POLS 1400 Chapter 14
Definition and functions of Political Parties
A political party is an organized group that nominates candidates and contests election in order to
influence the personnel and policy of government.
Political parties aggregate, combine, consolidate or appeal to many different interests or demands –
these are collectively referred to, as issues.
Political parties provide “territorial” representation-formal institutions of the government including
electoral system and Parliament. They choose what they want to address and focus on the issues, health
care, jobs, education etc.
Political parties recruit decision makers primarily by means of the electoral system. Political patronage
refers to the appointment of certain political officeholders by the government party.
They are also involved in the legislative and executive operations of the government. The Canadian
Cabinet tradition is that all ministers are drawn from a single party so that there is agreement in policy
decisions. However, policymaking role of political parties is often minimal.
Broker parties: Try to appeal to a wide range of interests so they can form a majority government based
on a coalition of groups
Ideological or missionary parties are based on class or a right or left-wing ideology. Parties can also be
based on a single regional or ethnic interest.
Cadre parties are small group of notables not democratic in structure or operation
Mass parties tend to promote large memberships with significant influence in the functioning of the
Historical Evolution of Canadian parties
A party system is a concept in comparative political science concerning the system of government bypolitical
parties in a democratic countryFor the evolution of Canadian political party system, Ken Carty suggests
dividing this evolution into four parts, or four party systems.
• First Party System, 1867-1921
– Liberals and Conservatives dominated Canadian politics.
– Conservatives began in 1854 with MacDonald
– Mackenzie headed the Liberal government from 1873-1878.
– Went from one-party dominance of Conservatives to two-party system with Liberals and
Conservatives on equal footing. Second Party System, 1921-1957
• Two-party system to a two-plus or two-and-a-half party system.
– Dominated by Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent.
– 1921, farmers entered with progressive candidates.
– CCF formed in Calgary in 1932.
– 1933, Regina Manifesto adopted.
– 1935 Social Credit, 1935
The Third Party System, 1957-1993
• Altenating minority and majority governments.
• NDP created in 1961.
• 1980s, three-party system.
• NDP was entrenched as the third national party
Fourth Party System, 1993-
• Emergence of two new regional parties.
• Multi-party system.
• Canadian politics have become more regionalized.
• The view that the Liberals are the natural governing party in Canada.
• Conservatives have assumed the role of opposition party.
• The NDP are labeled the innovation party.
The failure of broker parties to meet the needs of ethnic , regional or class grievances is the main reason
for the emergence of minor parties. Also the rigid party discipline enforced in the Canadian Parliament
has encouraged the development of minor protest parties.
• Factors that influence the emergence of minor parties: – Region
– The economy
– Charismatic leadership.
The Broker System:
Many parties looking votes from the country by focusing on things like genders, classes,
religions, ages, regions, ethnic and linguistic groups
Best way for parties to gain power
Religion was predominately the most important factor, however that has changed so that
gender and age are becoming increasingly popular
When voting power was extended to the working class, a new party developed that focussed on
the interests of those voters
1. Parties often downplay their ideology differences in search for votes
2. Their positions change over time
3. They are all internally divided
Ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism and social democracy differentiate liberal, conservative and
NDP parties. The basic ideology in Canada is liberalism, but traces of socialism and conservatism also
The degree of representation of each of these ideologies is the basis of these three major parties.
No ideology difference exists between Liberals and Conservatives
From 1945-1980 both shared ideology of economic growth based on foreign investments,
expansion of welfare and macroeconomic government regulations
Until 1984(Mulroney) used business liberal approach changing this view Another View:
Liberalism: more centralized
Conservatism: Favour individualism and inequality
Social democracy(NDP): Favour collectivism and egalitarianism
Basic ideology in Canada is liberalism, which means liberating individuals and maximizing each
individual’s freedoms and potential.
1. Who should be liberated
2. What is the habiting agent
3. How to go about such liberation (role of the state)
Reducing the role of the state; individual’s fend for themselves
Private market forces to determine distribution of powr and wealth(Individualism)
Minimizing tax burden
Unconcerned by inequality
Liberate individuals from inequality and exploitation
Emphasizes government planning, regulation, ownership
Redistribution of income through social programs
Two types of liberalism(Central)
State role is minimized so individuals can prevail
State can be a positive agent
Liberating individuals from constraints
Combination of individualism and collectivism
Combination of equality and inequality
Red Tories( Progressive Conservative party)
Combine privilege and collectivism Emphasizing community values and individualism
Stand for tradition, stability and order
Main objective: Quebec Sovereignty
No clear-cut left or right wing ideology
Collectivism as a major ideology:
United States lacks collectivism in their politics
Canada got their approach of collectivism from many different areas
o United Empire Loyalist
o Feudal background of French Canadians
o British Immigrants(red Tories and Socialist views)
o Social gospel movement
New Philosophy of government:
Social Conservatives – formed from Reform party and Canadian Alliance
Strong State: promoting traditional social values
Regulate social behaviour
Opposed abortion, public child-care, gay rights and employment equity
Believed in populism ( against elitism)
Against British Parliamentary democracy
In 2003-Conservative Party was created
Stephen Harper from the Alliance Party and Peter Mackay from Progressive Conservatives
united the right wing by becoming one party
Made up of party activists/executive members
Party headquarters and staff
Ordinary party members
Committed activists(mainly seen as part of the NDP) o Maintain membership for years
Nomination contestants (seen in Liberal and Conservative party)
o Let membership lapse
Every card-carrying member of the party has been allowed to cast a vote for the leadership
(OMOV)One Member- One Vote
In 1992, combined giving every party member a vote and a convention, but in 2009 adopted OMOV
PC Party – Progressive conservative
1. In 1998: each party member had a vote, but weight was placed on each vote so each
constituency had equal power
2. In 2003: Combined OMOV and delegate convention
3. In 2004: One member – One vote system, no convention and each constituency had equal
1. In 2003; all members had a vote for the leadership, and a small convention is held to celebrate
Liberals and Conservatives have generally been more successful in election campaigns that were
preceded by a serious effort at policy generation within the party.
Policy sessions every two years
Resolutions passed are considered official and binding on the leader and parliamentary party.
NDP Policy making process is still a priority and they take more seriously the resolutions passed
The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing:
Urges parties to establish foundations that would engage in serious policy research whether or not their
ideas are subject to be approved of grassroots party members
General Structures and Operations
1. In theory, all parties have constitutions that outline: Objections
These serve as good social and morale building purpose
2. Convention Agenda (held every 2 years) discuss
a. Election of party executives
b. Constitutional amendments
c. Policy discussions
d. Instruction in local election organization
3. Liberal and Conservatives
a. Constituency association entitled in equal number of delegators
a. Representatives are based on the size of the local membership
1. Each party has a national executive including
b. Vice president
c. Treasurer etc
2. Some parties have executive committees
a. Some presidents are elected Senators: close to parliament and do not need to be paid
3. Party head Quarters
a. 3 main national parties hold head quarter offices in Ottawa
i. They are staffed by permanent party members
The Iron of Oligarchy
1. Tendency towards elitism is inevitable within all political parties giving rise to “Iron Law of
2. Party leaders create coterie’s of advisors cutting them off from direct party