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Political Parties and Elections in Canada D Brown St Francis Xavier University Winter term 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Political Parties and Elections in Canada D Brown St Francis Xavier University Winter term 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Political Parties and Elections in Canada D Brown St Francis Xavier University Winter term 2010

2 Political Parties The role of parties in the political system The brokerage model in Canada Declining role of parties ?

3 Seven Functions of Political Parties (John Meisel) Parties integrate citizens into the political system They develop policy They recruit leaders (“elites”) They help to organize Parliament into clear roles of government and opposition They help voters to structure their choices They organize public opinion around ideology or sets of political values They aggregate interests into a larger consensus


5 Theories of Party Support Traditional model: allegiances based on specific social cleavages….religion, ethnicity, language, class, etc. Brokerage model: collections of allegiances with convergence to the centre Rational choice: voters choose each time on the merits of their self-interests

6 The Canadian Brokerage Model Roots in Macdonald’s successful but necessary coalitions of moderate reformers and Conservatives – and both French and English Later….Liberals and Conservatives become “omnibus parties” (similar to Republican and Democrat in USA) Brokerage parties try to bridge regional and linguistic divides– i.e. the party is an instrument of national unity and integration

7 Challenges to the Brokerage Model Break-away and new parties based on class and other economic cleavages …since First World War E.g…parties for Farmers, Labour, the CCF, Social Credit, NDP, Greens Regional or “national” movements or parties…Maritime Rights, Progressives, Bloc populaire, Reform, Bloc québécois

8 Challenges to the Brokerage Model, 1993 election Progressive-Conservative Party vote declines dramatically, and wins only 2 seats Bloc québécois (Quebec only) and Reform (west only) take 2 nd and 3 rd place in seats. Liberals were only “brokerage” party left, and for next 3 elections were safe from credible challenge. Two questions posed: –Could the right re-unite? –Why is the NDP not a successful brokerage party?

9 Restoration of Brokerage Politics? 1999: Canadian Alliance formed out of Reform party, Stockwell Day elected leader, but unable to convince many Progressive Conservative voters to join. 2003 the Progressive Conservative Party merges with Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party. Harper elected first leader. 2004, 2006, 2008 elections: three minority parliaments….what does this say about brokerage politics?

10 Decline of Party Role Parties no longer very important in determining policy Leaders dominant in a television age A more independent media than in the past Interest groups and social movements define political identity and community more precisely

11 Future of Parties… Would change a lot if electoral system changed …i.e. to a proportional system Electing Senators might help reinvigorate party life Municipal-level party development? The party that can attract the youth vote could transform the system

12 Party websites

13 Elections Parliament and Provincial/Territorial Legislatures must have an election at least every five years. Municipal Acts provide for elections of local government councils, usually every two years. Indian Act provides for Band council elections, usually every two years.

14 Elections: Key Issues Who do we vote for? Legislative branch, not directly for Executive Branch, not at all for Judicial Branch. Who gets to vote? Age and other limits. How often do we vote? Term limits. What is the electoral turn-out? Who votes? How are elections run and financed? How do votes translate into seats?

15 Electoral System Reform: Do we need it? Parties with thresholds of support under 20% nationally do not get many seats if support evenly spread Poor representation by women, aboriginals 1993, 1997 and 2000 elections: –Excessive concentration by region: Liberals in Ontario; BQ in Quebec; Alliance in west –No real competition to the Liberals

16 Electoral System Reform Alternatives –Majority / Plurality FPTP – USA, Canada, UK, India Alternative & Two-Ballot systems – Australia, France –Proportional Representation Party lists – Spain, Scandinavia Transferable vote – Australia Senate –Mixed Territorial Districts plus Party Lists – Germany, Ireland, New Zealand

17 Characteristics of Current Electoral System (SMP/FPTP)…PRO’s Superior representation of individual districts Produces a majority 7 out of 10 times Relatively simple to understand, quickly counted

18 Characteristics of Current Electoral System (SMP/FPTP)…Cons Does not accurately reflect party support (especially NDP). Huge constraint on entry of new parties Constrains other-than “majority” candidates (women, visible minorities, etc) Probably contributes to Liberal Party dominance Distorts regional representation, adding tensions to national unity

19 PR Models Comparing results in 39 th Parliament Actual –Cons 124 –Libs 103 –Bloc 51 –NDP 29 –Indep 1 –TOTAL 308 Pure PR results (5% party threshold)* –Cons 112 –Libs93 –Bloc32 –NDP54 –Others 0 –TOTAL 308 *If 3% threshold, Greens get 14 seats

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