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
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 countFor 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 – Ethnicity
– 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 exist .
The degree of representation of each of these ideologies is the basis of these three major
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
• Progressive tax
• 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