The 2015 General Election Will Be Decided by Game Theory

This is the most bizarre federal election in the history of Canada. Anyone who wants to accuse me of hyperbole should look at the polls showing the NDP leading in the polls first. It isn’t just that the NDP are transforming from their traditional role as perennial third place protest party, it’s that all of the parties seem to have drifted off from their traditional roles.

The NDP, the erstwhile political wing of public sector unions, is promising to balance the budget. The Liberals, who strung together the longest string of balanced budgets in living memory during their most recent stint in power, are now promising to run big deficits and are criticizing the NDP for promising austerity. That’s right, the party that hacked billions out of provincial health and education transfers to balance the budget during a recession is now criticizing the NDP for promoting austerity. Amongst all this, the Liberals put Paul Martin at a podium to tout the Liberals credentials for prudent fiscal management. So what if Justin Trudeau is advocating diametrically opposed fiscal policies than Paul Martin? As for the Conservatives, both other parties have been attacking them for running deficits. The Conservatives have responded by avoiding interviews and promising a tax credit for service club memberships.

I am someone who Conservatives would consider a target voter. I’m married, have two young children, I’ve worked in the private sector my entire life, and I was at one point in my life a member of the federal Progressive Conservative Party and the Conservative Party after that. I voted for Scott Brison in the PC leadership campaign and then voted for Stephen Harper in Conservative election when he ran against Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement. I still think he deserved to win that election, yet I won’t be voting for the Conservatives in the election.

That primary reason why I don’t plan on voting Conservative is that with the latest round of redistricting I am now in the district of Avalon, where the Conservatives are not even bothering to field a candidate after rejecting Ches Crosbie. That’s a pretty good reason not to vote Conservative. But even if there were a Conservative candidate to vote for, I would have a hard time voting for them after running all those deficits, the refusal to answer questions, and all the petty, cynical politics that were blatantly obvious even before the Duffy trial took a magnifying glass to it.

So if, like me, you are right leaning in your economic and fiscal views, what do you do? The Liberals did balance the books the last time they were in power, and Ralph Goodale, who was a key member of the those governments, would almost certainly be the finance minister should the Liberals form government, yet their leader is advocating the least fiscally conservative policies of all the candidates. I am asking myself if he is lying with all the talk of radically increased spending. Strangely, the more confident I am that he is lying, the more likely I will be to vote for him.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I have voted NDP in the past, not in the last election, but the one previous (I was out of the country during the last election and had not cast an advance ballot), but that was more a vote for local candidate, Jack Harris, than for the party. Jack Harris is as solid and centrist a candidate as you will find in the NDP, and at the time I knew there was no risk of my vote actually leading to an NDP government. With the recent redistricting, the NDP candidate is some person I have never heard of, and there is a chance that if I vote for the NDP that my vote could actually result in an NDP government.

Up until now, I would have never have considered voting for the NDP if I thought they could win, but I’ve recently read some stories about how Thomas Mulcair may not be as left wing as everyone thinks. I read one article about how he praised Margaret Thatcher, was in favour of privatization while in the Quebec government, and even that he considered joining the Conservatives before joining the NDP. These stories were all ostensibly critical of Mr. Mulcair, but it actually made me more likely to vote for his party.

I’ve always hated when politicians are blatantly lying to the electorate. It has always made me feel like they are insulting my intelligence. As much as that bothers me, I find myself in the strange position of trying to figure out who is the biggest liar so I can then vote for that person. Luckily I also have an independent candidate in my district, albeit one who was kicked out of his party after allegations of sexual harassment. If I am unable to determine who the least honest candidate is between now and October, I may end up just voting independent. I actually think we need more independent candidates, so even though the independent candidate has virtually no chance of winning, a stronger than expected showing may encourage independent candidates to run in the future. My head hurts just thinking about this election and there is still almost two months to go.

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