[Editor’s note: David Beers is The Tyee's founding editor. The columns he writes for these pages during the election are his own views and not the editorial position of The Tyee.]
Federal candidates with no hope of winning (and by now you know who you are):
You have one week to do the right thing. Withdraw your nomination. Get out of the race. Remove your name from the ballot.
Leave the field clear for anyone but a Harper Conservative to become the next MP in your riding.
Will you agree to do so? Will you take the (let's call it) Canada First Pledge? It is this:
THE CANADA FIRST PLEDGE
I (candidate's name goes here), being of sound mind, pledge to withdraw my nomination by the legal deadline (5 p.m. local time on Sept. 28), should I be in possession of internal polling that shows I am 15 points or more behind in my riding, in order to prevent vote splitting that helps Stephen Harper's Conservatives stay in power.
Voters who can't stomach the thought of another Harper government:
You have one week to demand that each candidate in your riding take the Canada First Pledge.
Do not delay. Cut, paste and send the above pledge to every candidate in your riding and demand they sign on and promise to withdraw if they know they are so far behind they can only play the spoiler.
It is what every tanking candidate owes you, assuming you are among the majority of Canadians who are fed up with a near decade of Conservative rule made possible only by vote splitting.
If you accept the premise of strategic voting this is the obvious next step. Call it strategic withdrawal. Both tactics are all about avoiding wasting anti-Harper votes on doomed candidates.
Strategic voting asks you to guess which candidate in your riding has the best chance of beating the local Tory, and cast a ballot for that person. The risk with this, of course, is that your vote is only as strategically effective as the information it's based upon is accurate. How can you be sure? The results of the last election aren't a solid guide. Candidates, issues, even the riding borders have changed since then. And the big national pollsters just don't survey enough people to be able to reliably tell you, in your own riding, which candidates are edging out others.
You know who do know, though? The candidates. Their internal polling is riding specific and granular, based on a big enough sample to be accurate, likely, to within a margin of error less than four or five points.
This is certain: the candidates who know they are going to lose big know it by now. They have seen the numbers. They are just running out the clock, their campaigns little more than vanity exercises for their national parties.
In most any other election, that would be fine. Let the chips fall where they may. Build the brand for another day. But this is no ordinary election. It's a three-way race too close to call. A candidate pulling just a small fraction of the vote -- 12 per cent or six or even three per cent -- can easily if inadvertently torpedo the chances of the top non-Conservative candidate.
Courage to quit
So let me say it again. While it might be hard for strategic voters to predict who will win in any riding, the weakest candidates already know who they are, and must live with their consciences on Oct. 20.
They can respond to the most evident higher calling this election. The opportunity to put an end to the Conservatives' reign of abuse of power. And to open the way for proportional representation that will give their party the fairest chance to represent citizens in elections to come.
Every candidate who says you are running to prevent another Harper government: show you mean it by taking the Canada First Pledge.
And every candidate whose internal numbers put you way behind: Honour the pledge. Sacrifice your ego for the greater good. Don't just say you put Canada first. Do it.