POLITICS

Nanos Number: Dirty politics on the way?

05/29/2013 11:54 EDT | Updated 07/29/2013 05:12 EDT
Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC News Network's Power & Politics to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

This week: How the decline of bilingualism and the redistribution of seats could be a dangerous political mix.

Statistics Canada has released new numbers on the changing rate of bilingualism in Canada and it could be a key ingredient in a big political shift.

Between 1961 to 1971, the population grew 18 per cent, while the number of people who were bilingual grew 30 per cent. Fast forward to 2001 to 2011: the population grew 12 per cent but the growth in bilingualism outside of Quebec was only six per cent.

That evidence that "Canadians are not embracing bilingualism with the same level of intensity as in the past," combined with a redistribution of seats in the House of Commons that will give B.C., Alberta and Ontario many more seats, points to a possible political shift in Canada, said Nik Nanos on Power & Politics.

In the next election, B.C. will have six more seats, Alberta will have eight more and Ontario will have 15 additional seats. Quebec on the other hand, gets just three additional seats.

Nanos points out that the areas where Canada is growing and key battlegrounds in the next election are also the areas where bilingualism is not being as embraced as it has been in the past.

Parties are already starting to see this trend, and Nanos said it could also explain the government's shift in emphasis to things like the monarchy. For example, it decided to revert back to calling Canada's Navy and Air Force the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

"The Conservatives see that the trend is moving against bilingualism in terms of adoption and are looking for a bit of a retro-hour on the political front," Nanos said.

Redistribution will also mean a lot of tough fights in ridings, Nanos warned.

"Usually incumbents are very difficult to unseat but when there's redistribution and boundaries change they've got to fight for their nomination, there are challengers that are going to go after those seats and there's usually dirty tricks," he said.

Between the shift in language and attention on Quebec and the redistribution of seats, it will make for a very interesting election campaign in 2015, Nanos said. And the changes will not benefit one party in particular, he added.

"I don't think anyone is going to have the upper hand. We're going to see incumbents from all of the major parties fighting to hang on to their seats and dealing with probably controversial nomination meetings," Nanos said.

Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nik Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, a research associate professor with SUNY (Buffalo) and a 2013 public policy scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC.