The Public Secret of Anxiety: The Effects of Disengagement and Denial on Democratic Discourses in Canada: Adam Kingsmith (York University) Abstract: Across the board, 41 per cent of Canadians are considered to be at a “high-risk” for sub-clinical anxiety. That is up from 35 per cent from last year and 33 per cent from the year before. As anxiety increasingly permeates public life, my doctoral dissertation examines its effects on the functioning of democratic discourses in Canada. To do so, I develop a post-positivist methodology for mapping the proliferation of anxiety today as a dominant manifestation of political apathy, social fragmentation, and technological mediation. The central argument is that the proliferation of anxieties generates political alienation and economic insecurity, which pushes sufferers towards disengagement and indifference.
Building from research correlating mental health challenges such as depression and paranoia to political participation, I argue that feelings of uncertainty and powerlessness associated with sub-clinical anxieties are often directly translated into the political domain as low levels of internal efficacy (“my voice will not make a difference”) as well as low levels of external efficacy (“the government is not listening to me anyways”). The resultant effect is either a gradual withdrawal from democratic discourses altogether, or, increasingly, a turn to far-Right populist candidates such as Doug Ford and Jason Kenny, who have utilized anxious feelings of frustration and displacement to garner increasing public support. Also central is how experiences of anxiety interlock with and reinforce other challenges to democracy and social equity such as the income-participation gap, cultures of fake news and post-truth, as well as the exclusion, underrepresentation, and surveillance of racial minorities, young voters, women, and people with disabilities.
Tweeting Past the Media: An Analysis of Image Management on Twitter During the 2018 Ontario Provincial Election: Andrew Mattan (University of Guelph) Abstract: In the lead-up to the 2018 Ontario provincial election, Progressive Conservative leader, Doug Ford, deliberately restricted his media availability in an effort to manage his public image. Although Ford’s restrictive media strategy was met by journalistic condemnation, it was far from novel. Indeed, the struggle between journalists and politicians over image management has long been recognized within the field of political communication. However, only a modicum of research has analyzed how political actors are using social media to promote a strategic image of themselves. Moreover, the visual component of political communication is one of the least studied and the least understood areas of research in the field. To fill this gap in the literature, this paper explores how party leaders in the 2018 Ontario provincial election presented themselves visually in tweets. Based on a content analysis of their tweets, this paper demonstrates that the party leaders leveraged the visual aspect of Twitter to counteract negative popular/journalistic depictions. The paper concludes by considering the implications of social media usage by political leaders within electoral democracy in Canada.
A Liberal Partisan? A Socio-Psychological Approach to Visible Minority Canadians’ Political Preferences: Clayton Ma (Concordia University) Abstract: Visible minority Canadians made up over 22 percent of Canadian society in 2016 (Statistics Canada 2016), yet we seem to know relatively little about their political attitudes. While previous works such as Blais (2005) have noted that Canadians of non-European descent do prefer the Liberal Party of Canada at the ballot box, we do not know precisely why this is the case, nor do we know if this trend is truly uniform across the vastly diverse ethnic/racial communities that are considered as “visible minorities.”
Using data drawn from the 2014 Provincial Diversity Project which includes a sample of 1,647 visible minority Canadians living in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta, this study proposes a detailed approach to studying visible minorities’ political preferences. Doing so, I account for key factors relevant to visible minorities such as length of residence, generational effects, and social conservatism. Moreover, I go beyond the visible minority category by also looking at the issue at an ethnic/racial level which allows the different immigrant communities’ unique political attitudes to surface. In this study, I specifically focus on Canada’s three largest visible minority communities (Blacks, Chinese, and South Asians) when studying visible minorities as distinct groups.
In addition to assessing the influence of length of residence, social conservatism, and social networks, my findings indicate that while visible minorities do, as a whole, still identify most closely with the Liberals, this is very much not the case across all minority communities once we look at them separately.
