Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : William Cross (Carleton University)
Session Abstract: What explains who runs for elected office? Scholars of race and gender, ambitious politicians and political parties have each developed their own accounts of the processes that produce candidates. As these research traditions have developed, they have become increasingly disconnected from one another. This panel brings together scholars of different ranks and perspectives to explain who runs for office, particularly paying attention to diversity and inequality. The papers cover federal, provincial and municipal politics. Albaugh and Erl consider party-oriented explanations for candidate diversity. Albaugh makes the case that party insiders have a repertoire of control to exert informal influences over nomination that they used to shape gender representation among candidates. Erl looks at the importance of parties for representational diversity by looking at municipal politics, taking advantage of the fact that municipalities vary in the extent to which parties are involved to show how parties matter for diversity in representation. Pruysers takes a candidate-centered approach, focusing on the determinants of whether municipal politicians have the desire to run for provincial or federal office, using original survey data from municipal candidates. Finally, Tolley, Thomas and Bodet focus on the importance of districts. They hypothesize that, in districts where district-specific factors drive election outcomes more than party-specific factors or national campaigns, candidate diversity will be lower. The range of papers on this panel will offer participants opportunities to make connections across different perspectives on candidates, nominations and representation.
Party Control and Gender Representation: Quinn Albaugh (Princeton University) Abstract: A wide range of recent studies on race, gender and class representation have placed an emphasis on "party gatekeepers" as the main barrier to representation for marginalized groups. In Canada, these studies typically rely on information about the backgrounds of riding association presidents or executives and nominated candidates. In this body of work, the mechanisms of gatekeeping often go unexamined. I fill this gap by drawing on an organizational perspective on parties. I argue that party organizations have a "repertoire of control" – a set of tools through which a range of different types of actors within political parties exert informal influences over nominations. I illustrate this argument through a study of nominations for the 2018 New Brunswick provincial election in historical context. While party organizations have historically used the repertoire of control to exclude women from elected office, New Brunswick Liberal nominations provide an important case of "affirmative gatekeeping": using party control over nominations to exclude members of dominant groups and include members of marginalized groups. This strategy was effective in nominations, helping the Liberals reach their target of 50 percent women in ridings without a Liberal incumbent, though it clearly favoured "advantaged sub-groups" of women (Strolovitch 2007). Ultimately, while use of the repertoire helped the Liberals reach their target, linguistic conflict, incumbency and the rise of third parties limited representational gains in the Legislative Assembly.
Do Municipal Politicians Live in their Own Political World?: Scott Pruysers (Ryerson University) Abstract: Unlike many other federations (e.g., Germany), a role as a provincial politician in Canada is not considered to be less prestigious than an MP at the federal level. It is not surprising then, to find very little evidence of a multi-level career trajectory in Canada. That is, politicians do not tend to start their careers provincially, using this experience as a stepping stone to a later entry into federal politics. Empirical examinations of the career paths of Canadian legislators suggests that less than 10% of federal MPs have served provincially.
Left out of this discussion, however, is the question of whether the municipal level is a launching pad in this country. Using original survey data from the Canadian Municipal Election Study, this paper explores progressive political ambition among more than 800 individuals who ran for municipal office (city council, mayor, and regional council) in 2018. We consider whether municipal candidates/politicians live in their own political world, or if they do, in fact, aspire to a future in federal or provincial politics. We are interested not only in the extent to which candidates express progressive ambition but also in uncovering the kinds of individuals who are the most likely to be interested in higher office. Here we consider factors such as sex, age, ethnicity, past experience, and party membership. The findings of this paper will provide important insight into multi-level politics in Canada, and address an important oversight in the current literature.
There’s a Party at City Hall: Political Parties and Candidate Diversity in Canadian Municipal Elections: Chris Erl (McGill University) Abstract: Municipal politics in Canada varies notably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some cities feature well-organized political parties, others have leader-centric “équipe” or teams, while others still are officially non-partisan, with political parties operating in the 'shadows'. I hypothesize that cities with formal political parties and, to a lesser extent, équipe, provide candidates from marginalized groups (such as women, visible minorities, and people from queer and Indigenous communities) resources and support and, therefore, increase their electoral presence. In contrast, candidates in non-partisan/shadow party systems must rely more on personal networks and the “behind the scenes” allocation of partisan resources, resulting in a disadvantage for candidates from minority and marginalized communities. To evaluate these claims, I conducted a survey of over 3,200 candidates for local office in British Columbia and Ontario, analyzed campaign financial returns, and considered campaign contribution networks to draw connections between candidates and larger political organizations. By analyzing the connections between local political organization and the racial, ethnic, and sexual diversity of municipal officeholders and candidates, this work seeks to answer questions about the role of parties and the impact of ostensibly non-partisan and politically distinct local elections on the political and electoral representation of Canada’s diverse and changing population.
Explaining Variations in Representational Diversity Through Electoral Districts: Erin Tolley (University of Toronto), Melanee Thomas (University of Calgary), Marc-André Bodet (Université Laval) Abstract: A broadly accepted generalization is that political parties vary systematically when it comes to their ability and willingness to select a diverse slate of candidates. Most research on the electoral representation of women and racialized minorities focuses on characteristics of political parties, including their placement on the ideological spectrum, the presence of an affirmative action policy, or the influence of local party elites (Cheng & Tavits 2011; Farrar & Zingher 2018). However, new research suggests that variation in districts themselves, including their competitiveness and demographic diversity, might lead parties to be more (or less) willing to nominate people of colour or women as candidates for public office (Tolley 2015; Thomas & Bodet 2013). We thus focus on the features of electoral districts. Specifically, we ask if there are districts where diverse candidates are nominated across political parties, and if so, what features of these districts help to explain their association with more diverse representation? We use a new measure of district power that captures how much variation in election results is attributable to the district itself (and not, say, to voters, political parties, or the national campaign). We expect that when district power is high, all parties will be more likely to nominate more conventional candidates (i.e., white, man, older). But, when district power is lower, other factors, such as a party’s willingness to recruit candidates on the basis of diversity, will provide a more powerful explanation for the emergence of more diverse candidates.