Pristine Purity: New Political Parties in Canada
Lucardie, Paul, American Review of Canadian Studies
Success sells better than failure; hence new parties receive very little attention from political scientists as long as they remain marginal and fail to win seats in Parliament. Yet in the margins of the party system, they may maintain the pristine purity of political principles and ideas better than parties in Parliament, let alone parties in power. This is one reason why one might want to study new parties. However, there are other, perhaps more compelling reasons.
As traditional parties fragment in the era of "postmodern" politics, new parties have the potential to play a more significant role, in opposition or even in government. If established parties fail to integrate discontented groups--alternative or immigrant subcultures, for example--new parties may mobilize and socialize these groups. In trying to articulate latent interests and ideologies, new parties will show us the range of available political options in a system and throw fresh light on its political culture. Even if the new parties do not win power, their ideas may be borrowed by parties in government once those ideas have been tested in public debate and have gained some popular support. Finally, studying new parties can help us to understand the formation process and subsequent evolution of parties in general, and their relation to society. Too often, political scientists have neglected marginal political parties. Recently, Stephen Hanson and Jeffrey Kopstein pointed out that "seemingly marginal politicians and groups can quickly catalyze powerful institutional changes once the global environment changes," the most extreme examples being Lenin's Bolsheviks and Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' Party. (2)
This article will concentrate on the period after 1972, when registration of parties became standard practice in Canada, required for reimbursement under the Election Expenses Act. Between 1972 and 2006, 48 new parties were registered by Elections Canada. (3) Quite a few never tried their luck in federal elections--the Nude Garden Party being a striking example. Out of the 20 new parties that did, only two succeeded in winning any seats. Why did the others fail? And why did they try, anyway? Before providing an answer to these questions, I will put forward a tentative framework for the analysis of new parties--inspired by the work of pioneers in this area such as the American political scientists Stephen Fisher and Thomas Rochon and the Canadian Maurice Pinard. (4)
A Framework for Analysis
New parties do not emerge in a vacuum. Their founders may see themselves as autonomous actors with original ideas, but they are, of course, the product of a political system with its particular traditions and values, socioeconomic interests, and cleavages. As soon as a new party appears on the scene, it will be assigned a position in the system. Intellectuals, interest groups, and politicians from other parties will venture an opinion about it: (rarely) approving, (often) criticizing, or ridiculing the newcomer. In extreme cases, the new party may even be banned or repressed by the authorities. At any rate, the established parties and the media will contribute to the "political opportunity structure" that conditions, to a large extent, the development of the new party.
The notion of the "political opportunity structure," invented to explain social movements but later applied to (new) political parties, contains at least four different aspects: (5)
1. It refers to the electoral system and the wider institutional context: a federal or unitary state, a presidential or parliamentary regime, but also rules of party registration, party financing, and other formal requirements. As the American political scientists Arend Lijphart and Matthew Shugart have demonstrated, a single-member plurality system or "first-past-the-post" electoral system (as exists in Canada) offers few political opportunities to new parties, unless those parties cater to particular regional interests. (6)
2. Additionally, it includes the political culture, ideological traditions, and patterns of political values, all of which may affect the chances of new parties. A new party may win more support if it appeals to existing or dormant traditions and values, while parties professing alien values and exotic ideologies may remain peripheral forever.
3. It encompasses support from available allies, such as social movements, trade unions, churches or other religious organizations, and independent media--support that enhances the chances of a new party. (7)
4. Finally, it may include the party system and, more specifically, the positions of established parties on relevant issues and the "issue space" they control, as well as their electoral strategies. This fourth element, which one might call "political conjuncture," is shaped (at least to some extent) by forces outside the political system, such as an economic recession that causes hardship for all voters but particularly for certain groups (for example, farmers or old-age pensioners). In order to have an impact on the political situation, however, these groups have to be mobilized through mass organizations or informal networks of political activists--resources I will discuss below. As Pinard showed, a new party may benefit from an economic crisis, if the established parties are either held responsible for the crisis or perceived as too weak to do anything about it. (8) In more general terms, new parties have to find a "niche" in the party system not yet or no longer occupied by established parties.
