Queen's University

National and provincial politics more integrated than previously thought

Royce Koop's new book explores how Canada's national and provincial Liberal parties campaign and organize in the constituencies.

Political scientists have long thought that Canadians live in two political worlds, independently navigating national and provincial politics. But new research by political scientist Royce Koop suggests that this idea of dual political identities in Canada may not be the case.

“The idea of citizens with dual political identities has some pretty significant democratic implications,” says Dr. Koop, whose book Grassroots Liberals: Organizing for Local and National Politics illuminates the connections between the Liberal Party’s federal and provincial levels. “It was thought that political parties were one of the agents that were promoting this sense of dual identities as a result of their separation.”

Dr. Koop found anecdotal evidence that cast some doubt on this assumption and decided to look more closely at Liberal campaigns, activities and organizations in ridings in British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick.

What he found was that national and provincial parties are a lot more closely linked in the constituencies than has been previously thought and have more in common when it comes to campaigns and organizations. By encouraging members to get involved at multiple levels, political parties play a significant role in mixing Canadians’ loyalties between the national and provincial levels.

This finding contradicts the old understanding that political parties don’t do anything to mix the loyalties of Canadians by encouraging their members to get involved at both the national and provincial levels. Until this point, political scientists have tended to think that Canadians are forced to choose between national and provincial parties that can differ from one another in terms of organization, policies and beliefs.

“Parties are beaten up all the time by political scientists for being unrepresentative or elitist,” says Dr. Koop. “One of the implications that I derived from this finding is a defence of parties. Canadian political parties, especially the NDP, are actually doing more than we think they are within the federal state to help Canadians engage with federalism.”

Grassroots Liberals: Organizing for Local and National Politics is published by UBC Press and is slated for release on May 1.

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Last updated at 8:21 am EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
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