Is Voting Liberal Actually Strategic for the Climate? Not exactly…

The Liberals are trying to scare us into voting for them to prevent a Conservative victory. But, the truth is that national polls obscure what’s happening at the local level.

By Cam Fenton

Squamish Mobilization for #CanadaOnFire Day of Action on September 8th 2021 — Photo by Samuel Foss

It’s that time of the election when the Liberal Party digs up one of their most tried and true talking points — fear of a Conservative government. But, the truth is that national polls that appear to show the Conservatives and Liberals neck and neck obscure a lot of what’s happening at the local level. This is especially true when it comes to the ridings where 350 Canada has endorsed Climate Champions.

NDP — Conservative Races

Take Regina-Lewvan for example. In this race, local projections from 338 show that Tria Donaldson is running neck and neck with Conservative candidate Warren Steinly with the Liberals basically out of the race in third and the Greens running a distant fifth. Here, it’s pretty obvious that voting for Donaldson is the strategic vote to block a Conservative win.

The same thing is true in South Okanagan-West Kootenay, Kootenay-Columbia, Kenora, Essex, Oshawa and Edmonton Griesbach, all ridings where a vote for the Liberals both make it more likely that the Conservatives win those ridings and could cost our next parliament a real climate champion.

NDP — Liberal Races

In other ridings, the “vote Liberal to block the Conservatives” doesn’t make sense because the Liberals and NDP are running neck and neck. Take Davenport for example, where climate champion Alejandra Bravo is running.

A true toss-up race if ever there was one, this race has the Conservatives running a distant third. Despite this, the Liberal candidate in the riding has been routinely tweeting about how the race is a choice between Liberals and Conservatives. It’s not an outright lie, because it’s true in some ridings, but it is misleading to voters in Davenport, since that race is clearly between a Climate Champion and a Liberal climate delayer.

Down the road in Parkdale-High Park, the story is almost exactly the same. And, again in Ottawa-Centre, Halifax, Laurier-Sainte Marie, Saint John’s South-Mount Pearl, Winnipeg North and the Northwest Territories.

In Burnaby North-Seymour, the Liberals have relied on a long time NDP-Green vote split to narrowly hold that riding. This year, that seems less likely to be an issue, and with the Conservatives well out of the race, it’s a choice between the NDP and Liberals. Given Jim Hanson’s strong opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline it’s clear that he’s both the smart and strategic climate vote.

Three -Way Races

And, there’s another situation where the Liberal “vote for us to block the Conservatives” doesn’t add up. Take Vancouver-Granville for example. When former Liberal turned Independent, Jody Wilson-Raybould decided not to run again, the riding became an open race. Since then, it’s come out that, in the midst of a housing crisis, the Liberal candidate Taleeb Noormohamed was flipping houses to make himself rich. In other words, during a crisis, he put himself before the community. Now, that race has narrowed into a three-way contest with Climate Champion Anjali Appadurai having a strong chance at winning.

A long time climate activist, known around the world for speaking truth to power and fighting for real climate justice, there can be no doubt that Appadurai is the stronger climate candidate in that riding. And, the projections show clearly that if she can win over Green voters and the climate voters the Liberals are trying to scare into backing them, she can win. So, in Vancouver Granville, the strategic climate vote is for Anjali.

West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky is a very similar situation. Avi Lewis is easily one of the most dedicated climate champions running in this election. So much so, that he’s already won over some of the most prominent and long time Green Party supporters in the riding, people like David Suzuki, Mike Douglas and Amanda Ladner. There’s a good chance he’s going to pick up enough of the Green Party vote to make this a three way toss-up race between the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives. And, in that situation, Avi, who has spent his entire life fighting for climate and social justice, is the clear champion who we can rely on to fight tooth and nail for us.

Or, take Nanaimo-Ladysmith, where the Liberals aren’t really even on the board and where Paul Manly, the only MP to ever push for a fracking ban in Canada, is a clear climate champion.

The Bottomline

If you don’t live in one of these ridings, it may be that voting Liberal is a strategic choice. But, make sure you’re not just believing when a Liberal candidate or ad tells you that. Check the local projections and, if possible, local polling to get the most accurate picture of your riding. Because, at the end of the day, we have to understand two things:

One, we don’t actually vote in one big national election, we vote in 338 riding level elections across the country. That means those national polls that show Erin O’Toole neck and neck with Justin Trudeau aren’t really that helpful. And, a lot of the people using them to tell you how to vote have an agenda, which is usually getting themselves or their friends elected. Obviously, I have one too, electing climate champions, I just hope it’s an agenda you agree with.

Second, in most ridings, our climate champions actually have the best chance at both winning and being the kinds of voices we need in Parliament to tackle the climate emergency. Sure, some of them might seem like longer shots than the Liberal. But, in those cases, the Liberal candidate is, at best, a warm body in a seat while our champion is the kind of person who will do everything they can to make tackling the climate crisis a top priority of the next government. For me, that’s a worthwhile risk because this is an emergency, and we need to vote like it.

Learn more about the movement to elect climate champions on the Climate Emergency Voters Alliance website.

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