From marginal to margin of victory? Ridings where Aboriginal vote could make or break majority
If you’re an eligible Aboriginal elector who does not subscribe to the notion that participation in Canadian elections is inappropriate, be it as a candidate or as a voter, you may be curious to know whether your vote could prove decisive in your local race.
Certain ridings (officially known as federal electoral districts) have now reached a critical mass of Aboriginal people of voting age, prompting some to crunch the numbers so as to highlight the theoretical possibility of those voters effectively ‘swinging’ the riding, that is, delivering the margin of victory for any candidate who caters to their concerns. This is an unusual position for Aboriginal people to be in: so much so, it may partly explain why they don’t seem to ever vote as a bloc. As far as I can recollect, no-one’s specifically researched into that.
But it’s hardly a unique thought: in fact, it is now almost routine for wonks like me to undertake the exercise of calculating where a hypothetically cohesive Aboriginal vote — call it the brown bloc — could be what tips one party to victory or not.
Indeed, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo recently suggested there are some 60 ridings where Aboriginal votes could, unified behind a candidate, help push that person to victory. Here, I only wish to present twelve, or 12 at a time, anyway.
Why only a dozen ridings, you ask? Well, I am a single-digit typist, for one thing. But in fact, I only need 12 examples to make my point: that, in a divided House like these past few Parliaments, Aboriginal people currently possess on paper the electoral numbers needed to make or break the majority government aspirations of the Conservative Party, the only party in a position (as of the drop of the writ) to do so. That’s because, as noted by the Toronto Star, the Tories are exactly 12 seats shy of forming such a majority in the 308-seat House.
- Table 1: By rank of Aboriginal people as a proportion of all the people in a riding
- Table 2: By rank of Aboriginal people as a percentage of the electorate only, i.e., those of eligible voting age
- Table 3: By rank of Aboriginal electorate vs. 2008 margin of victory
Each table ranks the (latent) potency of the Aboriginal vote in different ways in different ridings (with a certain amount of overlap), and not all ridings see the Aboriginal proportion of the population or electorate exceed the margin of victory as determined in the 2008 election. That said, for many of these ridings, Aboriginal voters are not only in a great position to rock or block a Harper majority, they may arguably be able to do so in a way that could promote a pro-Aboriginal agenda — or at least in a way that serves to halt one that is decidedly anti-Aboriginal. Which party deserves to be slotted where is, well, up to you.
TABLE 1. BY ABORIGINAL POPULATION
The first table sorts its ‘Top 12′ ridings out by Aboriginal population, with figures for columns A & B coming via Pundits’ Guide (which in turn drew them from the Census). Through this lens, we see that of the 12 ridings (or FEDs) listed here, 10 of them (or 83 per cent) had the Conservatives coming first or second in 2008 (they won six).
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TABLE 2. BY ABORIGINAL ELECTORATE
The second Top 12 is tabulated and sorted by Aboriginal electorate, with Column D’s figures based on data released by the Chiefs of Ontario and Column E’s based on Pundits’ Guide, which I then used to calculate Column F. Here, nine of the 12 FEDs had Conservatives coming first or second (winning five).
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TABLE 3. BY MARGIN
The third Top 12 is tabulated and sorted by the difference between the percentage of Aboriginal electorate and the percentage of margin of victory in 2008, as shown by Column G. Once again, 10 of the 12 FEDs saw Conservatives finish in first or second in 2008 (victorious in five).
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Three tables later, one realizes that a total of 19 different ridings actually emerge as potential — and I stress potential — sources of Aboriginal power at the ballot box. Whether that potential will ever be realized remains, as ever, an open question.