Parties Definitions and Functions
Political parties – organizations that offer slates of candidates to voters at
election time. Also referred to as “voluntary associations of people who hold
broadly similar opinions on public question”.
Note* - while most parties do hope to elect candidates to office, and some
even have a realistic prospect of electing enough candidates to form a
government, other parties may contest elections chiefly to get their ideas
onto the public stage. ex. Marijuana party
7 functions political parties play in a democracy
1. Integrating citizens into the political system – parties serve as links
between citizens and government
2. Developing policy – different parties represent different ideological
3. Elite recruitment – most people who are elected federally or
provincially are involved with a political party
4. Organization of government – governing parties propose and
opposition parties oppose. Provides a partisan structure to the process
of law making and debate amongst public affairs
5. Structuring the vote – the fact that only a handful of political parties
are serious contenders for citizens, each party represents in a sense, a
particular selection on a limited menu.
6. Organizing public opinion – parties are often characterized as right
wing, left wing, or centrist; as liberal, conservative or socialist or by
some other set of labels.
7. Interest aggregation – Parties, especially parties that hope to form a
government, must aggregate different interests.
Brokerage politics – style of politics that stresses the ability of parties to
accommodate diverse interests, a feat that requires flexibility in policy
positions and ideological stance. Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) – predecessor to the New
Democratic Party (NDP), the CCF was created in 1932 as an alliance of three
main elements: disgruntled farmers, chiefly from western Canada, central
Canadian intellectuals, and labour activists.
Origins and Evolution of Canadian Party system
• Conservatives and liberals can be traced back to the shifting coalitions
and alignments in the united province of Canada in the 1840’s and
• Liberal conservatives – would eventually become liberal party under
the leadership of Sir John A. Macdonald in Canada West and his
counterpart, Georege-Etienne Cartier, in Canada East.
• Moderate concervatives – (the bleus)
• A unifying vision of the country was envisioned by Macdonald amongst
many divisions in the country
• The elimination of the open ballot and deferred elections by the late
1870’s, along with the gradual standardization of electoral regulations
across the different provinces, did not reduce the patronage in federal
• Liberals can be identified with a strong central state – hence ongoing
battles between Ottawa and the provinces over control of natural
• The Tories have become increasingly associated with political
• In Canada “class voting is low because political parties are identified as
representatives of regional, religious and ethnic groupings rather than
as representatives of national class interests
• The Reform Party – Preston Manning - was a western protest
movement because of the believed alienation of the west from
• Minor parties like Reform/Alliance perform an important function in our
brokerage party system: they provide a much-needed source of policy
innovation, goading the major parties into acting on the concerns of regions, classes, or significant social groups that they have
traditionally ignored or underestimated
National policy – the Conservative party’s election platform in 1878, this
nation building strategy began to be implemented in 1879. Its three
components included a significant increase in protective tariffs, construction
of a transcontinental railroad, and encouragement of western settlement to
expand the market for the manufactured products of central Canada and to
protect this territory from American encroachment.
Patronage – the awarding of favours, such as contrasts, jobs or public
spending in a community, in exchange for political support.
The 1993 and 1997 Elections: the end of Brokerage politics?
• Before the 1993 election it was common to speak of Canada’s ‘two and
one-half’ party system
• Liberals and conservatives had a realistic shot of forming government
while the NDP was a stable minority
• 1993 liberals won a majority government, neither the conservative nor
NDP’s won enough for official party status
• The reform party jumped from one seat to 52 aswell as the Bloc
Quebecious big jump from a few seats to 54
• Dissatisfaction with brokerage style politics caused this outcome – the
weakness of party loyalties among voters.
• Liberal party emerged in 1993 as the only true national party and
succeed in practicing old brokerage style politics
• He 1997 general election was a replay of 1993. The liberals swept all
but one of Ontario’s seats, the reform party dominated in the west. The
Bloc Quebecious continued to be the most popular party in Quebec.
• The Concervative party emerged from the 97 election as an Atlantic
• A ‘unite the right’ movement to defeat the liberals became more
persistent Minority government – a situation where no single political party controls a
majority of seats in the house of commons
The 2000 Election: Alliance Stalled?
• Jean Chretien called the 200 election mainly because of its winnability
• The reform party or alliance party had a new leader Preston manning
out, Stockwell day in.
• The liberals were re-elected with a larger majority than they held
before the election
• Even though the alliance outcomes improved Day was criticised as
ineffective. The parties inability to get seats in Ontario and remain a
western based party was seen as a failure by most analysts
• Bloc Quebecious continued success in Quebec as well as the
Conservative in the Atlantic
The 2004, 2006, and 2008 Elections: A divided Electorate
• The 2003 merger of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive
Conservative Party eliminated what many considered to be the
conditions of permanent Liberal government in Canada
• The right was now united and the prospect of making inroads in the
liberal stronghold of Ontario seemed within reach
• The adscam scandal as the affair is known hurt liberal support in
quebec and boosted the BQ
• the concervatives and NDP were going in with new leaders
• the liberals won a minority government in 2004
• a conservative minority was awarded due to an increase in seats in
Ontario and a breakthrough in Quebec
• Harper became Prime minister • This win was widely viewed interpreted as a rightward shift in