Abstract: We propose a roundtable with three presentations resulting from a multi-year study of the 2015 election as part of the Making Electoral Democracy Work project. The title of the roundtable is 'Provincial Battles, National Prize? Election Campaigns in a Federal State' and will present findings from a far-reaching analysis of the 2015 Canadian federal election conducted through three different provincial lenses, drawing upon opinion polls and original candidate, media, and voter data.
In parliamentary systems like Canada, voters directly contribute to the election outcome only in their own riding. However, the focus of election campaigns is often national, emphasizing the leader rather than the local candidate, and national rather than regional polls. This suggests that elections are national contests, but election outcomes clearly demonstrate that support for parties varies strongly by province.
Focusing on the 2015 Canadian election campaigns in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, three large provinces with different subnational party systems, Provincial Battles, National Prize? evaluates whether we should understand elections in Canada as national wars or individual provincial clashes. The presenters draw upon voter and candidate surveys, party strategies and media coverage of the election to document how political parties vary their messages and strategies across provinces, how the media communicate and frame those messages, and how voters ultimately respond. The study shows that provincial variations in party support reflect differences in voters’ political preferences rather than differences in party messages or media coverage.