THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
After all of the ballots have been counted within the current Canadian federal election, was anybody stunned that Gudie Hutchings, incumbent Liberal MP within the district of Lengthy Vary Mountains, Newfoundland and Labrador, had been re-elected?
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
In any case, western Newfoundland has been a Liberal stronghold because the days of Joey Smallwood. Nonetheless, Hutchings has turn into one thing of an endangered species: a rural Liberal MP.
In 2021, the Liberal caucus was completely city, its members drawn by the dozen from Canada’s largest cities. By land space, absolutely 87 per cent of ridings the Liberals received in 2021 may match comfortably throughout the borders of Hutchings’ Switzerland-sized constituency.
In a paper quickly to be revealed within the Canadian Journal of Political Science, we examine how help for the key political events has been concentrated in city or rural areas by means of time. Our first step was to develop a approach to persistently rating every of Canada’s greater than 4,000 historic federal electoral districts on an urban-rural scale. We then use this new measure to discover when the key events developed city or rural vote-share benefits.
(Jack Lucas and Zack Taylor)
What did we discover? A steadily widening urban-rural divide in help for the Liberals and Conservatives because the early Nineteen Nineties.
An extended historic view reveals that whereas smaller gaps emerged between the 2 events within the Twenties and once more within the Sixties and ’70s, the urban-rural hole between the 2 events was higher within the 2019 and 2021 elections than at any level in Canada’s historical past.
After the Progressive Conservatives joined with the Canadian Alliance in 2003, the brand new Conservative Celebration inherited the Reform-Alliance rural base. Except for 2011, when the Conservative Celebration picked up extra city seats across the higher Toronto space, the divide solely expanded.
The Liberals, not the NDP, are the city celebration
Consider the New Democratic Celebration right this moment, and chances are you’ll conjure a picture of a “downtowner” celebration rooted within the latte and laptop computer crowd. However this picture is wrong: the NDP has by no means been a distinctively city celebration in Canada.
It is because the celebration has repeatedly held seats in rural useful resource trade communities in locations like northern Ontario and the B.C. Inside, balancing out its seats in giant city centres. The truth is, NDP help was most city within the distant days of the early Sixties, when its seats have been concentrated in labour-friendly communities in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Toronto.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The Liberal celebration, not the NDP, is Canada’s unequivocally city celebration, and it has been for a very long time.
In brief, our analysis reveals that the urban-rural divide in help for Canada’s main events has been round for generations, however has dramatically intensified over the previous 25 years. The urban-rural divide predicts election outcomes extra strongly right this moment than at any earlier level in our historical past.
That is worrisome for a number of causes. As events turn into durably uncompetitive on every others’ turf, they lose contact with the issues of great parts of the inhabitants. Recruitment of gifted candidates who’re related to native communities turns into tougher.
The portion of every celebration’s caucus that comes from protected seats will increase. Because the events more and more symbolize totally different social and financial worlds and converse totally different coverage languages, conflicts will solely turn into extra entrenched.
American-style polarization forward?
Whereas the causes of urban-rural polarization are doubtless totally different south of the border, america’ extremely conflict-ridden politics symbolize a attainable future for Canada.
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Then again, historical past reveals that change is feasible. After a long time of Liberal dominance, John Diefenbaker assembled a brand new majority coalition of Conservative supporters in 1958 that differed from earlier than. He mixed rural Prairie ridings that had beforehand supported the Progressive Conservative and Social Credit score events and rural Québec ridings that historically voted Liberal with new city help in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montréal.
Brian Mulroney did the identical in 1984. And never so way back, Stephen Harper and Jack Layton managed to briefly disrupt the development towards the urban-rural polarization we establish — Harper pushed into city areas whereas Layton had shocking victories in rural Québec.
Deprived events all the time have an incentive to reconfigure the enjoying area by creatively constructing unanticipated coalitions. However the chief who succeeds in disrupting the established order should overcome a robust long-term development within the different path.
Zack Taylor receives funding from the Social Science and Humanities Analysis Council of Canada.
Jack Lucas receives funding from SSHRC.