I have been trying to make the case over the years that support of economic development can translate into political rewards. I have just recently looked at the 2006 election results in New Brunswick (provincial) and correlated them with recent population trends (last 10 years). Now, this data is rough because I had to approximate – I didn’t have a 10 year view on the riding specific populations so I used the largest municipality and other ways to approximate population increase/decrease.
The rough findings look like this:
There are 55 ridings in New Brunswick and 29 of them are losing population (53%).
Of those that are losing population, 62% voted Liberal in the last election. That gives us some correlation between population decline and voting against the governing party. But it isn’t a significant correlation. However, if you remove the six ridings in the Fredericton area that voted Liberal and also had population gains over the 10 years, you get over 75% of all ridings with population decline voting for the Opposition party in 2006 – a fairly significant correlation.
So why did Fredericton vote strongly Liberal while still experiencing a strong population gain? Of the 10 ridings in the Greater Fredericton region (loosely defined), only one is losing population but six voted against the PCs in the last election.
There are a wide variety of factors that go into why certain candidates get elected including the strength of the local candidate, a historical tradition, a hot button issue that lingers (like closing a hospital), etc. But there does some to be at least some correlation between economic hardship and voting against the government which would indicate potentially a positive correlation between economic development and political outcomes.
Think about Nackawic. The PCs were seen to have saved that mill and they garnered 42% more voes than the Liberals. Now look at the ridings where the PCs were hammered:
|Miramichi-Bay du Vin|
|Saint John Lancaster|
|Saint John East|
|Saint John Harbour|
All of these with the exception of Dieppe, Fredericton and SJ/Fundy faced serious economic challenges during the 10 year period.
Now, political parties have people dedicated to analyzing the data and figuring out what hot button issues to push in each riding. I don’t presume to have detailed knowledge of that process. However, I think we can say that if the government is perceived to be supporting economic development in the riding, they have a better chance of winning.
I hope that message gets across.