Being strategic to me would be to make voting decisions today that have a longer term goal in mind. What most call "strategic voting" may superficially may feel like a consideration of the future, but I consider it to be short-term thinking. Even if you only take the specific vote in front of you, you are voting for someone you consider to be a lesser candidate which means that the best case scenario for your strategy is a bad outcome.
Lets look at what we have seen in recent decades to see what some of the failures caused by some of these strategies.
After the Progressive Conservatives were reduced to two seats in the 1993 general elections, those who consider themselves to be conservative in some aspect of their political beliefs tried to regroup. In the 1997 election the Reform and Progressive Conservative parties both ran, but of course under the antiquated First Past the Post electoral system they split votes from voters who might have more in common with either of those parties candidates than the candidate who won in their riding. As is also typical of this disruptive electoral system, the PC party had nearly as many votes as the Reform party, but only ended up with 1/3 of the seats.
Rather than working with people across parties and non-partisans who wanted to modernize the electoral system, some conservatives decided to create a "united alternative" movement to create an alternative to the Liberal party who has predominantly been the beneficiary of this disruptive electoral system. In the 2000 election the Reform party and some converts ran under the new name of the "Canadian Alliance", and they then progressed to what many consider to be a hostile takeover and eventual annexation of the federal Progressive Conservative party. By the 2004 election the PC party was gone, with only the renamed "Canadian Alliance" now using the title "Conservative Party of Canada" remaining.
You might ask: who cares? A party with "conservative" in the name, the Liberals and the NDP all existed prior to the 1993 election and do today. The problem is that much was lost within the conservative movement when the new coalition party was created. There are noises about creating yet another "united alternative" with the only difference being it is from those who consider themselves to be from the left. If we continue down this path, we will end up with Canada having a system as dysfunctional as that in the USA where fringe elements of society effectively define the two potential governing political parties where the vast majority of reasonable thinking moderates are ignored.
I consider the possibility of subjecting Canada to another "united alternative" movement to be worse than any electoral outcome. One has been bad enough for Canada, and we should be looking for ways to gain sanity in our politics -- not make an already bad situation worse.
I personally felt the loss within the restructuring of conservatism in Canada. I was not involved in politics until the 1990's while I at university. Friends had introduced me to the NDP and Liberals, but I didn't see anything of myself in those parties. I was introduced to the Green party by someone who articulated the vision of the German Green party, but in the Green Party I kept bumping up against what I felt were disenfranchised NDP supporters.
I became quite excited by the PC leadership race of David Orchard, and joined the PC party in 1998. Mr Orchard lost to Joe Clark who considered Mr Orchard and his supporters to be "tourists" in the party. I didn't support Mr. Clark, didn't feel welcome in the PC party, and put my political support back behind the Green Party. When I compared the 2000 platforms of the PC party under Clark and the Green Party there were enough similarities that I could easily have stayed with the PC party, an possibly even helped get a candidate elected in my riding.
What I saw in Clark's PC party, I see nearly the opposite in Harpers's "Conservative" party.
While there are many types of conservatism, and not all people who consider themselves conservative agree with each other, there are some core values that unite us. One is a belief that the government should not intrude on the private lives of its citizens. On those rare occasions when some intrusion is necessary to protect life and property that this be done with full independent court oversight to monitor the government (often in the form of the police) to keep those intrusions to the minimum that is absolutely necessary.
You can see the feelings about this type of policy with the multi-election campaign about the "wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry". The Harper government eventually ended the campaign (err... registry) and included requirements that the police destroy all records from the registry. This was one of those issues that could unite all types of conservatives, including those in urban settings who saw it as a "motherhood and apple pie" type issue that might not affect them, but just felt right. It was treating private information from law abiding citizens in a way that it felt accusatory of those citizens.
Unfortunately what the Harper government did from a policy point of view was a dishonest slight of hand. While the data from the long-gun registry was kept in Canada and only available to law enforcement agencies, we have the Harper government ramming through Bill C-51 which shares a much broader amount of citizen's private information across many more government departments and "law" enforcement agencies. Coupled with Harper's massive push to cave in on the Trans-pacific partnership (TPP), this boondoggle database about law abiding citizens can't even be guaranteed to be restricted to access regulated by Canadian law. Add in Harper's disastrous economic policies based on gut feelings rather than evidence stifling Canada's high-tech sector, and we can pretty much guarantee even our health information will be stored only in foreign databases.
While Harpercrits (Harper devotees) claim the TPP is a "trade" agreement, trying to argue that past benefits from free trade will apply, it is really a reckless untested policy harmonization treaty that was authored at the request of a very few special interests at the expensive of the economy and the interests of citizens as a whole.
I will not be the only conservative minded person who feels this way about Steven Harpers failed and in most respects anti-conservative policies. The problem is: under our current antiquated voting system, and with these big-tent parties ignoring the views of moderates, who are people to vote for? Harpercrits can still drum up fear of the Liberals to effectively get votes from people who strongly disagree with them, thus freeing Harper to do anything he want no matter how opposed it is to core conservative values.
While I held my nose and voted for David McGuinty in my current riding of Ottawa South, their vote on Bill C-51 reminded me of all the things that I've always hated about the Liberals. While Harper's big government manipulation of markets and intrusion in the private lives of law abiding citizens is out of place with a party calling themselves "Conservative", it is very consistent with the long-standing policies of the Liberal party. Bill C-51 is effectively the same intrusive thinking that went into the long-gun registry, only on massive amounts of steroids -- exponentially increased by the job, privacy and economy destroying TPP.
I still don't feel comfortable with the NDP on many levels (don't get me started about unions...), but under Tom Mulcair the party has shifted to the right a bit (some say they are to the right of the Liberals under Justin Trudeau). They have also come out more strongly in favour of modernizing our electoral system, repealing Bill C-51, and rejecting the TPP : three core policies for me that I consider to have far more longer term implications than any single election.
So, what does strategic look like to me? If the NDP were even on the map in Ottawa South, I -- a past member of the Progressive Conservative party -- would have voted NDP. Given this particular riding will be decided between the Liberals and the Harpercrits, I voted Green as there is no long-term strategically minded alternative to vote for.