OTTAWA — A pattern of heavy spending in Conservative ridings uncovered in a Chronicle Herald analysis of federal stimulus spending is just business as usual, part of a long bipartisan pattern of using tax dollars for political gain, say political observers.

The analysis, compiled from public federal records, showed that federal spending under the Conservative government’s federal action plan is heavily focused on Tory ridings. For example, more money is being spent in the province’s three Conservative ridings than the other eight ridings put together.

“Old style politics is all about bringing home the bacon,” said Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“All they’ve done is paint the pig a different colour.”

Nothing new here, said Charles Cirtwill, of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

“The Liberals did this for years and the Conservatives sat outside and pointed fingers and raged and pulled their hair,” he said. “And now the Liberals are doing the same thing. The only folks who are really consistent are the NDP, and that’s primarily because at the federal level they’ve never had a chance to pass out the dough.”

Mr. Cirtwill said that whoever is in power ends up taking a “tiered approach,” and a nationwide analysis would likely show that clearly.

“You would see most of the money going to Conservative ridings, especially Conservative ridings considered either at risk, or represented by a minister, one of the two,” he said.

“The next tier would be swing ridings, either held by the Conservatives or somebody else. The next list after that would likely be federal ridings where you have Conservative provincial representation and then you get down to deserving ridings. It’s only really at the fourth tier that you start asking who needs this, as opposed to who wants this?”

The database analysis of federal spending commitments showed that Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s Central Nova riding is receiving $101.7 million, compared with just $5.2 million for Liberal Dartmouth.

NDP Halifax does well with $34.5 million thanks to funding earmarked for university infrastructure, but the big winners in the battle for sewer systems, recreation centres and road work are West Nova ($41.1 million) and South Shore-St. Margaret’s ($33.5 million), both Conservative ridings that could fall to the opposition in an election.

Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, which was represented by independent Bill Casey and which the Tories now hope to win in a byelection, is getting $24.7 million, which would put it in Mr. Cirtwill’s Tier 2 category.

Mr. MacKay’s office said the analysis of stimulus spending paints a false picture, because it leaves out the hundreds of millions spent on military bases and shipbuilding in Halifax and Sackville-Eastern Shore, both NDP ridings.

“I think if you were to ask dockyard workers how they feel about federal spending in Nova Scotia, they’d give you two thumbs up,” said spokesman Dan Dugas.

“When you remove that from the picture, some people might come to the conclusion, ‘Oh look. They’re only spending in this riding.’ “

Halifax West MP Geoff Regan, who was political minister for Nova Scotia in Paul Martin’s government, said the Liberals may not have been perfect, but they didn’t go this far.

“When you have a government that’s using government advertising as party propaganda, when you have them showing that if you don’t vote Conservative you’re going to be treated as a second-class citizen, when you see that Conservative ridings can get new recreation facilities but Liberal ridings can’t, that certainly wasn’t my experience as a minister,” he said.

Mr. Gaudet said he remembers the same kinds of stories in Ottawa in the Liberal 1990s.

“I remember back then everybody was making the exact same allegations, that Chretien and his cabinet were funnelling all the cash into their ridings,” he said. “And back then everybody shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘Yeah, isn’t that what he’s supposed to do?’ “

But Mr. Gaudet said Mr. MacKay can hardly deny he’s dumping money into Central Nova.

“The headline on his website is: Economic Action Plan Gets Shovels in the Ground Across Central Nova. Not only are they doing it, he brags about doing it on his website. It’s his website. It’s his front page.”

Mr. Cirtwill said many voters think he’s doing the right thing.

“If Peter MacKay didn’t bring home a lot of grants for Nova Scotia, and specifically for his riding, people would be less inclined to view him as a success,” he said. “This is part of his job, which is a horrible indictment of the entire system, but, well, you know.”