned to the House.
And here is where all the strategic voting plans fall apart: our politics is still ultimately local. We can do all the intellectual convolutions we want to try to support a Party’s candidate in hopes of having an effect on who becomes Prime Minister, but in the end, it’s up to the voters in the Leaders’ ridings to decide. There’s talk that both Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair are in tight races. I seem to remember some suggestion that even Mr. Harper’s race isn’t a completely sure thing. All our support-by-proxy for a distant Leader means nothing if that Leader is defeated in his own riding.
So, yes, I’ll consider the Party Leaders and the Parties when I do my electoral calculus. But most of the weight for my decision will come from knowing my own neighbourhood and thoughts about which candidate best reflects it and which candidate I actually see in the shops and parks and in the audiences at festivals.
I also tell myself that if we all made our decision on how to vote with an emphasis on candidates we expect to consider not Party directives but, rather, the hopes and desires of the constituency, maybe the Parties would start to realize we want to elect representative neighbours, not toadies of the PMO.
Then all politics would finally feel local.