A strategic voting initiative, stoked by an anti-Harper sentiment, is targeting six B.C. ridings, including Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission.
Catch 22 — which is registered with Elections Canada as a third party – has the stated lofty goal of defeating more than 30 Conservatives in 2011.
“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,” reads a new release. “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.”
Funded through individual donations, the Catch 22 campaign and Facebook page has been live for about a year and a half.
Volunteers are now targeting all-candidate meetings to distributed leaflets urging folks to vote strategically.
In Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge- Mission, the campaign endorses NDP candidate Craig Speirs as the only chance to defeat the Conservative incumbent.
Elizabeth Rosenau, a Maple Ridge resident who ran against Speirs for the NDP nomination, is a volunteer with Catch 22.
“I think that our democracy is really at risk with the Conservative minority undermining it in many different ways,” she said.
“I believe that reducing the number of Conservatives is really critical to allowing our country to begin to restore democracy.”
Catch 22 isn’t the only online strategic voting campaigns to resurface since the last federal election.
The site Project Democracy also wants to stop a Harper majority government, while Pair Vote attempts to connect disillusioned voters in different ridings through vote swapping.
For instance, a NDP member in a riding where the party runs a distant third should consider swapping with a Liberal in a close riding where Liberals run third. In that way, the competitive NDP candidate and competitive Liberal candidate each gain one vote and their chances of winning increase.
Elections Canada deemed online vote-swapping to be legal in 2008.
Alice Klein with Projectdemocracy.ca calls their campaign “co-operative voting.”
“Through voter co-operating, we can achieve a more representative government,” said Klein, the editor and CEO of Now Magazine, an alternative newspaper in Toronto.
“We have a united right and a divided centre-left. This is a way for citizens to empower themselves to get a government that is more reflective of the majority view.”
Projectdemocracy.ca has riding projections that are currently predicting a Conservative win in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission with 21,864 votes. (The website is crunching numbers combining historical data with information from rolling polls.)
The campaign, which first surfaced in 2008 as voteforenvironment.ca, is funded by Avaaz.com, an online advocacy organization, the Communication Workers of America union and private donations.
Conservative candidate Randy Kamp, who is seeking a fourth term as MP, isn’t fazed by the campaigns urging people to vote strategically against him.
In 2008, Kamp won 51.8 per cent of the votes in the riding (26,512), almost twice that of his nearest rival, NDP candidate Mike Bocking.
“It hasn’t been very successful,” said Kamp. “It motivates my supporters, thousands of them, to get out and vote. It didn’t work last time.”
Voting for values
While several websites urge Canadians to turf Conservative candidates, another lists those who are “family friendly.”
Voteprayserve.ca judges candidates by their support of legislation dealing with moral issues, including coerced abortion, traditional marriage and euthanasia. It bills itself as “a movement of Canadians that are committing to voting, praying and serving in this upcoming election.”
Randy Kamp, who has worked as an administrative pastor, gets an A-grade.
Knowing where candidates stand on moral issues is important for Steve McCallum, a 29-year-old who is a member of the Vote Pray Serve Facebook page.
“I think the peace and prosperity we’ve had as a nation has a lot to do with our Judaeo-Christian morals and family values,” said the New Westminster resident.
He looks for candidates who have “a respect for life from womb to natural end” and those who speak for people who don’t have a voice such as seniors and the disabled.
“The site has helped me in my particular riding,” McCallum said.
“Voters are often overwhelmed by what party to vote for and this helps by bringing it down to the candidate level.”