A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Rural Election Coverage Disappearing

National media coverage of rural Canada during elections is thin, and local outlets are disappearing. The overall quality of Canadian debate suffers.” So says Barry Wilson in the online magazine policyoptions.irpp.org as a long time rural resident myself I cannot help but agree and so will highlight a few of Mr Wilsons valid points below, the link above will take you to the full article.

Reaching voters thinly spread across large areas with often-poor internet connectivity can be a daunting and expensive task. But rural voters represent a powerful electoral force. When the voter base in a constituency is just a fraction the size of densely populated urban ridings, winning over an individual rural voter can carry more election-day weight than garnering the support of three or four urban voters.

Certainly its harder for candidates to get their message out in rural areas be it via the internet or in person due to both the distances involved and the reduced communications infrastructure however I disagree that the voter base size has much impact. A quick look at the chart of voter populations vs individual riding reveals that there is little correlation within each province, there is a difference between provinces however with the less populated provinces having as much as half the number of voters per riding.

However, if election coverage in 2019 follows the well-established historic pattern, rural issues and analysis will receive scant detailed attention.... Besides, national election outcomes rarely are decided in rural Canada, and a commitment to spend limited resources on expensive, in-depth rural issues research is a hard sell. For rural voters, the scant coverage of their issues means their infrastructure, income or market access concerns will lack the broader political attention needed....

Even the rural candidates themselves rarely talk much about 'local' issues the order of the day for most candidates be in in rural areas or larger centers seems to be regurgitating the party line of their particular 'leader'. Given that said 'leader' (or more accurately his handlers) 'vetted' said candidate before letting him stand under their polotical banner this is hardly surprising!

Meanwhile, the challenges and costs of investing in infrastructure and services for low-density populations spread over vast distances add complexities that do not exist when programs are delivered to concentrated urban areas.
The reality is that the per capita costs of providing services in rural areas is far higher than providing comparable services in urban areas and the political payback is less because there are fewer people benefiting,”

Its the old story, the squeaky wheel get the grease and noises from rural areas seem to get lost in the cacophony issuing from urban populations.

The local community paper, although an increasingly rare breed, is the best vehicle for covering local issues, and people read it cover to cover,” he told me. “Urban outlets try, but they quickly find rural issues are complicated, demands and needs are different than in urban ridings and reporters don’t have the background.”
A factor in the limitations of rural election coverage is the steady erosion of rural media outlets and independent voices. As in urban Canada, the number of rural media outlets is falling, centralized ownership is increasing and newsroom budgets are tightening.

The erosion of rural media outlets and independent voices.....” The 'erosion' hardly covers it, how about the elimination? Sure there are paper published is some larger rural communities but they are by enlarge owned by and much of the content 'controlled' by multinational newspaper chains. The truly independent LOCAL paper is a rare breed indeed, as is LOCAL online community news coverage (although I see some encouraging developments of 'citizen run initiatives' in this area). Is it little wonder that rural issues receive so little attention.

One final note here about what is meant by 'rural', Statscan defines it as settlements of under 1000 folks or with less than 400 folks per sq km which certainly does not include many areas in 'rural riding's' which include many communities defined as Rural and Small Town having less than 100,000 occupants which then included small cities which clearly are not rural. In short its hard to say what is and is not a 'rural riding' and even harder to separate issues of 'small town' residents from those from true 'rural' folks, each with somewhat different issues that need addressing. Is it any wonder that someone elected to represent this diverse population at a legislature overwhelming comprised of 'big city folks' has difficultly getting anyone to understand the various complexities of rural communities!

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Owen Gray said...

Our local paper is an amalgm of stories from three separate communities, Rural. Increasingly, we are being swallowed up by a much bigger organism.

Rural said...

It is increasingly difficult for the rural minority to make themselves heard over the urban cacophony Owen.