Without political opportunities, even parties with interesting projects and sufficient resources will remain peripheral--i.e., without seats in Parliament. In order to benefit from a favorable political opportunity structure, however, new parties cannot afford to wait for voters to discover them. They have to mobilize resources to "sell" their project to their potential voters. In modern liberal democracies, the most important resources for electoral success seem to be leadership, members, money, and mass media exposure.
In a sense, the project of the party--i.e., the way it defines and proposes to solve relevant political problems--might be considered a resource, too. Though an important factor in the electoral development of the party, theoretically it is of a different order.
Two Successful New Parties
In the early 1990s, the Canadian party system changed dramatically--the often abused term "crisis" seems appropriate here. In 1988, the Progressive Conservative Party (PC) had won 169 out of 295 seats (43 percent of the popular vote): an absolute majority in the House of Commons, albeit a smaller one than four years earlier. The Free Trade Agreement concluded with the United States had been the dominant issue in that election. (9) The two other parties in Parliament, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP), had opposed the Agreement. Apart from that issue, ideological differences between Liberals and Conservatives were rarely very pronounced. Both adhered (in a pragmatic way) to liberal principles, in fact, even if the PC still added a touch of Toryism to its liberalism. (10) Partisan attachments were quite weak, and distrust in parties was growing. (11) In the next five years, the Conservative government led by Brian Mulroney suffered several serious setbacks: an economic recession, increasing unemployment as well as a soaring deficit, and constitutional problems. Mulroney's efforts to reconcile the lingering constitutional conflict between Quebec and the federal government through a compromise (drafted at Meech Lake, hence called the Meech Lake Accord) looked promising at first, but ratification of the agreement failed in 1990. The prime minister managed to negotiate another constitutional compromise with the provincial premiers in Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island) in 1992, but this time it was defeated by the Canadian voters, in a referendum held in October of the same year. Mulroney resigned as party leader and prime minister in June 1993, but could not prevent his party from suffering a dramatic defeat at the polls in October 1993. With 16 percent of the popular vote distributed almost evenly over the country, the Tories managed to retain only two of their 169 seats. With 41 percent of the vote, the Liberals won a handsome majority of 177 out of 295 seats and returned to the government benches they had left in 1984. The NDP was reduced to nine seats. Both the PC and the NDP lost party status (which requires at least 12 seats). The remaining 106 seats went to two new parties, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party.
The Reform Party
The Reform Party of Canada (RPC) can be considered, in the words of the Canadian political scientist Brian Tanguay, "the progeny of Brian Mulroney's abortive effort to forge a coalition of western populists and Quebecois nationalists." (12) Trying to accommodate both "soft sovereignists" (or moderate nationalists) in Quebec and regionalist populists in the West, the PC had engaged in "imperial overstretch" and alienated both groups, as another political scientist, James Bickerton, put it. (13)
The Reform Party was founded in Winnipeg in 1987, mainly by western regionalists and disgruntled Conservatives who were disappointed in the Mulroney government, which seemed to favor Quebec and Ontario over the West--as had preceding Liberal governments--and which did not apply fiscal and economic conservative principles consistently. (14) A few disillusioned Liberals played a role, too, especially the millionaire Francis Winspear, who donated considerable sums of money to the fledgling party. (15) The man who was elected leader of the new party, Preston Manning, had been an active member of the Social Credit Party in the 1960s, when his father was provincial party leader and premier of Alberta. (16) The Social Credit Party had been founded in the 1930s by followers of Major C. H. Douglas, an Englishman who argued that the only way a government could solve the economic crisis was to create "social credit" that would stimulate private consumption. (17) Unable to implement its monetary policies, Social Credit became a more conventional conservative party in the 1940s. By 1980, it had survived as a real force only in the province of British Columbia.
