Former urbanites could affect rural riding results in 2021

Younger, recently urban voters who moved to rural ridings in search of more affordable housing could shake up voting patterns in places that aren’t necessarily known for their surprise outcomes, one expert says.

Recent study finds about 60 per cent of Ontarians have considered moving to smaller communities

Cian Cruise and his family moved from downtown Toronto to Almonte in May 2021. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

When Cian Cruise and his young family decided to move out of downtown Toronto, they were looking for a small town with a community feel, access to nature, and culture.

When the hunt began, the rural town of Almonte, Ont., west of Ottawa, fit the bill.

"We're just renting a place for now as we're getting our feet wet in the community. So far, we love it," he said.

The move of younger, urban voters like Cruise into rural ridings in search of more affordable housing has the potential to shake up voting patterns in places that aren't necessarily known for their surprise outcomes.

"I've heard anecdotally that there's lots of people like us who've moved here primarily from Ottawa," Cruise said, adding that it might lead to closer races than the past.

The riding of Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston, which stretches from Kingston to Ottawa, has been a Conservative stronghold for decades.

"I hope that areas like this become more competitive because then politicians will see greater reason to speak to the needs of those areas," he said.

A recent study by the Ontario Real Estate Association found about 60 per cent of Ontarians have considered moving outside Ottawa or the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to places where homes may be more affordable. About 70 per cent considered moving to another province.

Lori Turnbull is also an associate professor of political science at Dalhousie University. (CBC)

Impact won't be immediate

Lori Turnbull, the director of the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University, said the impact of recent urban voters now in rural ridings won't happen overnight.

She said immediate change, however, could be seen with those who vote strategically.

"For a strategic voter, I would say it could make a big difference because the math and the possible outcomes, the incentive structure, they all look different, if you move ridings," she said.

Turnbull also said the issues that matter to Canadians can shift depending on where they live, which is another factor.

"If population growth continues, the communities will change and then the issues that affect the rural community will become different," Turnbull said.

Zachary Prenner and his wife built a townhome in Almonte last November, moving from a small condo in Barrhaven (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Zachary Prenner, who recently moved to Almonte from Ottawa's Barrhaven neighbourhood, said he wasn't accustomed to spotting so many lawn signs of the same colour.

"If I'm honest, I'm not feeling like my vote is going to make a difference here," Prenner said, adding it's still important for him to vote his conscience.

"I don't foresee any major changes. I think likely status quo with just a little bit more leaning towards the left in certain areas."


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