Hyper-connected Parents in a Highly Competitive and Regulated Education Market: Manon Laurent (Concordia University) Abstract: To build the China Dream, the current Chinese government emphasizes the role of education, not only as a propaganda tool but also to train an innovative and competitive population. However, like many states the Chinese state is torn between ensuring quality and selectiveness and guaranteeing fairness and equality. I argue that the Chinese authoritarian regime empower parents in their child’s education. So that parents feel responsible for their child’s education and life success. I broaden Cruikshank’s (1999) argument beyond democratic settings and show that this empowerment “contains the twin possibilities of domination and freedom” (Cruikshank 1999, 3). This process participates in a dispositif to control the population (Ferguson et Gupta 2002, 994; Foucault 2006) which is key sign of a resilient authoritarian system.
In a highly competitive schooling context, this paper shows how parents act simultaneously as disruptive agents and compliant citizens-subjects. This paper aims to understand how the interaction between parents, public, and private actors shapes the definition of ‘good’ parenting practices and enables parents to obtain the most suitable education resources for their child. Based on forty interviews with urban middle-class parents and actors of the Chinese education system (bureaucrats and private company managers), I observed that parents build solidarity network to strategize and implement the most appropriate education plan for their child. Despite the Chinese governments’ (local and national) constant attempts to regulate the education market and formalize the procedures, it seems that informal ties remain the central resource for parents’ regarding school choice.
Reconciliation and Apology in Settler-Colonial States: Nicholas Murphy (University of Western Ontario) Abstract: This dissertation aims to develop a conception of reconciliation that is appropriate to settler-colonial states dealing with the legacies of historic injustice perpetrated against Indigenous peoples. Considering that scholars cannot agree on what reconciliation is, it is surprising that many nonetheless agree on the fundamental role that political apology for historic wrongs must play in national reconciliation. Achieving reconciliation – in whatever form – requires that appropriate attention be paid to the crimes of the past; apology is one way to do this. Broad support for political apology in national reconciliation processes signals a widely shared intuition that apology is intimately connected with reconciliation. My dissertation challenges more orthodox approaches to defining reconciliation by working backwards: instead of starting with a pre-conceived notion of reconciliation and asking which public policy measures best promote it, I begin with an exploration of an initiative universally agreed to promote it – apology – and end with an understanding of reconciliation. This methodology offers a way to make use of the conceptual resources of apology while simultaneously demonstrating that the public policy initiatives integral to meaningful political apology should be incorporated into an understanding of reconciliation. The guiding idea is that apology’s relationship to reconciliation is more than incidental, and that by understanding political apology we can better understand reconciliation. Beginning with the central premise that reconciliation involves apology, my project concludes that reconciliation is usefully conceived as an analog of the interpersonal process of apology writ large for political contexts.
Reputation and Dispute Settlement in International Investment Agreements: Stefano Burzo (University of British Columbia) Abstract: Does reputation matter in international relations? My dissertation explores this question by looking at Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The dilemma: investment drives economic growth, but governments of low-income countries also face a temptation to expropriate foreign investors (i.e. by nationalizing assets) to redistribute wealth. As scholars noted, when countries expropriate they may suffer damage to their reputation as safe investment locales, especially when investors lodge complaints with international institutions, discouraging future investment.
Current studies assume that any dispute is harmful for the host country involved: the government’s trustworthiness is diminished, regardless of the outcome. This study proposes a new reputational mechanism in which the outcome of a dispute matters. A large-N regression analysis performed on an original dataset I gathered suggests that when countries lose a dispute, their reputation takes a hit; but when they win or settle a dispute, their reputation may in fact be strengthened. The novel theoretical mechanism and its empirical test are the main contribution of my dissertation to the field.
This study highlights governments’ incentives to increase transparency in dealing with investors and the impact of transparency on capital flows. It also proposes a novel theoretical take on how international reputational is created and develops, and it how it fosters cooperation on investment.
