Rural Canadians

Rural Canadians

Between August and October 2011, Samara spoke to disengaged Canadians across the country in a series of focus groups. The complete findings from this study are published in Samara’s report, The Real Outsiders: Politically Disengaged Views on Politics and Democracy. These briefs are designed to augment The Real Outsiders, by providing greater detail and insight about the conversations in each focus group.

English Speaking Women in Quebec | Lower Income Canadians | Urban Aboriginal Peoples | Francophone Women in Quebec | New Canadians | Less Educated Youth | Rural Canadians

No One to Vote For

Focus Group Profile: In Ottawa, Ontario, Samara sat down with a group of six Canadians, aged 21 to 57 years. These Canadians were drawn from smaller, more rural communities in the Ottawa region, such as Barrhaven, Metcalfe, Carleton Place and from Alymer in the Gatineau region of Quebec. Community populations range from around 1700 to 50,000 people. Across the focus groups, this was one of the most affluent, with most family household incomes above $50,000 annually. Many noted they commute to work in Ottawa. All participants had at minimum some college or university studies. With the exception of two participants, all were married. 

The rural Canadians Samara spoke to felt strongly that politics – and politicians – had let them down. They were particularly sensitive to the issues that affect their daily lives: overcrowded schools for their children, local by-laws, speeders on their street, hydro bill costs, and the loss of “mom and pop shops”. “We have a town hall,” said one man, “but you might as well talk to the wall.”

Elections were one of the main targets of their dissatisfaction. Though some of the participants did vote on occasion, they were clear in their reluctance to do so: “I just feel like they can use whatever words they have to say, whatever lies they tell you to gain your trust media wise”, said one man. “There’s nobody to vote for,” added another, “there is nobody who will do an honest job.”

Yet, some did not always feel that their vote was pointless:

I know for me when I turned 18 to vote, it was like a cool thing. I got to do it. It’s like getting your license… I would like to have a little more time to actually investigate the candidates and try to decide who to vote for, but time goes by, and I have my school, and my friends, and my family – so I just ask someone what they think and I take their opinion.

Reflecting further on their democratic role, one man observed that, “It’s your choice”, and admitted he does not always vote. Another thought her role was to show “togetherness” in her community which would help “build ‘real’ democracy.” One man felt his role was overshadowed (BY) others:  “a lot of these companies, a company like Wal-Mart, even it has got a lot of political influence higher up than just being a store… they have a lot of power so that they are pulling the string.” Without having a voice, one woman felt that Canadians like her “… are just waiting for something to happen and waiting and waiting and waiting and we get tired of it, so it puts you down.” As a result, she continued, “You don’t want to go farther; you are not happy anymore because you think, what is going to happen?”

Despite most believing that “my voice is not going to change anything,” they were not an entirely apathetic group. One woman observed that, “people want change.” Yet in their search, they haven’t found “anyone at any level who inspires positiveness [sic].” They expressed hope that a different kind of politics could exist, saying that, “everybody in this room would still like to believe that there is something happening…”

The rural Canadians focus group shared a sense of resignation about their real sphere of influence: if they could not change something as simple and local in their lives like a speed bump on their street or zoning in their expanding communities, they recognized implicitly there was little point in engaging further or at higher levels of governance. They are still well aware of what is happening within the political system, but as outsiders, (they believe) wanted change to the system will begin somewhere beyond them.