“You’re voting NDP? You’re wasting your vote!” How many times have you heard this before? What many voters don’t realize is that strategic voting does not advance the cause of left-leaning voters. It, in fact, hinders it.

Strategic voting is an invention of the Liberal Party public relations machine. During the 2000 federal election, Brian Tobin, running in a riding in Newfoundland, claimed he jumped back into federal politics to stop the Canadian Alliance, even though support for the Alliance was in the two-to-three per cent range in that province.

But what the Liberals refuse to tell voters is how the Liberal Party governed Canada for 70 years during the 20th century even though 15-20 per cent of Canadians during any given election from 1962-1992 voted NDP. With progressive voters voting Liberal to stop the “threat” of the Right, what you instead got was a weakened NDP and a Liberal government which was more conservative than Brian Mulroney.

On many occasions in Canadian electoral history when voters ignored strategic voting propaganda, Canadians elected more progressive governments. Some of Canada’s more socially important legislation was passed during the Lester B. Pearson minority government in 1963-68, Pierre Trudeau’s minority government years from 1972-74 and during David Peterson’s provincial minority government in Ontario from 1984-87.

In one area the Liberals are right. Voting NDP does reduce the Liberal Party’s share of the vote. But what gets them really scared is the idea of a minority government, forcing them to work with the NDP.

In many cases, strategic voting doesn’t help the Liberals vote out Conservative incumbents. In the 1999 Ontario election, many people bought into the Liberal argument and voted Liberal instead of NDP. What happened? The Tories were re-elected. Mike Harris’ re-election was based partly on his personal popularity and partly on the inability of Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty to convince the electorate that he was “up to the job.” Even if the NDP didn’t exist in Ontario, the Liberals would still have lost the election.

Now more than ever, since the amendment of the Canada Elections Act, every vote counts in a very real way. Canadian political parties are no longer allowed to raise money from corporations or unions. To make up for this loss of revenue, each party will be given $1.75 for each vote they receive. Each vote will help the NDP promote progressive issues that are important to Canadians.

Some left-leaning voters may argue that Paul Martin has begun to “adopt” NDP positions. Progressives have already noted how Martin has started to talk about the new agenda for the cities, and investing the federal surplus in health care which, he implies, gets rid of the need to vote NDP.

If Martin is actually listening to the NDP, that means a vote for the NDP keeps Martin accountable on issues that really pertain to Canadians — if he is still prime minister after this election. If Canadians were to elect 50 NDP MPs, this would triple the strength of the party, allowing for more questions and pressure on the prime minister to adopt NDP positions on a number of different issues.

Voting NDP is not a wasted vote, but an investment in your country’s future. A strong NDP presence in parliament, can keep the government in check. A truly national government would be a minority Liberal government working side by side with the NDP. This government would work towards creating a new housing program, standing up to the Republican administration of George W. Bush, reinvesting in health care and cities, and a number of other important measures that Canadians consistently say they want.