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.