Toronto Centre MP Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal, after speaking at the University of Alberta Faculty Club last week. Below: Eleanor Olszewski, nominated Liberal candidate in the federal Edmonton Strathcona riding; Linda Duncan, NDP MP for Edmonton Strathcona.

Last Wednesday night, during an engaging talk at the University of Alberta Faculty Club, Chrystia Freeland pretty clearly laid out the arguments for why voters in Edmonton Strathcona should re-elect New Democrat Linda Duncan in the next federal election.

The Toronto MP, who is one of the bright lights of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s caucus, wasn’t aiming to make that point, of course. Indeed, she was actually gamely making the argument to the more than 100 Liberals who spent two hours listening to her remarks why voters should elect Eleanor Olszewski, the Liberal Party of Canada’s standard-bearer in the riding.

As a native of Alberta – born in Peace River and raised here in Edmonton, where she was educated in public schools before attending Harvard and Oxford – Ms. Freeland is likely to be to play an important cabinet role if the Liberals manage to form a government. As such, it was bizarre no one from the local mainstream media could be bothered to show up to cover her remarks or even try to get a file photo.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about Ms. Freeland’s potential as I am, by the way. A scion of the Ukrainian-Canadian diaspora, she has been banned from Russia by President Vladimir Putin’s diktat, a retaliatory slight that must get up similarly hostile Harper Conservative noses, pretending, as they do, to be Ukraine’s only friends in Canada.

But at the risk of being mean (Ms. Freeland was certainly very nice to me, and kindly posed with me for a photograph), and also of offending my friends in both the Liberal Party and the NDP, the case she so articulately set out is in fact stronger if you replace Ms. Olszewski’s name with Ms. Duncan’s.

I imagine the recently elected Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre knows all this, although she was too loyal a Liberal to let on, having just won a hard fought by-election against New Democrat Linda McQuaig, who like Ms. Freeland is an author, journalist and high-profile and effective spokesperson for progressive Canadians. Both of them deserve to be in Parliament, but, alas, that’s not the way the system works here.

It’s important to all Canadians, Ms. Freeland emphasized to start, “not to have the Conservatives form the next government.” Agreed!

She excoriated the so-called Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as deeply sexist, profoundly out of touch with the values of Canadians, anti-science and not even able to live up to its No. 1 talking point, “that it is business oriented, business friendly or oriented to business.”

“It’s just not true,” she said, wondering what kind of a pro-business government wants to suppress science and ignore facts. She introduced a nice argument that the Harper Government’s hostility to science is in fact evidence of its lack of business acumen.

So, she argued, is its misunderstanding of the U.S. government and the psychology of President Barack Obama. Mr. Harper’s bizarre pronouncement that he won’t take no for an answer from Washington is not likely to be effective, she said, nor is his apparent notion he can exploit Alberta bitumen while ignoring the need for social consent in the United States or elsewhere.

“The fact that Keystone hasn’t been approved is directly the fault of this government,” Ms. Freeland stated. “Believing we have to choose between the oil industry and the environment totally misreads the situation,” she went on.

Whether or not you endorse the entire range of views expressed by Ms. Freeland, it’s hard for me to argue with her conclusions the Harper Conservatives suffer from “an arrogant sense of righteousness and entitlement” or that allowing them to continue to govern would be deeply harmful to Canada.

Which brings us back to Ms. Duncan and Ms. Olszewski. In Edmonton Strathcona, Ms. Duncan can win, while Ms. Olszewski cannot – although Ms. Olszewski very well could split the vote sufficiently to ensure a Conservative gets elected.

The arithmetic is pretty simple: if the Liberals do well in Edmonton Strathcona in 2016, the Conservatives will win in the riding, as they have many times in similar circumstances in the past.

If you are simply a party partisan, this doesn’t matter, I guess. For most of us, though, Ms. Freeland spoke a profound truth when she said of the Harperites that this is an election in which we simply “can’t let them continue to be our government.”

So this calls for a certain degree of strategic voting, as unpopular as that idea is bound to be with both Liberal and New Democrat true believers. But here too the electoral math is pretty clear: the more seats not held by Tories, the better off the country is.

I think Ms. Freeland’s late mother, Halyna Chomiak Freeland, might have agreed with this analysis. After all, she ran for the NDP in Edmonton Strathcona in 1988 and came pretty close to winning.

Regardless, Liberals should hold their noses and vote NDP in Edmonton Strathcona, for the very reasons Ms. Freeland ably enumerated.

New Democrats in some other ridings – including, I daresay, Toronto Centre – are going to have to return the favour.

The hard part for many progressive voters is going to be figuring out how and where to cast a strategic ballot – which is seldom completely clear.

It is clear in Edmonton Strathcona, though, and that requires a vote for Linda Duncan, whether it’s strategic or deeply partisan.

As Ms. Freeland rightly stated: “We cannot afford in this crucial year to split the progressive vote.”