The Reform Party may have inherited the conservative populism of the Social Credit Party, but it modernized that populism and adapted it to new conditions and added a regionalist touch. (18) Regionalism--"The West Wants In" was the RPC's slogan during the first few years--helped the party to build a strong base in Alberta and British Columbia. The populist rhetoric--"So you don't trust politicians? Neither do we"--and reforms advocated by the party struck the right chord with the (rather numerous) voters who felt alienated from the political system. (19) "New federalism" would bring more power to all regions, at the expense of the federal government. Provincial governments would appoint the judges of the Supreme Court and the directors of the Bank of Canada, for example. (20) Moreover, each province would be entitled to an equal number of senators, to be elected by the people (instead of being appointed by the government, as is the case now)--another demand that was particularly popular in the West. Apart from populism, the fiscal and moral conservatism of the party appealed to Canadian voters all over the country, because the growing public deficit and high level of taxation were considered the most important political problems of the day around 1990. The Reformers managed to wrest the "ownership" of these issues from the Tories. (21) Therefore, the values and ideas professed by the Reform Party were certainly not alien to Canada, and were in fact quite familiar to rural and western Canadians especially. (22)
The structural one-party dominance of the PC in the western provinces facilitated the Reform Party's success--as Pinard would have predicted--as soon as the Conservatives began to lose support. (23) Apart from Winspear, several western businessmen--especially in the Calgary-based oil industry--helped to fund the party at the beginning. (24) The Reform Party also enjoyed the support of a few nationwide interest groups and citizen groups--specifically, the National Citizens' Coalition, the National Taxpayers' Federation, and later the National Firearms Association. (25) Moreover, it received a fair share of media attention, especially in the final weeks of the election campaign. (26)
The Reform Party managed to mobilize sufficient resources. By 1992 it had recruited more than 100,000 members and built up a rather efficient organization. (27) While most work was done by volunteers, professionals played an increasing role in the fast-growing party organization. The party raised more than five million dollars in 1993 and was allowed to spend about seven million in the campaign (party and candidates combined). (28) Apart from free publicity in the national media, the Reform Party attracted (generally positive) attention from Alberta Report and BC Report, regional magazines owned by Ted Byfield and his family, who had supported the party from the start. (29) Whereas the affable and rather folksy Manning would probably not qualify as a charismatic leader in the eyes of Max Weber (the German sociologist who coined the term), he did provide effective leadership. His popularity, character, and competence ratings were modest, but higher than those of Kim Campbell, the leader of the PC. (30)
This background suggests that a favorable opportunity structure (regional grievances, a declining PC) combined with sufficient resources helps to explain the spectacular electoral breakthrough of the Reform Party, from 2.1 percent of the popular vote and no seats in 1988 to 18.7 percent and 52 seats in 1993. Electoral growth continued in 1997, but at a much slower pace: from 18.7 to 19.3 percent of the popular vote, and from 52 to 60 seats. The fact that the party had gained official opposition status and proved to be more than a flash party did not satisfy the ambitions of its leaders. They wanted to win a majority and form a government. (31) In order to achieve this, Manning was willing to change the name of the party and to risk his position as party leader. In 2000 the Reform Party dissolved itself into the Canadian Reform and Conservative Alliance (Canadian Alliance for short). Though quite a few Conservatives joined it, the "hard core" of the PC did not. Almost four years later, however, Tory resistance broke down and the Alliance merged with the PC into the new Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). Two years later, in 2006, the new party finally took office. Manning had withdrawn from active politics after he lost the leadership race in the Alliance in 2000, but the man he had appointed policy director of the Reform Party in 1988, Stephen Harper, moved to 24 Sussex Drive as leader of a minority government. The platform of the new Conservative Party included some but not all of the demands dear to the Reformers: it called for substantial tax cuts and public debt reductions, individual ownership on First Nations' reserves, tougher action against crime, and an elected Senate and decentralization, but it did not call for referendum and recall. (32) So far, Harper's minority government has implemented only part of this program, as might have been expected. Yet it seems clear that the Reform Party has had some impact on Canada's political culture, which has become more polarized and confrontational, even if it did not succeed in reforming the political institutions.
