Political parties are at the centre of Canadian democracy. Theychoose our prime ministers, premiers, and candidates for public office;they decide which policy issues are considered in the provincial andfederal legislatures; they dominate our election campaigns. As aresult, a democracy that is participatory, responsive, and inclusivecan only be achieved if Canadian political parties share these valuesand operate in a manner respecting them. In a concise and accessiblemanner, this book delves into the history, structure, mechanisms, androles of Canada’s political parties, and assesses the degree towhich Canadians today can rely on political parties as vehicles forgrassroots participation.
With an emphasis on Canada’s federal parties, Cross examinesparty membership, candidate recruitment, leadership selection, policydevelopment, election campaigning, and party financing. Throughout, hemaintains a clear focus on how well Canadian parties are serving theCanadian people, and, in keeping with the aims of the DemocraticAudit, interrogates their performance in terms of participation,inclusiveness, and responsiveness. In addition, the book also draws onthe experiences of provincial parties to provide a comprehensiveportrait of party life in Canada. Where appropriate, comparisons aredrawn with parties in other Western democracies.
A crucial and timely overview of political parties, this book willappeal to all those who seek a fuller understanding of the Canadianparty system. Those interested in how regular citizens participate inparty decision making will be particularly concerned with Cross’disturbing conclusion that our parties are falling short in terms ofbenchmarks set forth by the Canadian Democratic Audit.
He does an excellent job of using the main themes of this research to explore the democratic limitations of parties, presenting them in an accessible manner. Throughout the study, and comprehensively in the last chapter, he offers a range of provocative reforms aimed at both encouraging on-going discussion and improving democratic practices within parties as well as at elections.
Both as individual books, as well as the state goals of the Canadian Democratic Audit series, the analyses achieve what they set out to do. It is heartening to see that the state of politics is taken seriously, that there are difficult questions asked, systemic weaknesses are pointed out, and that these authors have the capacity to recommend what it is that might work better to develop a more inclusive and participatory democratic system. These books succeed in that they are moving into a territory that has a broad scope in challenging issues and institutions that set the stage for the major political categories of analysis ...
How does the Democratic Audit itself stand up to its own auditing criteria? The CDA promises to test Canadian democratic practices against standards of participation, responsiveness, and inclusiveness. Its books certainly welcome readership; they are compact, well designed, well organized , and easy to “use” – certainly some of the most accessible works of academic political science we’ve seen in years. Despite the range of topics, each author manages to return to a series of report-card-style assessments based on the prearranged audit standards ... William Cross and his colleagues in the Canadian Democratic Audit are on to something important. Canadians are concerned, and interested, too, about the state of how we govern ourselves. And if the CDA doesn’t answer all the questions, at least it helps raise most of them.
Figures and Tables
1. Auditing Canada’s Political Parties
2. Political Parties as Membership Organizations
3. Policy Study and Development
4. Candidate Selection
5. Selection of Party Leaders
6. Parties and Election Campaigning
7. Money and Politics
8. Four Proposals for Party Reform
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