The question has sparked bitter arguments on and offline in the final weeks ahead of the B.C. election.
Should progressive voters throw their support behind the BC NDP to beat the BC Liberals? Or should they back the BC Green Party?
Facebook, in particular, has become a site of heated arguments as progressive voters agonize over which party deserves their vote. Party supporters have exchanged insults and accusations, and explained historic reasons why they could never cast a ballot for the other side.
Tzeporah Berman, a prominent former campaigner with Greenpeace who now works as adjunct professor of York University, was recently attacked online for supporting the BC NDP to defeat the current Christy Clark government.
Misha Oak, a Green Party candidate in the 2014 Vancouver municipal election, made a sharply-worded appeal urging progressives to vote orange. Ben West, an environmentalist and climate advocate who has been outspoken on pipeline and energy issues, also urged a BC NDP vote. Right now, the BC Liberals are virtually tied with BC NDP, and are projected to possibly win another majority if the vote on the left is split. And with support running high this time around, the BC Green Party is expected to have a major impact on this year's election.
Meanwhile, environmental advocates David Suzuki and Elizabeth May have continued to steadfastly advocate for a BC Green vote, asking progressives to 'rise above' politics as usual.
Jillian Oliver, a spokesperson for the BC Green Party, said calls from environmentalists to vote NDP strategically were ultimately not helpful to democracy.
“There’s a lot of evidence to show that strategic voting doesn’t work. The evidence also shows that Andrew’s seat came from a Liberal cabinet minister,” she said. She said the Green Party also takes a lot of votes from the BC Liberals, and that many voters have been “inspired to come out [to the ballot box]” by Weaver.
“Andrew’s riding also had (among) the highest voter turnouts in the province, when he won," she said.
Although Weaver has been criticized for not clarifying whether he'd prefer to work with BC NDP or Liberals, Oliver wrote off the accusation as "spin" and said the Green Party would work with any party in order to further its platform.
She said the pressure on B.C. residents to vote strategically was not helpful for constituents who felt the Green Party was most reflective of their values.
"As Andrew says, if you don’t vote for what you want, you’re never going to get it,” she said.
Vote strategically? Or vote with your heart?
But some environmental activists have been vocal about voting BC NDP to prevent Premier Clark from winning another majority. Twyla Roscovich, a filmmaker and wild salmon advocate, made a two-minute film urging people to vote strategically. The viral video has now been viewed 456,000 times on Facebook, and has sparked major debate between BC Green Party and BC NDP supporters.
Roscovich said she made the film because she was motivated to see a change of government.
“It’s ironic because I’m very Green, myself,” she said. “I’m an environmental filmmaker doing films on keeping tankers and fish farms off the coast. It’s odd that some of the greenest people in B.C. are having to actively fight the Green Party because the votes for them is what is allowing the BC Liberals to get back in.”
Roscovich said she’s seen BC Green supporters attack her video as “NDP propaganda,” but insists no political party had any input on the video as she made it. Roscovich said the film was made with "zero budget," on her own dime and in her own spare time.
“I’ve had no communication with the NDP,” she said. “I hear so many people saying ‘vote with your heart.’ But I could just see a disaster shaping up….the system is set up for us to fail, so all the people who want environmentalism vote Green, but what they get is the opposite, which is a BC Liberal government. I wanted to educate some voters about that.”
Selecting party "brand" over candidates
“It makes me sad at the moment,” said Ben West, a Vancouver-based environmentalist and author and former deputy leader of the BC Green Party, of the argument over which party was best to implement change in this year's election.
“For me, it’s always been about policy, than partisan politics,” he said. West said he believes elections are “fundamentally a referendum on the current party in power,” and that the focus of BC NDP and BC Greens should be about Premier Christy Clark, rather than on undermining each other.
“From my perspective, it’s critical that we have a change right now," he said. "We’ve had the same government for quite awhile in this province, and it’s been taking us in the wrong direction for a number of reasons.”
West cited his main concerns as Premier Clark’s positions on major fossil fuel projects and apparent disregard for advice put forward by her own climate team. Under the Clark government, a number of major fossil fuel projects such as the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion have been approved in order to boost B.C.'s jobs and economy.
West said he’s anxious that some voters appear to be supporting a candidate based on party 'brand,' rather than looking deeply into what individual candidates stand for. He said each political party has a very wide range of candidates with different values, and that people should take time to carefully research the candidates in their riding before backing them based on a broad image presented by the party itself.
He said the arguments that BC NDP and BC Greens have had on social media were getting in the way of their common goal in the election.
“My biggest concern is that it feels to me that the BC Greens and BC NDP have spent way too much time focusing on each other, instead of on the fact that we need change,” he said.
Polls close today at 8 p.m.