Maybe my partisan ideals have faded with a little age and experience, but I am now firmly in the Anyone But Harper camp, and am greatly relieved to hear that the NDP has tentatively opened the door to working in coalition with the Liberals after the election. Of course, Jack Layton is still pretending that he actually has a chance of becoming Prime Minister, and I am not sure if that strikes me as hope or hubris. Either way, it's a relief to see the NDP aiming their criticism at the Harper Conservatives, after a lacklustre couple of years in opposition, where they spent a lot of time attacking the Liberals who they so clearly seek to unseat as the official opposition.
There are a lot of NDP stalwarts on this blog, and as a queer activist I am not unsympathetic to their enthusiasm. I just think it's dangerous to give the NDP a free pass for their transgressions in the last session of Parliament and to encourage people to vote NDP, whether or not the NDP candidate in their riding stands a chance in hell of being elected.
Don't get me wrong, I am no Liberal supporter. I certainly agree that the Liberals' economic policies while they were in power were more conservative than the free-trade-loving Mulroney government. The Liberals signed NAFTA and tried to sneak other atrocious agreements like the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) past us, which thankfully, activists were able to reveal and push back against. The Liberals fought the queer community for many years in court on every issue we brought forward, from adoption rights to pension benefits to gay marriage.
But the reality is that they don't come from the same bible-thumping, choice-denying, women-should-be-in-the-kitchen roots as the Harper Conservatives. And though the NDP tried to paint the two parties as indistinguishable in the last election, the reality is that the Liberals are not intent on restricting a woman's right to choose or axing cultural programs that don't meet their ideological agenda.
Over at xtra.ca, the editorial board of Pink Triangle Press has taken a firm Anyone But Harper stance. In a special insert in the Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver editions of the paper, they re-printed Marci McDonald's article from a 2006 issue of Walrus Magazine, Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons:The rising clout of Canada's religious right. Editor Gareth Kirkby wrote a column actively encouraging queers to engage in strategic voting, writing:
We shouldn't just pick a party and support it across the country: that won't work everywhere. Instead, do what you need to do to stop the Conservative candidate in your riding. In the final week of the election, figure out who has the best chance to stop the Conservative candidate. If the Liberal is leading the NDP candidate in your riding, vote Liberal. And vice versa. Ignore the Greens. Forget party loyalty. Settle for second- or even third-best if you have to. Aim for a Liberal minority government supported by the NDP. Or a Conservative minority with enough NDPers to force an agenda on them. Make a decision based on polling in your riding. Stop the Conservative bastards while you still can.
Although, I have no doubt that this argument will raise the ire of the NDP diehards on this blog, I find it hard to disagree with Kirkby. Elections are a time for pragmatism, not ideological purism. The most important work happens after a election is over. That's when we can lobby our representatives and hit the streets to keep them to the promises they made on the campaign trail. But our protests will have little impact if we are forced to contend with a Harper majority.
I know lots of NDPers who think it would be a bigger victory in the long run if the Conservatives won a majority in this election, with the NDP as the official opposition and the Liberals wiped out. For the queer community, this would be an unmitigated disaster - a Pyrrhic partisan victory for the NDP that would roll back or wipe out all of the many victories that women and the LGBT community have won over the years. This is not to mention the havoc that a Harper majority would wreak over social programs, immigration policies, security measures and Canadian culture.
I leave it to readers to determine how to best use your votes. You can even swap them if you think that will help. But do what you can to stop Harper, before it's too late.