"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

post-election postings part II
Rural vs. Urban split or Red Deer's last ride
First, a few notes before we get to the meat of this latest installment in our post election postings.
It's nice to see some traffic on the site and especially some comments, I guess the relentless blogwhoring is starting to pay off. Just don't make me stand out on the corner in something tight offering to analyse anyone's campaign for $50 -- I think the generally hilarious Scott Feschuk may have that gig sewn up in the near future given the fate of his boss.
To those who misunderstood my previous post and thought I was blaming the NDP for the Tory victory -- I'm not blaming them for this one, (though in a few ridings it did happen)I'm suggesting if their current surge is part of a longer trend of progressives leaving the Liberals for the NDP, they will be to blame for the next Conservative victory. For the record, I like the NDP and consider them to be the conscience of Parliament, but I don't think they will form a government in my lifetime even if Tommy Douglas comes back from the dead to lead them. (Well, okay maybe then - and I for one would welcome our new socialist zombie overlords)

Nope, 'twas not the progressive split that killed the Liberals, 'twas the rural/urban split.

Take a look at the results and you see that the Conservatives won almost all their seats in rural and suburban ridings. The only major cities they got elected in were Calgary and Edmonton, winning every seat in Alberta and 48 of 56 across the praries. Anyone else having a red state-blue state flashback? The Conservatives did not win a single seat in the country's three largest cities and with the exception the aforementioned Texas North urban centres didn't do so well in any large or medium-sized city. The catch is that in the name of regional equality, rural residents have disproportionate representation in the House of Commons. The populations in rural ridings tend to be a bit smaller than in urban ridings. A few minutes looking at riding statistic on CBC indicates that urban ridings run about 110,000 to 120,000 residents, while rural ridings tend to have 100,000 (or less) to 110,000 residents. Urban ridings also have a far larger percentage of single voter households and thus more voters.

A quick look at stats canada and the CBC's information on ridings confirms what I know from living in small Ontario towns for most of the 90s - small towns tend to have fewer immigrants, people tend to be older and less educated on average than in cities and while incomes tend to be lower, people are more likely to own a home than rent. Church tends to be more popular, cultural opportunities more limited etc etc etc. I'm not saying everyone who lives in cities of less than a million is a hick or anything like that, and I've met plenty of urban yahoos, but on the whole rural folks are more likely to fit the profile of a traditional social conservative while urbanites tend to be more likely to fit the progressive template. And yes I know these are sweeping generalizations, but they are statistically supportable, so try to contain your sputting outrage all you rural hippies and citified rednecks.

I spent 8 years covering rural and small town politics for a string of small newspapers. I've been to more committee meetings presided over by hyper-conservative small town tyrants than I care to remember. When small town politicians are Liberal, it is usually in name only. The people who get into politics in small towns tend to be social conservatives who are either professionals or small businessmen (especially real estate developers) who want to make sure "outsiders" don't tell them how to run their town. That isn't to say there aren't good people in rural municipal politics, one can be conservative without being evil, but by and large there are not a lot of progressive people successful in rural politics. The exception that proofs the rule being NDP MPs in mining towns and places with strong union traditions such as Winnepeg.

Now having shown that rural Canada is slightly overrepresented and that rural Canadians tend to be more conservative than liberal, is it any wonder that I can conclude it was the rural vote that put Harper over the top?

The good news is that half of Canadians now live in large cities and the proportion is growing rapidly. A redrawing of electoral boundaries will reflect this in future elections and Mike from Canmore will soon lose some of his clout to Mario from North York and Ngyen from Vancouver.

next up - the election was a lot closer than you think

No comments: