Rural urban divide

Barb Sweet
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Telegram file photo/photo Illustration

Most people agree that rural  parts of the province are benefiting from the recent economic prosperity, according to a Corporate Research Associates (CRA) poll done for The Telegram.

According to the poll, 13 per cent completely agree and 45 per cent mostly agree that rural areas are benefitting.

Some 12 per cent completely disagree, 24 per cent mostly disagree and six per cent don’t know or don’t have an answer.

The numbers don’t waver much by region — 63 per cent in St. John’s/Avalon versus 57 per cent in the east (for polling purposes that includes the east and the northeast coast) and 53 per cent in the west (which includes central Newfoundland and Labrador).

“There’s a recognition that what is happening in the Avalon is good across the province,” CRA president and CEO Don Mills said.

“People understand the oil and gas benefits across the province.”

While the poll suggests most people think rural Newfoundland and Labrador is benefiting, Memorial University political scientist Alex Marland pointed out that a third of the respondents aren’t so sure.

The rural versus urban debate roared into the election campaign most dramatically when Liberal candidate Danny Dumaresque (The Isles of Notre Dame) declared at a Board of Trade debate on Oct. 4, “There are a hell of a lot more priorities outside the overpass that need to be addressed before we start forking more money over to the City of St. John’s.”

Poll respondents were asked which party they feel best represents the interests of rural residents.

The PCs were favoured by 39 per cent of the respondents overall; the NDP, 26 per cent; and the Liberals, 19 per cent. Some 14 per cent said they don’t know or have no answer and two per cent said none of them.

The PCs were favoured by 40 per cent of respondents in the St. John’s/Avalon, 37 per cent in the east and 39 per cent in the west.

The NDP was favoured by 25 per cent in St. John’s/Avalon, 29 per cent in the east and 24 per cent in the west.

The Liberals were favoured by 17 per cent in St. John’s/Avalon, 19 per cent in the east and 23 per cent in the west.

Mills said the Liberals pick up a bit of traction on the rural divide issue, since they have been campaigning on rural issues like the fishery and forestry.

Marland said the rural divide is not really playing out as an attention-getting issue, beyond  Dumaresque, the media and political scientists and watchers.

He said the poll results give no evidence there is a big revolt against the PCs.

As for who best represents urban interests, 53 per cent of respondents say the PCs do; 20 per cent named the NDP; 14 per cent said they don’t know; and 11 per cent named the Liberals. Two per cent said none of them.

The PC party is strong in St. John’s/Avalon with 51 per cent support followed by 59 per cent in the east and 51 per cent in the west.

The NDP polled 24 per cent in St. John’s/Avalon, 15 per cent in the east and 16 per cent in the west. The Liberals polled nine per cent in St. John’s/Avalon, 10 per cent in the east and 17 per cent in the west.

Marland said it’s obvious the PCS have more of a St. John’s/Avalon presence than the word on the street suggests.

“The narrative a lot of us thought is the NDP has made huge inroads,” he said, adding the poll shows the PCs are strong in the capital region.

The perception of a competitive race is not as evident in the poll.

Marland noted the massive margins of victory the PCs had in 2007, remarking it’s hard for the NDP to erase that gap.

He said the story is still that the NDP is in second place and people are wondering what happened to the once-powerful Liberals.

Mills also said the PCs are clearly strong on the Avalon, so it’s hard for the NDP to pick up seats.

Marland noted the PC numbers remain  strong across the province, pointing to a solid win, since when the economy is good there is not really an appetite for change.

“The polls are accurate, live with it,” Marland said.

Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward told The Telegram this week people in rural parts of the province feel abandoned, and he believes that will play out on election day.

“We see people in rural Newfoundland and Labrador that are going to have at this government when it comes to election day,” he said.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said she’s heard all over the province that people feel left out, from Labrador West which is contributing taxes and resources and not getting adequate health services, to fisheries communities on the Bonavista and Burin Peninsula.

“I am hearing it phrased that government is not paying attention to things other than oil,” Michael said, adding that some people in rural areas don’t feel like they are getting their fair share.

She said while the Tory government talks about infrastructure investments, people feel roads and schools have to be kept up anyway. Michael said the perception is that the Tories are falling down on economic development in rural areas.

The in-depth poll, with a sample size of 800, was conducted between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3. The margin of error for overall results is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, with a 95 per cent confidence level.

Organizations: NDP, Corporate Research Associates, Board of Trade

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Notre Dame, Labrador West Bonavista

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Recent comments

  • JT
    October 10, 2011 - 18:43

    rural areas already geat the lions share of provincial government spending, so those in rural areas need to consider what it is they want. Do they want even more of the pie? People who live in the heavilly populated areas are sick of all the special attention the rural dwellers get. In addition the the lopsided government spending, those in rural areas also get preferantial treatment with EI.

  • ranter
    October 10, 2011 - 17:40

    Voter turn out will be record lows. Hence why the PC have a chance. People need to realize that staying home is actually a vote for the PC. They will win by proxy and make it appear as though people/province voted them in. Just like what happened to Harper. Only Con voters went and voted. So get out there and vote on election day. Otherwise your voting for the current government to WIN. If you don't believe me, just watch tues!

  • ranter
    October 10, 2011 - 10:32

    Voter turn out will be record lows. Hence why the PC have a chance. People need to realize that staying home is actually a vote for the PC. They will win by proxy and make it appear as though people/province voted them in. Just like what happened to Harper. Only Con voters went and voted. So get out there and vote on election day. Otherwise your voting for the current government to WIN. If you don't believe me, just watch tues!

  • Too Silly
    October 09, 2011 - 15:10

    Of course SJ fares better and it should. It contains about 40% of the total population, twice that of the entire west coast and Labrador combined. Obviously government spending will favor SJ because of it's population base. Also, because of it' size it's economy is more diversified and businesses offer more services and products. The young are attracted to the action in SJ that isn't available in small towns that are based on single resource economy.

  • Robert Kirby
    October 09, 2011 - 07:15

    Any poll taken of political views is the best proof I know of regarding the importance and power of the "Secret Ballet". Ask anyone running in this current election what really matters.

  • GFW
    October 08, 2011 - 23:07

    This article sums up the problems for people living outside the overpass. Stop reading polls and opinions from the majority or participants of the province that live on the Avalon. Visit the rural areas and take a real interest in the problems that people are facing, instead of making decisions from people that dont live here. Politicians from st johns can't see the Island for the Overpass!!

  • Linda White
    October 08, 2011 - 21:04

    More importantly, isn't that beautiful downtown Greenspond on the left?

  • Mindy
    October 08, 2011 - 17:40

    The Urban/Rural Divide is everywhere in our country....larger populated areas are going to benifit more so than a small community of 500/1000 people. That is why thye call it a "CITY". You sure do not need a poll to understand this.

  • Mark
    October 08, 2011 - 11:21

    What's the value of a poll in which respondents living in place x give their impressions of life in place y or z?

  • Cyril Rogers
    October 08, 2011 - 11:19

    Any way you slice it, these polls do confirm an urban rural divide, not only in the perception that urban areas are faring better and certainly in terms of actual support for the PC's. If you remove Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook and Goose Bay from tihs equation, I have no doubt that small rural communities will show much levels of higher discontent. These larger towns represent more urbanization to rural people and have become service areas, often because services were and continue to be removed from smaller towns. When so many small towns are struggling to provide even the most basic of services, have to constantly plead with the government for a few dollars to replace aging infrastructure, and don't see any long-term planning other than empty platitudes, then you have a huge disconnect.

  • Fintip
    October 08, 2011 - 10:27

    When you report on a poll of this nature, you might at least include the text of the question posed. Alyward was probably off base when he accused a PC-friendly polster of concocting the results. Nevertheless, polsters can and sometimes do distort results by phrasing questions in a manner designed to elicit an answer favourable to their clients. In this case, for example, a question that asks whether rural areas have benefited from oil and gas is likely to elict a different response than one that asks whether the benefits to rural areas are less than, equal to, or more than those in the St. John's metro area. Sample size and distribution are also open to question. Oil and gas revenues give the province far more latitude to restrain taxation, invest in infrastructure, and engage in social programming - all of which can be designed to benefit the province as a whole. But you don't need to be an economist to recognize the extent to which St. John's and environs have fared disproportionately well from this industry. There may be nothing inherently wrong with that. But even a cursory examination of the available statistics will show, for example, that the rate of unemployment in small (rural) communities is somewhere in the range of 40% versus 6% or so in St. John's. But aside from the urban/rural divide, there is the rich and poor divide. This is something alluded to recently by church groups. Whether they live in urban or rural Newfoundland, there are unquestionably a substantial number of people who are adversely impacted in some ways by oil and gas. The elderly, the ill, the unskilled, and others living on fixed or low incomes for example have watched their buying power shrink in the face of petro-induced inflation. While many Newfoundlanders are doing exceptionally well from oil and other natural resource activities, others are struggling to stay afloat. This is the experience of almost all major oil and gas regions throughout the world. Governments were well aware in advance of this side-effect of rapid economic growth but, it can be argued, took very few pains to avoid it. The bottom line is that we need journalist and newspapers that are prepared to dig a little deeper and apply a bit more rigor to such issues, rather than merely accepting the often questionable, sometimes self-serving assessments of others.

  • RantRoar
    October 08, 2011 - 09:21

    Another Term of the PC's and the lights will go out in rural NL. Just remember on tuesday who stood next to Harper with backs turned on this province's future. After all the broken promises, its hard to fathom how people can vote PC! Stupidity or plain ignorance to facts I guess.

  • Joseph McGrath
    October 08, 2011 - 09:12

    I am sick of these polls that in reality mean nothing to me or anyone else.When a candidate/party is elected the primary factor is MONEY. The sphere of influence for setting policy is centered around/about MONEY...MEGA-MONEY. MONEY will adjust and adapt to any political stripe. THAT is 'How' the Worm-Turns. As an aside...the aim is to provide the perception... the warm and fruzzy feeling to the VOTERS that someone is showing concern about 'ems. Nothing new here Folks!!!

  • Bill
    October 08, 2011 - 08:54

    There will always be an urban rural divide in NL just as there exists an urban rural divide in most other provinces. It is a function of the geography that the densest populations are in the urban areas. While the benefits appear to be coming to the Avalon, the influx of business to the business center of the province brings a better tax base to the entire province. it is up to Government to invest its money wisely. The current issue is that it appears that not enough energy is being spent investing in projects fir rural areas.

  • John Smith
    October 08, 2011 - 08:25

    80 cents out of every infrastucture dollar was spent outside the overpass. Time to spend some of that inside the overpass methinks.