The Bloc Quebecois
The Bloc Quebecois (BQ) had been launched in July 1990 by Lucien Bouchard and six other independent members of Parliament from Quebec. (33) Bouchard was considered one of the "soft Quebec nationalists" who had accepted Mulroney's "beau risque" to renew federalism and reconcile the province. In 1988 he was elected member of Parliament for the PC and appointed Minister of Environment by Mulroney, who had been a friend for many years. Bouchard had promoted the Meech Lake Accord, which would grant Quebec more autonomy and recognition as a "distinct society." When Mulroney began to play down the significance of this recognition--in an effort to overcome growing resistance in English-speaking provinces--Bouchard left his government and the Conservative Party, becoming an independent MP. He was joined by four other Conservatives and two Liberal dissidents. In August 1990 Gilles Duceppe, a leftwing trade union negotiator who was newly elected as an independent member of Parliament in the riding of Laurier--Sainte-Marie, joined the group. (34) A few months later, when the ratification of the Meech Lake Accord failed definitely, the Bloc became a real party. Its project was simple: Quebec should become a sovereign state, associated with (the rest of) Canada in a union somewhat similar to the European Union. (35) In the short run, the Bloc would defend the interests of Quebec within the Canadian federation. In the socioeconomic sphere, it advocated more or less social-democratic policies: the federal government ought to stimulate the economy, create jobs, maintain social security, and collect taxes in a more equitable way.
The Bloc was not the first attempt to represent Quebec nationalism in the Canadian Parliament. In 1942, the opposition to conscription had given rise to a Bloc Populaire Canadien with nationalist ideas, which won two seats at the general election of 1945; and in the 1980s the Parti Nationaliste du Quebec (PNQ) had tried in vain to enter the House of Commons. (36) However, the Bloc turned out to be more successful and more durable than its predecessors. It took advantage of a favorable political conjuncture-resentment over the failed Meech Lake Accord and the ensuing disintegration of the PC in Quebec. Most scholars seem to agree that "sovereignism" or Quebec nationalism was the main factor motivating people to vote for the Bloc, even if some voters did not favor sovereignty and had other motives. (37) The Bloc received support from the provincial Parti Quebecois (PQ), which had been founded already in 1968 and governed the province from 1976 to 1985, as well as from nationalist trade unions and other mass organizations. French Canadian media such as the quality newspaper Le Devoir could not ignore the party, even though its access to television was limited. (38)
Moreover, the Bloc managed to mobilize considerable resources. With the aid of the PQ, but also many supporters outside the provincial party, it recruited more than 100,000 members within two years (1991-1993). (39) It spent about four million dollars in the election campaign. (40) Bouchard was a popular, even charismatic leader who "combined the passion of Levesque with the cool logic of Trudeau." (41) He proved more popular in Quebec than any other party leader and was perceived as more competent as well. (42)
As a result, the Bloc entered the House of Commons with 54 members: enough to become the Official Opposition. Bouchard, however, resigned in 1996 in order to become premier of Quebec. At the next two elections, the Bloc tripled its expenditures, yet lost seats: ten in 1997, seven in 2000. Bouchard's successors, Michel Gauthier and Gilles Duceppe, lacked his popularity; furthermore, the momentum for sovereignty may have been lost in the eyes of some supporters. Yet in 2004 sovereignty was again en vogue--mainly because of the sponsorship scandal that discredited the federalist camp in Quebec--and the Bloc again captured 54 seats. (43) In 2006, it fell back on 51 seats. In spite of the ups and downs, the Bloc seems to have consolidated its position in the party system and can rely on the loyalty of around 40 percent of the Quebec electorate. As a result, the Canadian party system has changed significantly.
While only two new parties have succeeded in gaining seats in the House of Commons since 1972, eighteen tried and failed. (44) Some disappeared almost without a trace; others managed to survive until the present day. Why did they meet a different fate than Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party? Let us compare them, beginning with the parties that appear most similar to the successful cases.
The Confederation of Regions Party (COR) was founded in 1984 by Elmar Knutson, an Alberta businessman who had been involved with the PC and with western regionalist organizations. The party combined conservative populism with radical regionalism: the four Canadian regions, it was argued, should gain economic autonomy and cultural homogeneity, doing away with bilingualism and multiculturalism. (45) The party obtained 0.5 percent at federal elections in 1984 and 0.3 percent in 1988--and, of course, no seats. It was deregistered in 1993. The COR was probably too extreme in the eyes of most Canadians. Yet in New Brunswick it held eight seats in the provincial legislature from 1991 to 1995, benefiting no doubt from internal problems of the Conservative Party, and from strong anti-French sentiments in the southern part of the province. (46)
The Canada Party was founded in 1992 by Joseph Thauberger. He and his political friends felt disappointed by the COR and betrayed by the Reform Party, as the latter began to dilute its ideas about grassroots democracy and its opposition to bilingualism. (47) The Canada Party combined conservative populism with ideas about interest-free money that are reminiscent of Social Credit in its early days. It obtained only 0.1 percent of the vote at the 1993 federal elections. In 1997 it was deregistered, while some remaining members joined the Canadian Action Party.