To Build a Home: Indigenous governance in housing policies: Laurence Richard-Norbert (Concordia University) Abstract: Since Indigenous peoples have been excluded from essential policy formulation and decision-making processes throughout the Canadian political history, we need to better understand how both Indigenous communities and Canadian policy institutions adapt to a rapidly changing political context. In fact, where it is usually understood that Indigenous policies strictly concern the federal government (as per section 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867 which confers to the federal government the exclusive authority to legislate over First Nations individuals and reserves), Indigenous housing policies rather appear to involve all levels of government to a relative degree. In this context, housing seems to be the “ideal” policy area to concretely understand the extent of Indigenous multi-level participation and how it influences the housing policy process in Canada. At the same time, the multi-level nature of the housing policy process combined to institutional constraints (namely jurisdictional) derive from prior colonial housing policies and contributes to the marginalization of Indigenous communities’ housing needs. Through interviews with Indigenous and federal and provincial government representatives in Quebec, this research argues that the binding nature of Canadian policy jurisdictions contributes to the marginalization of Indigenous communities’ housing needs. At the same time, it demonstrates how such institutional constraints may also foster greater cooperation between Indigenous communities and sometimes municipalities to meet the pressing housing needs for Indigenous people. More generally, this research aims to better understand the extent of Indigenous policy agency in formulating and implementing effective housing policies.
The Ethical Politics Imperative: Does Canada's political process ethics system measure up to best practices?: Duff Conacher (University of Ottawa) Abstract: How does the federal Canadian political process ethics system measure up when compared to a best-practice model system? By political process ethics I don’t mean the ethics of the substantive effects of decisions by political actors but instead the ethics of political decision-making processes (i.e. areas such as conflicts of interest, political finance, honesty, and lobbying).
I will develop the model using a Legal Pluralism approach with the objective of establishing a “whole culture” political process ethics system that changes not only legal standards but also social and cultural norms. To create this ethical political culture, the system will include best-practice legal standards and enforcement measures ranging from standard inspections, fines and jail terms to behavioural psychology approaches.
The ethics rules and enforcement system in the model will be based on best-practice international standards as set out by international organizations such as the United Nations, OECD and World Bank, as well as case studies in Canada and elsewhere, and the results of peer-reviewed research by legal, political science, criminology and behavioural psychology scholars.
While international best-practice political process ethics standards exist, they are vague. As well, many issues concerning what entails a best-practices have not been fully considered by scholars. In addition, the research behavioural psychologists have conducted concerning what forces affect human decision-making have not been applied to political ethics process systems. The model system that I develop will advance knowledge in all of the above areas, as well as reveal how Canada’s system
National Role Conception and External Support to Non-State Armed Groups: Moshen Solhdoost (University of Queensland) Abstract: The U.S. has been arming rebels in Syria since 2011. With Syria having the
characteristics of the type of civil war in which external support for rebels is least effective and
all the unintended consequences of supporting Afghan Mujahedeen in 1980s, it is not clear
why external states began to provide Syrian rebels with different types of support in the wake
of 2011 civil war. In this research, I have developed a dataset that consists of detailed
information about 92 cases of explicit external support to Non-State Armed Groups for the
period 1980-2017. As illustrated by the dataset, as a result of such continued pattern of foreign
policy some unintended consequences (71 out of 92). This introduces my research question:
Given the likelihood of blowbacks, why do states keep providing support to NSAGs?
In this research, I use the concept of National Role in Foreign Policy Analysis to argue
that this reflects the decision-making process by states that prioritize this kind of outcome. In
a comparative case-study approach, I have combined the method of cross-case comparison and
process tracing with qualitative content analysis to explore the foreign policy behaviour of
three top-sponsoring states USA, Israel, and Saudi Arabia over time. By examining official
foreign policy statements, I found that policy-makers’ perception of their national role
predisposes these states to take some form of action in particular situations where external
support seems to be the least bad option.