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Battleground BC

Big Gap between Rich and Poor Ridings

Voting patterns tend to reflect household income. It’s three times higher in some ridings than others.

By Will McMartin, 5 Apr 2005, TheTyee.ca

British Columbia’s 79 electoral districts are supposed to be ‘equal.’ This notion is enshrined in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982, and confirmed in a 1989 B.C. Supreme Court decision.

But an earlier Battleground BC column showed that there are significant differences between electoral districts in terms of population. The 2001 Canada census found that B.C.’s largest riding, Vancouver-Burrard, had a total population of 64,046, while the smallest, North Coast, had just 27,992.

Another Battleground BC column showed that disparities exist not just between individual electoral districts, but also among the province’s many regions. Ridings in northern B.C. have an average of fewer than 34,000 residents each, while those in Vancouver Eastside and Fraser North have more than 55,000.

Still another column revealed the sizeable discrepancies between districts in terms of the ‘senior’s population. In Penticton-Okanagan Valley, residents age 65 years and over represented 25.1% of the total population, while in Prince George North they were just 5.4%.

Follow the money

Perhaps the most interesting demographic difference among ridings involves incomes. B.C. elections and politics have long been ‘polarized’ between the centre-right (which advocates smaller government and lower taxes) and the centre-left (which promotes greater government participation in the economy, the public delivery of services and income redistribution), so it is not surprising that incomes provide a vital key in understanding voting patterns.

Consider the 2001 general election. In Vancouver-Quilchena, where household incomes averaged more than $123,000, the right-of-centre Liberals obtained 73.9% of the popular vote. Across the city, in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, the average household income was $42,874 and the Liberals garnered a mere 33.2% of the vote. Conversely, the left-of-centre New Democrats enjoy higher levels of voting support in lower-income ridings, and less well in those districts with higher-incomes.

In this regard, incomes seem to be a greater determinant of voting patterns in urban areas rather than rural districts. The same is true when comparing ridings to their peers within a specific geographical region.

So, even though B.C.'s 79 electoral districts are supposed to be 'equal,' there are important differences between them in terms of population, residents' age, and incomes -- to mention just a few.

TABLE -- British Columbia’s electoral districts: highest and lowest 10, by household income.

  • 1. Vancouver-Quilchena — $123,087
  • 2. West Van-Garibaldi — 113,821
  • 3. West Van-Capilano — 110,269
  • 4. Vancouver-Point Grey — 98,435
  • 5. North Van-Seymour — 88,788
  • 6. Delta South — 85,874
  • 7. Surrey-Cloverdale — 81,234
  • 8. Surrey-White Rock — 83,171
  • 9. Vancouver-Fairview — 83,463
  • 10. Oak Bay-Gordon Head — 82,061

***

  • 70. Vancouver-Hastings — $52,130
  • 71. Vancouver-Kensington — 51,981
  • 72. Nelson-Creston — 51,751
  • 73. Penticton-Okanagan Valley — 51,266
  • 74. Yale-Lillooet — 51,205
  • 75. Surrey-Green Timbers — 51,098
  • 76. Surrey-Whalley — 50,269
  • 77. Nanaimo — 49,996
  • 78. Vancouver-Kingsway — 49,680
  • 79. Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant — 42,874

Check in daily for Battleground BC, Will McMartin’s voting predictions and analysis, exclusive to The Tyee. You can reach him with tips, insights and info at will@thetyee.ca  [Tyee]