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Provincial and Territorial Politics in Canada and Beyond

J21 - Workshop: The Changing Face of Provincial Party Politics IV: Party System Change in the Canadian Provinces

Date: Jun 6 | Time: 03:15pm to 04:45pm | Location: ESB 2012

Chair/Président/Présidente : Laura Stephenson (Western University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Laura Stephenson (Western University)


Session Abstract: Recent elections across Canada have resulted in historically odd results. In most provincial elections, governing parties are elevated from the Official Opposition, yet recent results have seen third-place parties vault directly into government (Alberta, Quebec). Provincial elections are known for resulting in sizeable majorities for the victors, yet some recent election outcomes have been so close that minority governments have formed and fallen soon afterward (BC and New Brunswick). Provincial party systems are typically stable, yet long-serving governments have been toppled decisively in recent elections (Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec) and minor parties have risen to prominence (Alberta, Quebec, New Brunswick). This workshop is designed to unpack these developments on a party-by-party basis, uncovering patterns, trends, and anomalies across Canada


Continuity and Change in Provincial Party Systems: David Stewart (University of Calgary)
Abstract: Presumptions of change abound in recent discussions of provincial politics. Changes of government occurred following the most recent election in seven provinces and the Green party has now secured representation in four provincial legislatures. Moreover, Quebec is now governed by a party that didn’t exist a decade ago and its traditional parties face significant challenges. In two other provinces, the governing party trailed its major competitor in the popular vote and secured office on the basis of support from a third party. This is an exploratory paper that charts continuity and change in provincial election results since 2000. It highlights the vote and seat shares won by the party forming the government as well as the vote and seat shares of the two largest parties. It discusses changes in the nature of party competition and addresses the speed of such changes.


Provincial Party Systems: A New Typology: Jared Wesley (University of Alberta ), Clare Buckley (University of Alberta)
Abstract: Using the Canadian federation as a laboratory, this paper advances a new framework for comparing party systems across space and time. The typology incorporates two core dimensions of political party systems: conflict intensity and competitiveness. Conflict intensity – or the degree of adversarialism in the system – encompasses the extent to which parties within the system agree on a common issue agenda and policy solutions, while competitiveness measures the uncertainty of typical elections in the system, including the overall balance of popular support among parties and the vulnerability of governments. Each of these components is used to create a series of typologies and indexes, which are then applied to data from the Canadian provinces. A concluding discussion establishes the value of this exercise, and suggests ways in which these indexes and typologies may be used as independent and dependent variables in future inquiries.


Party System Evolution and Government Formation in the Canadian Provinces: Alan Siaroff (University of Lethbridge)
Abstract: This paper will look at the evolution since 1982 of party patterns and (if lasting) party systems across the Canadian provinces, and how these have affected the nature of governments (majority versus minority) and government formation. The first part of the paper will provide an overall classification, emphasizing the commonality of two-and-a-half-party patterns and systems, with only Saskatchewan now having a two-party system. The second part will involve a longitudinal as well as contemporary look at the underlying cleavages of party politics, contrasting across the provinces as well as the federal reality. The third part will note the rise and basis of (new) minor parties which, though not competing for government, have led to some recent hung parliaments. The fourth part follows from the third, discussing the recent confidence and supply agreement in British Columbia and other ways of dealing with hung parliaments. Finally, the paper will look ahead in particular to the likely effects of any electoral system changes on provincial party systems.