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Climate website urges vote against Conservatives in close ridings

The people behind a new website hope Canadians will vote for the environment this year by voting against the Conservatives.

The Vancouver-based Vote for Climate website aims to reduce vote splitting among so-called "climate-friendly" parties.

"We think a lot of Canadians agree that climate change is the number one issue of our time," said spokesperson Kevin Washbrook, who is also involved with the group Voters Taking Action for Climate Change.

"If we're not careful, we're going to elect a majority Conservative government and it won't be on purpose. It will be because we split our votes amongst all other parties that say they want to take action on climate change."

Washbrook said every major party but the Conservatives has plans to tackle climate change. But the best pragmatic outcome for the environment, he argued, would be a Liberal minority government.

And so the website identifies 80 close ridings that came down to a vote spread of less than eight per cent in the 2006 election, targeting the 34 ridings where a Conservative candidate won.

"In many cases the difference between the first and second place finisher is less than what went to the Green Party," Washbrook said. "It doesn't take a lot of people in these ridings to make a difference."

Take the Surrey riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, for example. In 2006, Nina Grewal won it by 828 votes over Liberal candidate Brenda Locke, less than two per cent of all ballots cast.

"We encourage constituents in Fleetwood-Port Kells who are concerned about global warming to come together to identify a candidate from the Liberals or NDP," the website urges.

Washbrook said he wants the site to act as a hub for people in similarly close ridings.

"Obviously there are a lot of people who are serious party loyalists and they're not going to be into this," he said. "Those aren't the kind of people we're trying to talk to. The people we're trying to reach are the pragmatic voters who aren't tied to any one party, who are really concerned about climate change."

But Green Party deputy leader Adriane Carr said she rejects the website's mission.

"They don't work," Carr said. "People keep getting the least worse of the alternatives but they don't get the best."

Voters who are serious about climate change should send a signal by voting Green, Carr argued.

"I think the Green vote is the only clear strategic vote for the climate," she said.

UBC political science professor Allan Tupper questions the impetus placed on strategic voting.

"You hear a lot about it," Tupper said. "But it's very difficult to figure out how many people really do it."

As for Washbrook, the Vancouver-Quadra riding resident still plans on shifting his own vote.

"I'm voting for [Liberal MP] Joyce Murray," he said. "She only won by 151 votes and I sure don't want the Conservative candidate in power."

Irwin Loy reports for 24 hours.

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