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Distributive Politics in Canada: The Case of Infrastructure Spending in Rural and Suburban Districts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2021

Olivier Jacques*
Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, 68 University Avenue, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6
Benjamin Ferland
School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, 120 University, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6N5
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


This article examines the presence of geographically targeted spending in the allocation of infrastructure projects in Canada. Building on formal models of distributive politics, we expect government districts, core government districts and swing districts to be advantaged in terms of infrastructure projects. We also investigate whether characteristics of Members of Parliament (MPs), such as seniority or holding a cabinet position, influence the distribution of infrastructure projects. Empirically, we analyze the amount of funding allocated by Infrastructure Canada across non-urban federal electoral districts between 2006 and 2018. Our results indicate that non-urban governmental districts receive, on average, more money than opposition districts, and that this is even more the case for core government districts. In contrast, we found little evidence that cabinet ministers or senior MPs are able to attract more funding to their constituencies compared to other representatives.



L'article étudie la présence de dépenses ciblées géographiquement dans l'attribution des projets d'infrastructure au Canada. En se basant sur les principaux modèles théoriques de dépenses clientélistes, nous prédisons que les comtés gouvernementaux loyaux ainsi que les comtés pivots seront avantagés dans la distribution des projets d'infrastructure. Les comtés gouvernementaux devraient aussi être avantagés de façon générale. Nous cherchons également à savoir si les caractéristiques des députés, telle la séniorité ou le fait d'occuper un poste de ministre, influencent la répartition des projets d'infrastructure. Afin de tester nos hypothèses, nous mobilisons des données d'Infrastructure Canada couvrant la période entre 2006 et 2018. Plus particulièrement, nous analysons les fonds alloués aux projets d'infrastructure dans les circonscriptions électorales fédérales non urbaines. Nos résultats indiquent que les circonscriptions gouvernementales reçoivent en moyenne plus de dépenses d'infrastructure que celles de l'opposition et que ce sont les circonscriptions loyales au gouvernement qui sont les plus avantagées. En contrepartie, les ministres et les députés ayant plus d'expérience parlementaire ne semblent pas en mesure d'attirer davantage de fonds dans leur circonscription que les autres élus.

Research Article/Étude originale
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique

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