The Canadian Action Party (CAP) was founded in 1997 by Paul Hellyer, who had been a minister in the Liberal cabinet from 1963 till 1969. The CAP combined progressive, almost social democratic nationalism with populism and monetary reformism. It shared the latter two elements with the defunct Social Credit Party, but did not emphasize this similarity. (48) Monetary reform implied that the government would create more money, through low-interest loans from the Bank of Canada--money that would be used to improve health care, education, the environment, and the armed forces. (49) Clearly, the reform would be impossible if Canada lost its independence. By 2000 the concern about economic independence had taken precedence over other issues. In order to maintain its independence, Canada was to abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and leave the World Trade Organization (WTO). (50) The party's resources were modest, but not insignificant. In 1997 the CAP probably counted about 1,000 members and could spend about $900,000--provided to a large extent by Hellyer himself. (51) Though he had been a well-known politician--at least he would have been familiar to older voters--he failed to attract sufficient publicity, in his own opinion. (52) The CAP peaked with 0.2 percent of the vote in 2000 and fell below 0.1 percent in 2006.
Another member of the family of populist parties appeared to be the Populist Party of Canada, registered in 1989 by John Turmel after he had tried (in vain) to win the leadership of the Social Credit Party. However, the resemblance with the Reform Party may be rather superficial. In 1993 the Populist Party was renamed the Abolitionist Party of Canada (APC) and advocated abolition of income tax and interest rates ("the chains of financial slavery"), of the hemp (cannabis) prohibition, and of the Canadian Senate. Electoral results were extremely modest: 0.1 percent of the popular vote. Thus it should probably be regarded above all as a personal vehicle of Turmel, who continued to propagate his (radical and rather eclectic) ideas after the party was deregistered in 1997. (53)
A more serious counterpart of the Reform Party was the Christian Heritage Party (CHP), founded in 1986 by a Protestant immigrant from the Netherlands, Ed Vanwoudenberg. (54) Like the Reform Party, the CHP had some affinity with conservatism, but agreement on several issues could not bridge the gap between Christian principles and populism. (55) The CHP rejected populism and derived its principles from biblical ethics, believing the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant written Word of God. (56) It was "to bring the Christian witness in all areas of life." (57) In its election campaigns, it emphasized moral issues such as abortion and euthanasia, but also national unity, the national debt, health care, and safe neighborhoods. (58) A strong feeling of "us against them," the result of sharing fundamental values not supported by other parties, may have helped to overcome serious leadership problems that troubled the CHP in its first years. (59) The party peaked in 1988 with 0.8 percent of the popular vote; in 1993 and 1997 it obtained merely 0.2 percent. Most fundamentalist Protestants seem to have voted for the Reform Party and subsequently for the Canadian Alliance and the new Conservative Party. (60) Whereas support for the CHP was concentrated in particular areas (such as southwest Ontario and the Fraser Valley in British Columbia), even there it did not muster more than 4 percent of the vote. Clearly it lacked resources. Its leader was probably not widely known--at least beyond his own religious community. Membership seemed stable around 5,000--not bad for a peripheral party, but small compared to rivals like the Reform Party. Financial resources have been rather modest as well. (61)
The Progressive Canadian Party (PCP), founded in 2004 by members of the PC who rejected the merger with the Canadian Alliance, seemed to be a very different counterpart of the Reform Party. The party claimed to continue "the progressive-conservative tradition of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Etienne Cartier" and to be guided by the Constitution and by policies of the Progressive Conservative Party. (62) Though the opportunity structure may have been favorable, given the fact that quite a few voters were dissatisfied with the governing Liberals (yet considered the new Conservative Party too rightwing), the PCP obtained only 0.1 percent of the vote in 2004 as well as 2006. (63) Clearly it, too, lacked resources and failed to attract the attention of the media. (64)
The six parties discussed so far as failures bear at least a superficial resemblance to (some aspects of) the Reform Party. Another six parties, to be described below, have something in common with the Bloc Quebecois. This does not need any explanation in the case of the Parti Nationaliste du Quebec (PNQ), mentioned above as a predecessor of the Bloc. It was registered in 1979 as Union Populaire (UP) and changed its name in 1984. Receiving only lukewarm support of the (internally divided) Parti Quebecois, it obtained merely 0.2 percent of the vote in 1979, 0.1 percent in 1980, and 0.7 percent in 1984. (65) In 1988 it was deregistered.
