Bill Sundhu campaigned on the NDP party slogan “Only the NDP can defeat Stephen Harper.” The country could not have sent a stronger message that this was just not true.
Justin Trudeau and the Liberals were elected by an astounding margin. Federally, in what was once called a three-way race, the NDP has crumbled, the Conservatives have come up short and the Liberals have firmly grasped a majority government.
Locally, however, the outcome was anything but decisive for any party. Cathy McLeod held her seat with approximately 35 per cent of the vote, down from her much more decisive win in 2011 when she pulled in 52 per cent.
The real story, however, is just how hard the progressive vote split. As of midnight on Monday, Bill Sundhu (NDP) and Steve Powrie (Liberal) both held more than 30 per cent of the vote.
So what happened? Well, it all depends on the motivations of voters. It’s a struggle to find faults in how any local candidate ran their campaign. It’s difficult to fault McLeod simply because she won. Sundhu and the NDP fared far better than the party did on the national level. Powrie kept pace with the incredible result of his party, greatly improving the on results from 2011, where here in Kamloops the Liberals managed just 5.3 per cent of the vote.
If the intentions of the approximately 60 per cent of voters who voted for the NDP or Liberals in this riding were to oust Stephen Harper, they failed dramatically. Now, the Kamloops–Thompson–Cariboo has an opposition MP that was not voted for by approximately 65 per cent of the electorate. It is difficult to see the riding well represented in this scenario.
Clearly, strategic voting fell to the landslide that was the Liberal victory. Powrie ran a strong campaign, but not so strong that anyone can say he didn’t greatly benefit from the trend seen at the national level.
Nonetheless, the end of this kind of electioneering is in sight. Trudeau has promised to strike an all-party committee to look at electoral reform and that this would be the final first-past-the-post election in Canada. Whether or not that puts an end to strategic voting is yet to be seen, but I certainly hope that it does, given the practice’s catastrophic failure in this riding.