Thanks to the strong population growth in western and suburban Canada recorded in the 2011 Census, the Conservatives stand to benefit most from the upcoming redistribution of seats in the House of Commons.
Of the 30 seats expected to be added to the electoral map before the 2015 election, the Conservatives stand a decent chance of capturing almost all of them outside of Quebec.
But this is no accident or the result of some Conservative conspiracy. Over the last few years, Stephen Harper’s party has diligently and successfully courted suburban and immigrant Canadians, two quickly-growing communities.
Of course, it is impossible at this stage to know what Canada’s electoral boundaries will look like by 2015. Nevertheless, the six new seats going to Alberta are likely to be very safe for the Conservatives, though there is a slim chance that if an extra riding is created in the downtown core of Edmonton it might give the NDP a shot at a second seat in the province.
British Columbia’s areas of growth also trend Tory, with the NDP likely to be competitive only in any new ridings drawn up on Vancouver Island or around Burnaby.
Though voting intentions are in flux in Quebec, the suburbs north and south of Montreal voted for the NDP in 2011 and are likely to get the province’s three new seats. However, if one of the new ridings is placed somewhere in the Brossard/Saint-Lambert area, the Liberals could be competitive.
But Ontario will be getting the lion’s share of new seats — 15 in total. According to the census, five ridings have large enough populations that they can almost be cut in half: Oak Ridges-Markham, Brampton West, Halton, Vaughan and Bramalea-Gore-Malton. These all voted Conservative in 2011.
New ridings are also likely to be created in Mississauga, north and east of Toronto, in suburban Ottawa, and in the southwestern part of Ontario. These were fertile grounds for the Tories in the last election.
But in addition to the 30 new seats, boundaries across the country will be tweaked and shifted. This has the potential to shake up the next election even in provinces that are not going to be allocated new ridings.
Saskatchewan is a good example. The province has no purely urban ridings. Regina and Saskatoon are cut up into four ridings apiece that all stretch into the Saskatchewan countryside, and accordingly the Conservatives captured all but one of them in the last election. If Regina and Saskatoon had been divided into urban-only ridings, the New Democrats and Liberals would have likely swept both cities in 2011.
Though the real electoral effect of the upcoming redistribution will only be known when the boundaries are finally set, the findings of the 2011 Census give us a good idea of what to expect. In addition to having to turn public opinion against the Tories by the time Canadians are next called to vote, the opposition parties will also have to overcome the Conservatives’ demographic advantage.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.
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