In Toronto, strategic voting is Stephen Harper's best friend.
Those who think they'll protect Toronto better by backing Liberals over the NDP may want to think twice. That's because Harper knows and counts on the fact that Toronto Liberals give weak push-back on his toxic agenda.
Extend the mission in Afghanistan? No worries - Toronto Libs concur. When the Harperites got flak from the Dippers over their troubling free trade deal with human-rights-challenged Colombia? No problem - they could count on area Libs to support it.
Build no affordable housing in this city? Little chance of a reaction from T Dot Liberals. They barely notice, because when they held power they stopped building co-op housing and, by the way, kick-started the current corporate-tax-cut frenzy that leaves less money for decent housing or much else. Harper is maintaining the Liberal status quo, and strategic voting helps him do it, leaving us with MPs who refuse to stand up for Toronto.
Those pushing strategic voting to defeat Harper say folks should vote with their heart if there's no strong Tory in sight. But the concept is often flipped on its head to mean "Keep any Liberal in power," even in the downtown core where no Conservative candidate has a chance.
But in government, the Libs ignored Toronto, and the results can be seen on a daily basis. Just get on the Dufferin bus at rush hour. It's packed to the rafters, and the ride is a test of physical endurance, patience and the pocketbook! Liberals - who held 19 out of 22 seats in the city when they lost power in 2006 after 13 years at the federal helm - never put a dime into stable operating funding for public transit. Now they hold 20 seats, almost half of them leftovers from the old regime.
We are the only G8 country without a national transit strategy. Too many local Liberal MPs, whether in government or out, don't have the fight in them to deliver for the city or whip up a convincing advocacy campaign on its behalf.
Since I began knocking on doors as the NDP candidate in Davenport in October 2009, the riding has seen daycare centre closures, bus service cuts and the disappearance of funds for immigrant settlement services by Tory fiat. At the same time, Ontario Liberals are buying diesel trains for an air-rail link (paid for with the help of $300 mil from the feds), making Toronto the only big city in the world using these polluters for its downtown-to-airport train service.
Toronto opposition Liberal MPs occasionally protest these matters, but it seems more like pro-forma oppositionism than an attempt to prioritize a real urban agenda.
They like to tell us they can't do anything unless they're in government. Or they offer the lazy excuse that local issues are for municipal and provincial pols. But so much of what happens here is a result of federal policy. Schools are closing downtown, for example, because young families and new immigrants can't live in the core due to the lack of affordable housing and jobs. The high price of childcare in Toronto - 60 to 80 bucks a day compared to $7 in Montreal - means someone's asleep at the switch. After all, we ship billions of our tax dollars to Ottawa and get pennies on the dollar in return. Despite their years in power, the Liberals never came through on the daycare pledge they originally made in the late 80s.
If the only thing T.O. Grits have to offer voters is "Vote for us if you don't like Harper," or worse, "Vote for us, but if we end up in opposition don't expect anything from us," then they don't deserve our vote.
Behind the doors of the tidy homes of our city's low- and middle-income earners, folks are fed up with being ripped off. Housing, transit and childcare are too expensive. We've got some of the highest bank, internet, cable and cellphone fees in the world. And we've got an ever-growing sector of urban workers who are self-employed, independent contract and part-time, with no pensions, benefits, job security or fall-back.
Toronto has had weak representation for too long. We are the engine of the Canadian economy and the cultural heartbeat of the nation. And yet "Toronto" is a dirty word in federal politics. We can change that by electing dynamic advocates who will fight for our city in Ottawa. Now, that's a good voting strategy.
Andrew Cash is the federal NDP candidate in Davenport