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  1. Dear Dave,
    Love your blog. You’re right on this one: if Libs do well in Strathcona Linda Duncan will definitely lose. But I have a feeling Linda will survive in Strathcona as the voters there are somewhat practiced at the art of strategic voting.
    Ideally progressive voters need to be strategic in Strathcona and in Edmonton Centre, another potential pick up for a non-Conservative candidate, this time for the Liberals in the form of Randy Boissonault. After Lewis Cardinal’s unfortunate withdrawal the Liberal candidate, who is already nominated, might be best placed to win Anne Mcllelan’s old seat if the NDP cannot put forth a candidate of Cardinal’s stature. The sad thing is I can’t think of any other realistic pick-ups in Edmonton for the NDP or Liberals (maybe Griesbach for the NDP, but still not as promising as Strathcona).

  2. Too bad both liberal and ndp leadership have ordered there be no talk of cooperation candidates for the single purpose of getting rid of harper. This position was articulated clearly and repeatedly by Nathan Cullen as he ran for ndp leadershop and Joyce Murray in her run at the liberal leadership. Many Canadians joined these parties to vote for either of these candidates precisely because they were articulating a strategy to get rid of this hateful mp before he completely destroys Canada. I am glad this liberal mp is saying this, but without an official, open, transparent statement to Canadians that this is being done to save Canada, it won’t happen. It will be a hush hush campaign which harper will use against trudeau and mulcair once he catches wind of it. Both these parties should be ashamed of themselves for putting their own political fortunes before the very survival of our nation. Yes, it’s that grave.

  3. Down here, in lower Canada, even the kids are thinking about voting strategically. The kids I talk to are leaning towards supporting Trudeau, even though they realise he’s probably just another kinder, gentler type of corporate stooge. But ABC (anything but conservative – did I really have to spell it out?) seems to be prevalent here.

    And, as one kid pointed out, Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is Quebec’s version of Rob Anders 😉

  4. I agree that the priority is replacing current federal government. However, do not see this happening unless strong lib or nd candidates decline running against one another. I sent a note to that effect to Edm Strath Lib candidate, a woman, a lawyer…and have not received a reply… seriously??
    I appreciate that we all want someone to vote for (an explanation given to me many times by nd members) but what about the good of the whole.. It is wonderful to be right and wonderful to have one of our own to vote for. However, what is the priority? Sometimes we have to temper our ideology and beliefs with context. For example, union behaviour supporting workers can be bizarre when used against people who struggle as much or more than those they employ. It’s a good time to check our own values and behaviour when supporting political causes. Perhaps even open up to a new idea.

  5. Vote split is just fine with me. Bring back Rahim Jaffer. Time for the continuation of some true conservative government in Canada, which guarantees our success as a nation.

    1. Great idea! The more the electorate at large sees of Rahim, the less likely they’ll ever vote Tory again.

  6. Linda Duncan would make a great Minister of Environment in any government. Trudeau and Mulcair should both get behind electoral reform. No outside money and some form of proportional representation.

    1. Proportional representation is a wonderful idea many politicians embrace when in opposition. Once in power they suddenly discover that “first past the post” doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.

  7. David:

    You are right. There are many potential winnable ridings in Edmonton for progressives. You folks need to sort this out. And maybe a 1CalgaryVote approach. Food for thought. If sort out ridings between NDP and LPC, both can win more ridings. The math is quite simple.

  8. Edmonton-Strathcona is one of the few places in Alberta where strategic voting has made sense in the past. That said, I have a very difficult time seeing the Liberals not doing better in 2015 than they did in 2011. The Liberals completely abandoned Strathcona in the last election, nominating a last minute candidate who earned a tiny 2.8% of the vote (which may have been that party’s worst showing across Canada). The sheer appeal of Justin Trudeau is worth at least 10-15% in that riding (I am getting ahead of the curve and coining the phenomenon as “the Devine Right of Trudeau”).

    But in all seriousness, the Liberal Party’s rise in the polls and a candidate nominated more than a year from the election must be able to get more than 2.8%. This is why I predict that Linda Duncan is in trouble, not from a Liberal defeat, but from a Conservative win due to the vote splitting Ms. Freeland is warning against.

    “Divine Right of Trudeau,” remember where you read it first!

  9. I’m not surprised you were as impressed with Ms. Freeland as I was; wow, she is simply outstanding and will make a wonderful senior minister in a Liberal government.

    I can’t agree, though, about your assessment of the Edmonton Strathcona riding. I’m not even sure that Ms. Duncan will run again. What I do know, is that any thoughts that she would be a leading light within the NDs seem to have dissipated. She is the only ND (or member of the opposition) from Alberta, and I would have expected her to have very high visibility to the country. Instead, all I can recall from Ms. Duncan is her proposal for a hockey holiday. She has been eclipsed by Ms. Leslie (who took her expected Environment critic’s role) and a plethora of other highly visible NDs.

    Ms. Olszewski has really impressed me so far, and I believe she has the potential to be a strong voice for Alberta. Until we see whether Ms. Duncan chooses to run again, I suspect we shouldn’t be firming up our voting strategies for this or other ridings.

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