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Home: Blog--Guide to the Pundits' Guide

BLOG -- Guide to the Pundits' Guide

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Urban-Rural Differences in Nominated and Elected Women Candidates

Susan Delacourt had an interesting story in Saturday's Toronto Star (and a follow-up on her blog) on the differential rates of election of women between urban and rural ridings. The research she's citing from Louise Carbert, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, apparently looks back several decades. But I had the data handy to examine the last 5 general elections, with the following results.

[For the purposes of this analysis, I've used the same urban vs. rural riding designations as for last summer's analysis of party success done for the Chronicle Herald (with the one exception that I later realized I had accidentally miscategorized Wascana, SK as an urban riding). Notice that I've grouped the Canadian Alliance/Reform and Progressive Conservative parties together for the years 1997 and 2000 in the following charts.]

The first observation we can make is that women have been twice as likely to be nominated in urban ridings compared with rural ridings, although the number of women nominated in rural ridings is increasing overall. This was mostly due to increased number of rural Liberal women in 2008, while their number of urban women candidates stayed roughly constant. The Conservatives also had their best year ever for urban female nominees in 2008. Between 2004 and 2008, the Liberals, NDP and Greens were nominating between 2/3rds and 3/4rs of all urban women candidates, but by 2008 virtually all of the rural ones. Given that these parties traditionally have their bases of support in urban Canada, it's clear that the majority of those rural women candidates were facing an uphill battle.

Turning to the number and distribution of women who got elected, however, we can see that the number of women elected in both urban and rural seats stayed fairly constant, although the distribution between parties changed a bit. And as the article indicates, the Conservatives did manage to increase the number of women they elected in rural seats in 2008, increasing the overall number there slightly and leaving the Liberals with just one woman elected in a rural seat anywhere in the country (Judy Foote in Random – Burin – St. George's, NL). The number of rural women elected by the Bloc Québécois also declined in 2008, mainly due to retiring incumbents.

Obviously, if parties are going to meet their commitments to increase the number of women candidates they run, it will be by definition in non-incumbent ridings that will therefore be harder to win. If more women are to be elected in rural ridings, it will either be because retiring Conservative incumbents are replaced by women candidates (as happened for example when Candice Hoeppner replaced Brian Pallister in Portage – Lisgar, MB), or because women candidates from the other parties can win over those seats (although the Conservatives only lost 6 seats overall last time, 2 to women, both urban).

One picky point to finish with, though. The sidebar to the Star article refers to Agnes MacPhail as the first woman to be elected a Member of Parliament (and in a rural riding), saying that she "ran in the first federal election in which women had the vote, for the Progressive Party, a forerunner to the Progressive Conservative party." However, Ms. MacPhail herself did not join the PCs, but rather had belonged to the Ginger Group faction of the Progressive Party which went on to participate in the formation of the CCF, the precursor of the modern NDP. She ran under the banner of the "United Farmers of Ontario-Labour" party in 1935 and 1940, ultimately joining the CCF in 1942, and it was the NDP's fund for women candidates which bore her name.

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