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Strategic voting in St. B

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A group calling themselves Catch 22 is looking to foment strategic voting in 40 ridings across Canada in a bid to oust Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. They appear to be a grassroots group of lefties and they’ve earned a little press since they launched their campaign late last week.

St. Boniface is among the group’s target ridings, the only one in Manitoba where they think strategic voting might work. It’s still a bit of a long-shot, though. In the 2008 election, Tory Shelly Glover upended Liberal MP Ray Simard by a pretty healthy margin. Simard could have squeaked a victory only if every single NDPer had abandoned their party and voted Liberal.

This election, the NDP has been pretty slow off the mark getting a candidate lined up in St. B, a surprise since it’s the premier’s riding provincially. That prompted some to wonder whether the NDP had been, ever so subtly, dragging their feet a little in St. B, hoping maybe Simard and the Grits would surge ahead. The NDP would love to defeat Glover, one of the most right-leaning and outspoken up-and-comers in the Tory minority government. We were chasing this idea last week, and it went nowhere. It’s more likely they were just having trouble getting candidates for long-shot ridings, which has been a problem this election. Sunday afternoon, the party finally nominated Patrice Miniely, a long-time NDP staffer, gay rights advocate and now law student.

In the age of Harper, talk of strategic voting is nothing new. It’s traditionally been particularly strong in Winnipeg South Centre, where lefties worry the Tories might actually defeat Liberal MP Anita Neville. Three elections back, I remember asking then-NDP candidate James Allum whether he feared his core support would bleed off to Neville. It didn’t, really.

Despite the talk, most voters don’t actually do the strategic voting thing. That’s always been my sense in speaking to voters and that was the upshot of an official analysis by Ottawa Citizen data guru Glen McGregor last election.

To be a successful strategic voter, you need an infallible sense which way the wind is blowing in a small riding. Take the Daniel McIntyre ward in the last civic election. I spoke to probably a dozen people who were unhappy with Coun. Harvey Smith but who didn’t know which of his main challengers – Liberal Cindy Gilroy-Price or NDPer Keith Bellamy – to throw their vote to. They didn’t know which of the two had the lead or the momentum or the E-day organisation, so they didn’t know which horse to back to defeat Smith. They kept asking me, and I didn’t know, either. So most people just picked their favourite, and, sure enough, Smith was re-elected. Strategic voting fails again.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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