There are numerous ways to break down this tightly contested race between Peggy Nash and Gerard Kennedy. While I believe that we desperately need to reform our electoral system if we want to revitalize our democracy, given what we have to work with, we should first focus on the strengths of the First Past the Post system to mitigate its inherent unfairness. An obvious strength of the FPTP system is that it allows voters to establish a direct and local connection with their elected representatives. In the FPTP system, each voter really is asked to evaluate the candidates running in the riding and choose from among those the one that will best represent and defend his/her interests. For PHP, in a head to head comparison, Peggy Nash is the clear and superior choice for most voters, particularly progressive voters.
Peggy Nash is the incumbent who, with MPP Cheri DiNovo, helps make this one of the best represented ridings I can think of. Peggy Nash has served this riding admirably and her hard work and commitment are unrivaled. Nash has deep roots in the riding, is very well respected and liked, and is well worthy of re-election. She is a bona fide advocate for small business,the arts, workers, and the poor alike. Her life and career prove that. Progressives and anti-poverty activists surely will find their interests better reflected in Peggy Nash.
Gerard Kennedy, on the other hand, may have provincial political experience, but he has never represented the riding at a federal level. He doesn’t live in the riding, nor has he served the riding in any official capacity for well over two years. Although he was quite popular when he served as MPP, it may have been a little presumptuous to expect to return unabated after having abandoned the riding the way he did. Moreover, the title of kingmaker seems to have lost some of the sheen, owing to the fact that Kennedy, by ensuring that Dion would become leader of the LPC, may be seen as partly responsible for the mess in which the Liberal Party currently finds itself. All resulting in what surely looks like an unchallenged road to either a large minority or a small majority government for Stephen Harper.
Still, a perennial flaw of the FPTP system is “strategic voting”. “A vote for the NDP is a vote for Harper” say the Liberals around here. No, a vote for the NDP is a vote for the best candidate AND a vote for the only party that stood consistently and vehemently against Harper. It was in fact the Liberals who essentially allowed the Harper Conservatives to govern as a majority government during the last parliamentary session. It is the Liberals who, because of infighting, backstabbing, holding grudges, choosing the wrong leader and policies, have turned this election into a virtual lock for the Conservatives, with the only race being for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Thus, if we’re really going to be “strategic” (i.e. vote to attenuate the dangers of a Harper Conservative government), the call across the land actually should be to vote NDP. Who can doubt that Jack Layton and the NDP as official opposition would be more effective against Harper than Dion and the squabbling Liberals? Why reward the Liberals for their incompetency? Why not give Jack Layton and a united NDP caucus the responsibilities attached to the Official Opposition? Liberals and Conservatives are already complicit on some many fronts. Let’s not perpetuate that in our parliament, where the role of opposition is as fundamental as governing.