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Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at a rally in Brampton, Ont., on March 27, 2011. (Peter Bregg/Peter Bregg for The Globe and Mail)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at a rally in Brampton, Ont., on March 27, 2011. (Peter Bregg/Peter Bregg for The Globe and Mail)

Crunching Numbers

The new Tory constituency: Far less francophone, far more multicultural Add to ...

Stephen Harper finally won his majority government, but in the process lost more than half of his party's seats in Quebec. Gains in the rest of the country made up for these losses, however, and with the Conservatives winning a swathe of new seats in the Greater Toronto Area the ridings represented by Tory MPs has become far less francophone and much more diverse.

These are the findings of an analysis of the changing face of the Conservative constituency, a comparison of the demographic profile of the ridings represented by Tory MPs before and after the May 2 federal election.

With a gain of 23 seats over the party's standing in the House of Commons when the election campaign began, the Conservatives now represent 19.2 million Canadians, or 2.8 million more than they did before the vote. Their caucus is still disproportionately based in the West, with 74 MPs coming from the four western provinces and northern Canada. This group forms the largest regional block in the Conservative caucus, but has shrunk to 44.6 per cent from 49 per cent of all Tory seats.

With 73 seats in Ontario, 44 per cent of the Conservative caucus is drawn from the province, up from 51 seats and 35.7 per cent before the election.

Almost 89 per cent of all Conservative MPs were elected west of Quebec, leaving only 3 per cent of the party's caucus coming from the francophone province and 8.4 per cent from Atlantic Canada. While that is a small increase for the four Atlantic provinces, it is a drop from 7.7 per cent for Quebec. Only five of the 166 Conservative MPs in the House of Commons won their seats in Quebec.

Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton remain the top urban centres for the Conservatives. Ottawa is also an important segment of the Tory caucus, but Montreal - Canada's second largest city - remains without representation in the government.

The median age of Canadians represented by Conservative MPs has been reduced only slightly, from 39.7 years to 39.3 years. That does make the Conservative constituency, however, marginally younger than the Canadian population as a whole, whose median age is 39.5 years.

Unlike either the Liberals or the New Democrats, the Conservative constituency includes more men than the national average, though the difference is very small. Still, 28 Conservative ridings have male majorities, a rarity in a country that is mostly female.

With gains in the GTA the Tory constituency is somewhat richer than it was before the election, with a median household income of $60,000 per year instead of $59,000. But that is much greater than the national household income of $54,000 per year. The three richest ridings in Canada, all with median household incomes of $90,000 per year or more, are represented by Conservative MPs.

The Conservative constituency remains overwhelming anglophone, with 72.4 per cent having English as their mother tongue, virtually unchanged from before the election. That is far more than the 57.2 of Canadians throughout the country whose first language is English.

With the seat losses in Quebec, only 5.8 per cent of Canadians in Tory ridings are native French speakers, down from 9.5 per cent before the election and a fraction of the 21.8 per cent of Canadians who are francophones.

Accordingly, the proportion of Conservative constituents who speak a language other than French or English has grown to 20.4 per cent from 16.3 per cent, almost reaching the national average. It is the same situation with the immigrant population in Tory ridings. They now represent 19.9 per cent of the Conservative constituency, almost identical to the 19.8 per cent of Canadians who are immigrants. Visible minorities, too, are now more represented in Conservative ridings, going from 10.6 per cent before the election to 15.3 per cent after the votes were counted. In 12 of the 166 Conservative ridings, visible minorities actually make up a majority of the population.

The new Toronto-area ridings have also had the effect of reducing the proportion of aboriginals in the Tory constituency from 4.7 per cent to 4.3 per cent (still above the national average of 3.8 per cent), but has increased the proportion of people with a university education (14 per cent, up from 12.6 per cent but still below the national average of 14.7 per cent).

The Conservatives now hold almost 70 per cent of all seats outside of Quebec. Francophones make up one-fourth of what they should in the Tory constituency if the party was to be truly national. However, the Conservatives now represent a less homogenous and more ethnically diverse and urban population, better reflecting the Canadian reality outside of Quebec. Nevertheless, it has been almost a century since Quebec has had so little representation in a majority government, and this will make it a challenge for the Prime Minister to face a national unity crisis should one occur between now and the end of 2015.

Éric Grenier writes about politics and polls at ThreeHundredEight.co m. The changing Liberal and New Democratic Party constituencies were investigated over the last two weeks.

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