Canadian Politics

A02(c) - Canadian Political Parties

Date: Jun 12 | Time: 10:15am to 11:45am | Location:

Do Conventions Still Matter? A Functional Analysis of Party Conferences in Canada: Rob Currie-Wood (University of Alberta)
Abstract: Party conferences (or ‘conventions’) were once major sites for intraparty democracy in Canada. These assemblies brought together delegations from various membership groupings to make tough decisions about leadership (Perlin 1988; Courtney 1995). However, now that leadership selectorates have expanded to include all rank-and-file members (Cross et al. 2016), it remains unclear what, if any, functions are accomplished at conventions. Media accounts suggest that these forums are tightly scripted by central leadership, thus serving as “infomercial[s] for the unconverted or undecided” (Proudfoot 2023). The implication is that central control restricts membership participation. Yet, efforts to direct proceedings also imply that conventions maintain some substantive powers and authority. This paper investigates these claims by systematically analyzing the Liberal, Conservative, and New Democratic party conferences held in 2023. Inductive analysis of governance documents (e.g., party constitutions, bylaws, and convention schedules) is used to identify and evaluate the formal tasks accomplished at conventions. Though exploratory in nature, the empirical analysis is guided by theories of intraparty democracy emphasizing the competitive and cooperative dynamics structuring the relationship between party elites and grassroots members (Carty 2002; Cross 2018).

Doing All the Same Things: Common Practices in the Leadership Races of Canada’s Political Parties: Conor D. Columb (University of Waterloo), Anna Lennox Esselment (University of Waterloo)
Abstract: Political party leadership races are exciting events. For parties, a new leader could raise a party’s profile and lead it to win more seats in the House of Commons, form government, and keep it in power. For candidates, becoming party leader means the opportunity to build the party, formulate policy visions, or become the prime minister. Of course, aspiring leaders must first win leadership races. This paper seeks to examine commonalities among those who win leadership races in Canada. Such commonalities include their standing in Parliament, public profile, debate style, and political marketing techniques. To find these commonalities, this paper analyses three leadership races in Canadian federal politics: the Liberal Party (2013), the Conservative Party (2017 and 2020), and the New Democratic Party (NDP) (2017). Relying primarily on secondary sources, it examines the structure and context of each race including the length, vote method, number of candidates running, total party membership, and the number of members who voted. Next, the paper will analyse the characteristics and strategies of the winners to identify common patterns, such as media profile (through a media scan), marketing techniques (through secondary accounts), debate style (content analysis of the debates), and public opinion polls. This study will identify leadership behaviours or traits that are shared among the winners, and that could have implications for how new candidates approach these leadership races in the future. Overall, this paper seeks to provide a thorough account of recent leadership trends in Canada’s major federal parties and contextualise them comparatively.

Hard and Fast Rules? Which leadership selection rule changes lead to changes in others?: Audrey E. Brennan (Université Laval & Cevipol (ULB)), Marc André Bodet (Université Laval)
Abstract: Canadian party scholars have extensively studied the evolution of party leadership selection rules (Courtney 1973, 1995; Cross, 1996; Cross & Blais, 2012a,b; Cross & Pilet, 2015; Pilet & Cross, 2014), few however, have focused on provincial parties (with the following exceptions Courtney, 1995; Cross, 1996; Montigny, 2012; Montigny & Tessier, 2017; Pruysers & Stewart, 2018; Stewart & Archer, 2000; Stewart & Carty, 1993; Stewart, 1997; Wesley & Loewen, 2013). Furthermore, while Canadian party scholars consider two types of leadership selection rules, who can vote and how they vote (Blake & Carty, 1995; Cross, 1996; Wesley & Lowen, 2014), we know very little about other types of rules, nor do we have up to date data allowing us to compare across Canadian parties, across provinces and over time. Using a collection of 168 political party documents covering the 2010-2023 period, I answer the following question: when parties do change a leadership selection rule, whether it be who can vote, how many signatures parties require of potential leadership candidates for nominations, how many other rules change at the same time? Similarly, which party documents are more likely to change among leadership selection rules and party constitutions? I look for similarities and differences among provinces, time, and political parties for all these questions.

Big Tents, Shifting Stakes: The changing landscape of Canada’s brokerage politics: Clifton van der Linden (McMaster University), Alexander Shestopaloff (Queen Mary University of London), Alexander Beyer (McMaster University), John McAndrews (McMaster University)
Abstract: A defining feature of Canadian politics has long been the distinctive character of brokerage parties in which ostensible ideological commitments are softened if not sacrificed to secure a particular configuration of votes. The metaphorical stakes of Canada’s “big tent” parties, however, are not fixed. The configuration of ideas and interests to which parties attach themselves has shifted over time with implications for voter alignment. This paper offers a novel empirical analysis of these changes over the last decade by leveraging data from Vote Compass, a voting advice application operated during the four Canadian federal elections held between 2011 and 2021. Between 1.6 and 2 million respondents were surveyed on a wide range of policy issues using Vote Compass during each election. Detailed policy positions of the parties contesting each election were also collected in order to calibrate the instrument. We use these data to map the contours of each party in terms of the space it occupies in a spatial model of the Canadian ideological landscape. We then run this model across time to observe how said contours change, exploring not only how the shape of big tent parties transforms but also which segments of the electorate are included in and excluded from each tent as the stakes shift. The uniquely large sample size made available by the Vote Compass data permits us to examine in granular detail both the ideological and demographic constituencies that are enfranchised or disenfranchised in this process.