Those considering voting strategically please consider the following.
This applies to anyone interested in a more left government.
First, the anti Harper vote is strong. It is unlikely that the Harper government can come back with a governing strength unless the Liberals tank. If the Liberals tank, the NDP is in play for government and is a legitimate option to defeat Harper. But that is unlikely to happen.
If the NDP is so far down that you think it might not be worth voting for, the Liberals will be strong enough to keep Harper out of office. And there is more to consider than who governs.
I am not going to say the Liberals cannot be better than the Conservatives or that they cannot do some "progressive" policies (for want of a better word). I am not saying the NDP cannot disapoint either. These are not the cases I am making. Consider what happened in 1993 and think about why.
That year we threw out the PCs and replaced them with a parliament that had a strong Liberal majority that faced a Reform opposition (the BQ running only in Quebec did not count as a threat to government). The NDP lost party status and its popular vote fell to the single digits.
What followed was a right of centre Liberal government that came in on a wave of soon-to-be-broken promises. The Liberals for the next decade governed with the Reform and then the Conservatives as their main threat to government. The NDP remained a weak force in parliament for a decade. We lived through the most right wing Liberal government in memory. The NDP recovery was slow.
By 2005, the NDP not only had the balance of power (before losing it late that year), it represented a threat to the Liberals. Martin, a right of centre Liberal, brought in progressive policies his more left Liberal predecessor saw no need to consider. It was not just because the NDP made them, but because the Liberals once again saw the NDP as a threat.
Now consider 2015. We see Trudeau has proposed a number of progressive policies. Trudeau did so because he was running against the NDP. The NDP has blown the campaign to win, but it still has a major role for those who do not want to see "Harper" policies.
If the NDP fades further and becomes less of a future threat, the Liberals will govern in fear of the Conservatives and a look at the 1995 budget should tell you what that looks like. But if the NDP remains a threat, the Liberals will think twice. Even if we are resigned to get a Liberal government, what kind of government we get will be determined by how strong the NDP is in this election. Seats matter, but so do votes.
By this, do not worry about FPTP -- it will not matter as much as you think. The popular vote will matter. If the NDP popular vote craters, the Liberals will shift sharply to the right and the benefit of dumping Harper will be gone -- the policies will not change much. If it holds up -- even if the seat count is disappointing -- the Liberals will govern, aware that the NDP remains a threat and is one election away from competing for government again.
A vote for the NDP will not be a wasted vote in any riding if you consider that a government operates based on who it fears.
It also will matter if you want the NDP to be a force in the next election rather than sit out the next decade.
I think the NDP itself is at fault for much of what has gone wrong in this campaign but people will have to account for that. But if you want to avoid Harper policies -- be they brought in by Harper or by Trudeau in fear of a Conservative opposition -- then you should seriously consider having your vote count for the NDP.
Another factor to consider is the NDP platform. While the NDP campaign is worthy of rejection, the platform contains elements that it would be dangerous to see defeated in a devastating way. Some NDP reasonable support is required in defence of some of those policies as the next government will consider a defeat for the NDP to be a desire by the population not to attempt such policies.
Most seats will not be close -- I get that there may be a few, very few, cases to make to vote for a Liberal to keep out a Conservative. There may be less than ten seats where this is really practical. But for everyone else, recognize how millions of NDP votes will be regarded by a government who knows it will have to fight a new election in four years if it has a majority, or possibly much less time in case of a minority.
The one thing you can count on is the dynamic a large NDP caucus has on the Liberals. It pushes them to the left. A small NDP caucus pushes the Liberals to the right. No matter how angry you may be with the NDP in this campaign, do not forget that fact.
There is a value in voting NDP, even in the most hopeless of ridings.
If there are few other reasons to vote NDP now -- these may still remain very compelling.