Samara By Heather Bastedo 29 March 2011

With 675,00 respondents and counting, kudos to the folks at Vote Compass for creating a way to get Canadians talking politics.

Although some have quibbled with various elements of the tool (Vote Compass explains some of this on their FAQ), it’s still a highly engaging and usable tool, quibble though we might about oddly phrased questions or ill-calibrated responses.

Beyond methodology, however, Vote Compass revealed a few other gaps that we might include in a campaign discussion. We’ll list them below, and hope you’ll add your two cents, or note anything we missed, below.

First, aren’t we missing a party? For a country that prides itself for escaping the worst of the economic crisis, while leading the world in progressive social policies (e.g., gay marriage), there was a conspicuous absence in the top right-hand corner of the grid where such a party would sit.  All parties but the CPC clustered together on the left-hand side of the page, and the CPC occupied the bottom right-hand corner.  Have the parties all truly abandoned that part of the mushy-middle? Don’t any voters sit there anymore?  Maybe Andrew Coyne was onto something when he made a plea for a new political party. Que pensez-vous?

Second, do MPs matter? It’s well known that most Canadians vote based on party or party leader, but that’s not the case for everyone. Many Canadians (hi Mom!) remain attached to the idea of local representation. But there is no reference to this factor on the compass. So we wonder… are local candidates capable of making you change your mind? Do local campaigns and candidates matter?  What makes a local candidate stand out? Would you ever vote for a local candidate whose party you didn’t support?

Third, where’s the beef on democracy? For an election triggered — and an early campaign dominated — by questions of Parliament (contempt, coalition), besides the (probably unrealistic) question on abolishing the Senate, why was there so few questions on how we might enhance the state of democratic affairs. There may be an opportunity for a party to contribute some much needed ideas here. Any suggestions?

Fourth, were there missing issues? Like all tools that measure things, something gets left out. If you’ve taken it, no doubt you felt annoyed if the question options that were in the party platforms didn’t fit your preferences, or if an issue you really cared about was missing from the list. If there was something missing you wished had been asked (for us, see question above!), please add them below.

Of course, no tool (or party leader for that matter) is going to tell you how to vote.  As Susan Delacourt wrote in her great “lessons learned from past campaigns” blog post, the politicians don’t decide the elusive “ballot question.” The voters do.

On that note, thanks to the Vote Compass for giving us an excuse to talk about this stuff. We welcome everyone’s comments on the questions above, either here, via our Facebook page or through @samaracda on Twitter.