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Research Talks in Canadian Politics: Elizabeth Baisley (University of Toronto)

Thursday, February 6, 2020
2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Dunning Hall
Room: 12
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"Conversion and Replacement: Interest Group Strategies and Polarization "

Over the past several decades, Canadian parties have grown increasingly polarized on abortion and LGBT rights. Existing work points to cross-country differences in public opinion to explain why it took longer for partisan conflict on these issues to emerge in Canada than in the US. Based on extensive primary sources from the 1960s until today, I argue instead for the importance of interest group strategies: when some socially conservative groups became disheartened with traditional lobbying and began to work more within party politics, they began a chain of events that resulted in party position change. From the Canadian case, I develop a more general theory of the relationship between interest group strategies and party position change. I distinguish between conversion strategies, which aim to persuade or convert existing political actors to take the interest group’s position – and replacement strategies, which aim instead to replace unfavourable party personnel and policies with ones that are more favourable to the interest group. Unlike conversion strategies, replacement strategies disrupt internal party processes. As a result, replacement strategies force party actors to decide whether to shun or embrace a group. No matter how parties respond, they contribute to processes of party position change. 

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