Another obvious candidate appears to be the Western Block Party, set up in 2005 by Doug Christie, an Alberta lawyer who had been advocating independence for the western provinces since 1974. (66) The new state, the party argued, should become a direct democracy (like a Greek city-state), without bilingualism, gun registry, and gay marriage. Canada had become a socialist state, in Christie's eyes. Compared to the moderate left-of-center Bloc Quebecois, the Western Block Party advocated rather extreme, if not idiosyncratic, policies. Lacking allies and resources, it obtained less than 0.1 percent of the vote in 2006.
The First Peoples National Party (FPNP) was established as a federal party in 2005. Like the Bloc Quebecois, it claimed sovereignty for its constituents--the First Nations, Inuit, and Metis of Canada. Secession from Canada was not an issue, however. The FPNP posited that Canadian Aboriginals should acquire autonomy, elect a separate Parliament, and raise their own taxes, as had the Native inhabitants of Greenland or the Sami in Finland and Norway. (67) The party presented only five candidates and obtained less than 0.1 percent of the vote in 2006.
The National Party of Canada shared with the Bloc a position left-of-center, but its nationalism was pan-Canadian rather than based on a region. It was founded in 1992 by Mel Hurtig, a well-known publisher in Edmonton (Alberta). It advocated an independent, more democratic and egalitarian Canada with a strong national government. (68) It recruited more than 6,000 members half of them came from the NDP or the Liberal Party, while the other half had not been members of any party-and raised 2.1 million dollars for the election campaign. (69) Yet the media did not take the party's ideas very seriously, according to Hurtig. (70) There was not a very favorable opportunity structure for the party. Few voters considered national unity and independence the most important issues at the time--and even those few may have preferred the Liberal Party or the NDP to the less familiar National Party. (71) With 1.4 percent of the vote, the National Party still made a fairly good start at the 1993 elections. Internal conflicts, however, led to the disintegration of the party the next year. (72)
Insofar as the Bloc acted as an advocate of particular interests--what I have called elsewhere a "prolocutor party"--it could be compared to other prolocutor parties, like the Marijuana Party and the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party. (73) The former was established as a federal party in 2000, with in fact only one purpose: to end cannabis prohibition. (74) Party candidates were free to raise other issues, but only on their own responsibility and not on behalf of the party. (75) Resources were scarce; the party had trouble recruiting even 250 members in 2004. (76) In 2000 it won 0.5 percent of the popular vote; in 2004 and 2006, even less.
The Animal Alliance joined forces with the Environment Voters, another pressure group, in 2006, mainly in order to bypass the restrictions imposed by the federal government on election activities of "third parties" or pressure groups. The aim of the new party was to "promote progressive environmental and animal protection policies." (77) It presented one candidate at the federal elections who received 72 votes--probably the smallest number any Canadian party had ever won.
If a comparison between the Bloc Quebecois and the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party seems far-fetched, the Green Party of Canada certainly belongs to a different category. I would regard it as a "prophetic" party--that is, one propagating an ideology that is new or alien to Canada. (78) In the 1980s the party embraced values such as nonviolence, eco-centrism, eco-feminism, consensual decision-making and direct democracy, "wholistic thinking," and bio-regionalism. (79) However, since the 1990s new leaders at both the provincial and the federal levels have pushed the Greens in a different direction. Jim Harris, once a Young Conservative but elected national leader of the Green Party in 2003, declared that "we are not tied to any ideology." (80) The party platform was not changed drastically, but some radical demands were dropped or deemphasized, such as withdrawal from NATO and NAFTA, decentralization, and a guaranteed income supplement for all citizens. (81) Possibly as a result of its increasing moderation and centrist position, it appealed in 2004 and 2006 to voters "floating" between the Liberal Party--tainted with the sponsorship scandal--and the Conservative Party--considered "too extreme" by many voters. The Green Party increased its share of the popular vote from 0.8 percent in 2000 to 4.3 percent in 2004. As a consequence, it became entitled to substantial government subsidies. Even so, it improved its electoral position only marginally at the 2006 elections (4.5 percent)--and still no seats. Clearly it lacked regional strongholds. Harris, whose pragmatism and financial actions had met with considerable criticism within the party, resigned in April. He was succeeded by Elizabeth May, a well-known environmentalist who had been executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada since 1989. (82)
One party seems to have been different from all other parties: the Rhinoceros Party or Parti Rhinoceros (PR), founded in Quebec in 1963 by the physician and novelist Jacques Ferron, but not registered until 1979. (83) Its main purpose was to ridicule the political system, articulating demands for a "guaranteed annual orgasm" in state brothels and for repealing the law of gravity. It peaked in 1980 with 1 percent of the vote but ceased most activities after the death of its founder in 1985; it was deregistered in 1993.
