So, I made my decision on Monday, and finalized the series of envelopes that will ultimately make absolutely no difference to the fate of my riding, but make me feel better for at least participating.
Oz Cole-Arnal (NDP)
I know I am going to take a fair bit of flak for voting NDP, but I think the decision was justified based on what I consider a reasonable analysis, so please read on before you flame me to my ultimate demise.
Green John Bithell didn't make the final three. While I have no particular gripe with the Green party, the continued green focus of the NDP, and 'Green Shift' of the Liberals give me two alternatives to access the key Green platform item. The rest of their platform is a grab-bag of ideas across the centre-left; clearly not a unified vision. The Greens are working hard to be taken seriously; they've had an MP, and their leader is finally in the debates. Still, I'm not ready to be a Green "early adopter" until at least one MP is elected and proves to be a force in the House of Commons. My particular candidate is a new nomination to the riding, has no serious qualifications to brag about, and has practically no personal platform information beyond his basic bio. He didn't even have a Facebook politician page. No communication - no vote.
So, down to the parties.
Conservatives are socially and fiscally the right of the spectrum - which puts them at odds with my other options (who pretty much all share the environmentalist centre-left at this point). This really leads to an "us vs. them" approach to just about everything, from their party politics to the media. Continuing the trend from 2006, the Conservatives' platform has consistently been less about their own policies as ridiculing the Liberals.
Despite an accountability platform in 2006, they're the least trustworthy of any party, for reasons I've already outlined, even in the very calling of the election! They've even earned the ire of two provincial governments though their broken promises to date. There's several deal breakers in their policies that have relied on their secrecy and disregard for accountability to proceed. The main ones - the latest IP treaties and copyright bills, directly affect my life even from the US! Plus, even where they've got positive campaign points, like anti-spam, they're areas that they've already provably failed from the past two years.
It also doesn't help that I am morally opposed to their social conservatism (right to life, anti-gay, etc) - it doesn't affect me personally at all, but I still can't support the party that actually tried (and failed, heh) to reopen the gay marriage debate.
On the plus side, their leader is tried and tested, and he's good at what he does. They're also the only party that is actually thinking about not lighting our economy on fire (though their success to date is a matter of opinion). Their social conservatism actually helps them out in getting tough on crime. They're the only party for whom the main sales point is something other than the environment. Finally, as much as I hate to bow to it, they're good because they're not the Liberals or NDP, who are next on my scorn list.
The Liberals are the 'natural' Canadian party, and what I would normally support in any sane election. However this time around, it's just bloody ridiculous! Their leader is incredibly uncharismatic. Instead of selling a reformed Liberal party willing to lead responsibly in times of economic uncertainty, they're selling a green shift (with a proposal of which many are dubious). This, combined with rampant spending I mentioned earlier. If I wanted a slew of new social programs, I'd go NDP, much like I'd go Green for a carbon tax.
It's a party that is ready neither for an election nor to lead. Given their inability to show the slightest backbone as opposition between 2006 and 2008, they don't even seem ready to be an opposition. They're the least vocal of the parties in the campaign, and haven't done anything to sell most people beyond trying to stave off the vicious Conservative offensive.
The NDP are basically socialists. Raise taxes, give them to some poor starving kid overseas. Or more likely, give it to the unionized workers who make up much of their base. Not pleasant at all if you like paying less taxes, or think that a high corporate tax rate will negatively affect your job. They've been focusing on green issues much longer than the Liberals, but with a more regulation heavy cap-and-trade approach.
Their leader: a veteran of campaigning, but not of leadership. Never a leader, nor even an official opposition. Still, Jack Layton is charismatic among his supporters, and at least has more support than Dion.
- Stephen Woodworth (CON)
- Strong educational background (practicing lawyer).
- Liberal candidate (1988), but hasn't otherwise run recently.
- Passable communication from website with press releases, though often focused on the party level. Local commentators have observed very little communication.
- Website has very little useful 'static' information. Focused almost exclusively as being a Conservative mouthpiece.
- Involvement in right-to-life groups.
- Karen Redman (LIB)
- Weak educational background (BA, a 'writer').
- Veteran of riding for 11 years, party whip, caucus member, leader of several private member's bills, and often involved in question period.
- Lack of online communication via her website or Facebook group. I got more info on her campaign from Woodworth's website!
- Passable static website information talking about her varied activities while holding her seat.
- Environmental issues, womans' issues, disability issues.
- Hefty religious involvement, but does not appear to play out in her political life.
- Oscar Cole-Arnal (NDP)
- Doctorate in European History! (my previous comments mocked his Masters in the New Testament, but when you add a pair of post-grad degrees on top of that, you've got my respect).
- Newcomer, replacing a better-known NDP candidate. Only been in Canada since 1975, and a citizen since 1986.
- Top communication by far. A blog, active Facebook group. Also lots of static information - I know exactly what his personal key issues are.
- Lots of support for 'redistribution of wealth'.
- Woman's issues, social justice. Meh.
- Regulation. Yay. Proportional representation. VERY yay! More transparency in Government, but in particular not negotiating trade deals in secret - with ACTA coming, this is absolutely essential.
- Extremely high level of religious involvement. Doesn't play out negatively like in the US, but one stil has to worry.
Analysis and Conclusion
My choice is Conservative, Liberal or NDP. None of the three have the perfect platform. However, while I enjoy the fact that the Conservatives are the only party that differentiates itself from the pack and isn't trying to raze the economy to buy voters, they have deal-breaker policies (eg. copyright) and a blatant disregard for their own accountability laws that would otherwise prevent such travesties from happening. Anyways, I just don't like their US "character assault" style of campaign. While their local candidate is educated, I don't have the information nor the trust to believe he'd do the right thing either.
But I have to look at reality. The conservatives will get the plurality, no matter what I say. The choice is only really of majority or minority, and who gets how many seats of opposition. So I must choose the party who will best defend my interests against the Conservatives, which is a very different question than who I want to lead.
In the end, it has to be the NDP. The Liberals were literally useless in the last parliament, meekly surrendering to every confidence vote. During the Liberal minority before it, the NDP were a major player, and bought several concessions for the budgets they voted for. The Liberals are basically a shattered party, which is no good for an opposition that needs to keep the Conservatives from doing evil things.
While I'd normally worry about the excessive spending of the NDP or their focus on the common worker over... well... me... as an opposition they are unlikely to cause these sorts of problems. Anyways, the Liberals seem so concerned with rebuilding their voter base that the NDP seem fiscally conservative in comparison. A party more amenable to government regulation may also prove useful, given the telco stranglehold on the country. For example, I think NDP would be a better defender of net neutrality and cell carrier abuses, which the Liberals enabled, and the Conservatives ultimately failed to defend when it counted.
But I can't lie, what ultimately sold me: Oz. I respect his extensive education. I enjoyed that I could read his policies, and follow his campaign online. Even when I was ambivalent or even against his policies, at least he was upfront and honest about them. Both him and Karen from the Liberals focused exclusively on what I'd call 'meh' issues that mean nothing to me, but the fact that Oz's communication was more personal and immediate from him blog gave me confidence that when an issue I do care about comes up, he'll be a stronger advocate for it.
Guess it's all marketing in the end. As is with the microcosm that is my riding, Jack Layton's message reached me best. So they get my vote.