Weighting Your Vote: MP, Party, Party Leader

Cross-posted to the BlogsCanada election blog.

In doing our democratic duty, what are we voting for? Our local MP, a political party or that party’s leader? All three, obviously, but which is most important? Personally, I’ve never been sure.

For example, what if I like my local candidate’s politics, but aren’t as smitten with their party’s? Or vice versa–what if I support a party but think the local guy’s a flake?

Practically speaking, I understand that your locally-elected MP is your representative in Ottawa, and that they, in theory, will attempt to represent the views of their constituency. On the other hand, your local MP isn’t going to have much clout if your party’s deciding whether or not to, say, invade Iraq.

Social Studies 11 failed me miserably in this regard. I’d be curious to hear opinions of how best to approach this thorny issue.


  1. Simple. Get involved. Pick the party platform you agree with the most, join the party, and have a voice in who the local MP is.

    That said, overall, I pick the party based on who’s in Ottawa… then bitch, whine, complain & cajole the local MP to see things my way.

    (Okay, I’ve done this once… and it wasn’t the person I voted for anyway.)

  2. Donna: Thanks for that, but I’m not sure that answers my question. Being involved doesn’t determine how my voting decision should be weighted.

    More generally, it’s not practical for everyone to become involved. My job as a citizen is to educate myself and make an informed choice on election day. Becoming involved is admirable, but above and beyond that duty.

    Finally, what with none of the party’s platform’s are particularly amenable? I’m going to vote for the least distasteful, but I certainly don’t want to join a party whose views I don’t support.

  3. I would vote for the party you most support. The candidates are secondary to the ideals of the party. At least that’s my opinion.

    I was planning to vote strategically in my riding, (I had planned to vote liberal in the hopes of ousting the local homophobic racist conservative MP). But I came across an article, just today I believe, that pointed out how strategic voting is basically a Liberal myth to grab more votes. That same article pointed out that each vote a party recieves, adds up to 1.25 extra in fnding. Not bad once it adds up. So I’m voting NDP.

  4. I think the ultimate question is ‘which party is most likely to implement (or more likely, allow) favourable policy?’ Liberals, should they retain a minority government, will likely pursue a same old/same old course with concessions made to trying to clean up their act and perhaps opening up the democratic process slightly.

    If you look at the demographic makeup of the Conservative slate; however, it’s plain to see that the overwhelming majority of those who actually win their seats will be right wing. VERY right wing. There won’t NEED to be party solidarity, as it will be inherent in their ideology.

    So the question really becomes “do I vote for a good candidate, get good Ottawa representation but endure bad policy if his/her party wins, or do I vote for a bad candidate, get goofy Ottawa representation but favourable policy?”

    Frankly, I don’t think good local representation helps if you have bad policy on a national level. In Vancouver Downtown, I would argue that we’ve had the latter – and we’ve been more or less lucky with respect to policy in the last decade. If policy had gone against my political beliefs, we’d have been in serious doo-doo, indeed.

  5. This is actually a big dilemma. In the last election, I was in a riding in Abbotsford. I leaned more towards the PCs under Joe Clark. However, the local Reform/CRAP (oops! CCRA!) candidate, Randy White, had done (and continues to do) a great job representing the community in Ottawa, and had in fact made a good, solid reputation for himself on the national stage.

    In the end, I voted for the no-name PC candidate, Rocky somethingorother. I knew Randy White would win the riding regardless, but felt that I needed to vote my conscience and support the party that closest matched my own political leanings.

  6. Vote for your local candidate. After (if) he/she is elected there is more chance that your local candidate will listen to your problem/grievance than will the party or its leader.

    After all, they are local and closer to you (unless your candidate happens to be a certain Conservative MP referenced in the Globe and Mail in Jeffrey Simpson’s article on June 9th “The indispensable Conservative”.)

  7. Vote by candidate, not by party! There are a lot of ridings in Canada where an inanimate object could run under a certain party’s ticket and still get elected. That means that election results are effectively determined months earlier from backroom politics; you might as well drop the pretenses of elections altogether and just have a contest to see who can fit the most people on buses to pack nomination meeting halls.

    There’s a neat quiz at http://www.voteoutanders.com that proves this point pretty well… how that guy got elected is a mystery to me…

  8. Your question basically comes down to whether you should be a cynic about the democratic process, or an idealist? A cynic will vote for the party, because they don’t really care who their local MP is and doesn’t believe that a single person in Ottawa can make a difference. They’ll just vote for the party they like – or perhaps they’ll spoil their vote or not vote at all. An idealist will vote for the local candidate that best represents their views on policy, believing that the MP will fight to represent their constituency well.

    It’s not easy to be either of these, unfortunately. I think you’re in my riding, in which case I’d say that one of our candidates certainly wins the “flake” title, but at the same time I think he stands for the party that I most want to see gain seats in Ottawa, not to form government but to be a voice of reason in Parliament. I’d really rather not vote for him – there have got to be far more qualified candidates… or maybe they’re all off running for other parties? But I probably will.

    I guess you just have to decide whether you want to be a cynic or an idealist.

  9. If you can happen to grab a few seconds of air time with one of your local folks that you are trying to decide between, perhaps you should ask them this question. Get a sense of how your local people view their party affiliation…what would make them vote against their party? what would make them leave the party? This might give you more info.

  10. I like Moxee’s ideas. The underlying principle is: where is the room for dissent within a party? What scares me about the Conservatives is they’re already showing their hand. After Harvey Griggs was dragged off the stage of an all-party debate the other night by his own handlers (and later denied access to the Press…again by his own handlers), I think we were given a pretty good idea of how the Conservatives will operate.

    The question that remains is – are the other parties any better?

  11. The only time it matters are on free votes. Otherwise party they must tow the line, and then you have to look at the PM. Most of the candidates aren’t too far away from their leader ideaologically because the party leader electoral system works on a simple majority system. Personally, I vote for the PM. Because when it comes down to it, they are going to be voting with the PM 95% of the time.

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