Rob Ford

The pros and cons of voting strategically in Toronto's municipal election

With the release of a new poll showing George Smitherman ahead of Rob Ford in a two-way race, and with Sarah Thomson dropping out and backing Smitherman, I've been forced to start confronting a question I've struggled with since last year: Who will I vote for?

I've avoided the question hoping that one of the candidates would surprise me in the last moment -- but to this day no one has done so. So in my indecisiveness, I've persisted in talking and debating the only point I'm sure of -- that I didn't like Ford. Most other people I know seemed to do the same.

An interesting article by Nabeel Ahmed, which recently appeared in Spacing, rightly said the media's fascination with Ford helps raise his profile and pushes his competitors out of the spotlight. What Ahmed didn't mention, however, is that the media's take on Ford is a reflection of human nature itself. There are just some people we love to hate.

Admittedly, I take a fair share of pleasure from disliking Ford. He's been the subject of many interesting (and very entertaining) conversations and has added drama to what would've otherwise been a dull race.

But with the campaign getting down to the wire it's not so easy to laugh. I'm also seeing more clearly that my bashing of Ford, whether on this website or in my personal life, has probably done more to help than hurt him.

It might be time to start supporting someone, though this raises a serious question for me and others in my position: do we just suck it up and vote for whoever has the best chance of beating the candidate we don't like? Or do we stick to our principals and only vote for the candidate who truly inspires us?

Unfortunately, following the second choice would mean rarely or never voting. It would also mean I'd have to disengage from the political process whenever it didn't reflect my exact needs.

It could be said that casting the wrong strategic vote is worse than casting the wrong honest vote. If your strategic choice turns out badly -- particularly if you didn't fully support the candidate in the first place, you might feel especially responsible. The wrong honest vote, on the other hand, is done from the heart and can't be blamed on an irresponsible gamble.

Despite this, I think it's important to take the risk. It's better than backing off and letting others make decisions for you. Though ideology will play a role in my decision (it would be hard for me to back a staunch conservative in general), I'm mostly concerned that Ford lacks the competence and leadership skills to run a city as complex as Toronto. Not only are his numbers are often wrong -- one small example being the Jarvis bike lanes that he said cost $6 million while the real price tag was closer to $60,000 -- but his track record shows no serious accomplishments over his ten years on council (although, I'll admit a Ford supporter might disagree with that last evaluation).

I, of course, am not the first person to decide to cast a strategic vote. But, as it stands now, I suspect that this will be one of those elections that's decided by whether or not a significant portion of other voters choose to do the same.

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