Canada’s Shifting Voter’s Map
In the last 50 years, 43 seats have been added to Parliament. None have gone to Quebec.
Over the course of the last 50 years, the distribution of power within Canada’s
political system has been shifting, slowly but surely, in favour of Ontario and the West. Since 1957, more than 43 seats have been added to the Canadian parliament. Of these, Quebec has received none. Rather, the entire increase in seats has been divided amongst three provinces: British Columbia (which received eight seats), Alberta (which received six seats), and Toronto/ Rural Ontario (which received 20 seats).
What most markedly characterizes this shift is that those provinces which have received seats are all characterized by strong Conservative and NDP voting blocs, whereas those ridings throughout the country that have lost seats or remained stagnant have been those that favoured conflict between almost exclusively between Conservative and Liberal candidates.
And it is worth considering that these trends, which are being driven by changes in the national census (and by population shifting), show no signs of slowing. Over the last two decades, immigration into Canada has increasingly centred on three major urban centres throughout the country: Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Of these three, however, only the former two have demonstrated a real capacity for retaining substantial portions of new immigrants over the long-term. Alberta, for its part, while not a first-choice for many new immigrants, has increasingly become the destination of choice expatriates from the Maritime Provinces and Quebec – migrants looking to benefit from low tax rates and a thirsty labour market.
Carry these patterns forward another decade, and the electoral map of Canada begins to look significantly different. Whereas previous elections have been characterized by conflicts between centrist parties within the battlegrounds of Quebec and Ontario, Canada’s new electoral map is increasingly being shaped by conflict between highly divergent ideologies in increasingly powerful Western provinces.
“What Happens Now?”
The Concordian’s “What if” guide for after the vote:
For his critics, the prospect of a Harper majority brings up images of another Mike Harris government. Harris, who led the Ontario Conservatives’ “Common Sense Revolution” in the late 1990s, oversaw a short but dramatic period of government, characterized by reductions in government services and taxes.
Yet for veteran journalist Paul Wells, Harper should be understood more in the mold of Mackenzie King – the moderate Liberal Prime Minister who governed Canada for 21 years in the first half of the twentieth century. Wells, a national affairs columnist for MacLean’s Magazine and the author of the definitive biography of Harper’s rise to power, has argued that his goal is not likely to be a short blitz of change, but rather a longer-term, slower shifting of the political goal-posts designed to allow the Conservatives to supplant the Liberals as the “natural governing party of Canada.”
As a consequence, Harper is widely expected to veer away from dramatic policy items throughout the term of any majority. Rather than outlawing abortion or slashing funding to Medicare or the CBC, Wells and other students of Harper’s legacy have suggested that his practice would be to eliminate those wasteful projects established under the Liberals – especially those like the Long Gun Registry or the Canadian Council for the Arts, which have been considered wasteful by some.
In the event that the Harper Tories are kept to a minority of seats in parliament, a number of interesting issues will arise before any government is actually formed. Although the New Democrats and the Liberals have already discussed the possibility of forming a government in the event that Harper cannot immediately form a government, with the Bloc looking likely to poll above 50 seats, it appears highly unlikely that either the Conservatives or any Liberal-NDP coalition would be able to reach the magic number of 155 seats. Consequently, the incumbent Conservatives, would almost necessarily be allowed the first attempt to form a government.
A more interesting scenario will likely arise if the Bloc receives over 50 seats. In that case, the separatist party would likely be poised to play Kingmaker to the next government – providing a plausible scenario in which Gilles Duceppe would (either formally or informally) sit as a member of the next government of Canada.
Hey, don’t say it’ll never happen. In Ontario in 1990, the government of Liberal Premier David Peterson was defeated by a massive groundswell of voters enraged after he called an early election – a mere three years into his mandate. Unwilling to reward the provincial Conservatives (who people saw as uninspiring), the voters turned instead to a protest vote in favour of the NDP. In a surprise upset, Bob Rae’s party was elected to a majority of seats and spent the next five years trying to pass as many of its policies as possible before being kicked out of office.
In the event that the NDP are able to sneak up the middle between the two parties, expect . . . well, expect the Formula 1 coming back to Montreal. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.
The hows, whens and whats of voting away from home
You must be 18 years old to vote, and you must live in the riding in which you will be voting.
If you are already a registered voter in your riding – well, good on ya!
If you’re not sure whether you’re registered, it’s too late to register ahead of time. Still, it’s not to late to vote. To vote today, you will need to do one of three things:
First, you will need to bring one piece of government identification with both your picture, name and address within the riding.
Failing that, you will need to bring in two pieces of identification recognized by Elections Canada – check their website www.elections.ca).
In the worst case, you can bring someone with you who is a registered elector in your riding – this person can sign an oath attesting to the fact that you reside in the riding.
If you are going to be working during the day, it is Canadian law that your employer must ensure that you have at least 3 hours off from work at some point during the time between the polls open and close in your riding. This does not mean they must give you a 3-hour break, but rather simply that they cannot employ you during the entire time that the polls are open for voting.