There have been four other new parties that failed to gain seats in the House of Commons since 1972: the Marxist Leninist Party (founded as the Communist Party of Canada [Marxist-Leninist] in 1970); the Libertarian Party (established in 1975, mainly inspired by its American namesake); the Natural Law Party (a worldwide phenomenon, inspired by the teachings of Maharishi Yogi); and the Party for the Commonwealth of Canada. While the latter might be regarded as a personal vehicle of the American maverick Lyndon LaRouche, the other three qualify as pure prophetic parties propagating a coherent ideology that had no roots--and consequently very few supporters--in Canada. They did not benefit from a very favorable opportunity structure. The Natural Law Party tried in 1993 to compensate for this by spending more than three million dollars, but to no avail: it obtained 0.6 percent of the vote, only slightly more than the Marxist-Leninists and the Libertarians. (84)
The differences between the two successful new parties and the electoral failures are numerous. Both the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois took advantage of a favorable opportunity structure. Both catered to regional interests and developed regional strongholds (in the West and in Quebec, respectively), which may explain a substantial part of their success in the Canadian electoral system (single-member plurality) and regionalized political culture. This has been argued by Canadian scholars such as Roger Gibbins, Trevor Harrison, and David Laycock, and is confirmed by the empirical analysis of Eric Belanger. (85)
Yet three other newcomers appealed also to regional interests and failed to win a single seat: the Confederation of Regions, the Western Block Party, and the Parti Nationaliste du Quebec (PNQ). The former two can be considered too extreme by Canadian standards: Canadians tend to prefer moderate ideologies. The core of Canadian political culture--the ideological grid, one might also call it--consists of liberalism, "touched" with conservatism (Tory-style) and social democracy, as has been pointed out by many observers, though rarely in literature dealing with the success and failure of new parties. (86) Populism, regionalism, and nationalism are also accepted ideologies--located within the grid, but more in the periphery. More extreme ideologies such as communism and Marxism, libertarianism, and Christian fundamentalism are beyond the pale, as it were. Parties propagating these ideologies will probably never win seats, even if they survive in the margins of the system. Even further removed from the core are national socialism, fascism, and other varieties of extreme nationalism, which have not been advocated by any peripheral party at all in the period under investigation. This total absence of extremist rightwing parties even in the periphery of the political system may distinguish Canada from most European countries as well as from the United States.
Regionalism and moderation are not the only conditions that succesful new parties should meet, however. Another factor may be the political conjuncture--specifically, the situation of the main opposition party in the system, which in Canada is usually the Conservative Party. That party's crisis--"imperial overstretch," in the well-chosen words of Bickerton--in 1993 paved the way for both the Bloc and the Reform Party, as Pinard would have predicted. However, when tested by Belanger, the declining strength of the PC turned out to be a significant factor in the West but not in Quebec.
In order to take advantage of the political opportunity structure, the newcomers had to "sell their project." In other words, they had to mobilize sufficient resources--and so they did. Both the BQ and the RPC managed to recruit about 100,000 members, raise more than a million dollars, and attract the attention of the media; and last but not least, they had fairly competent and popular leaders. Support from mass organizations may be an important factor that explains why the Bloc proved more successful than its predecessor, the PNQ. Other new parties may have met one or two of these conditions, but not all of them. If they were led by fairly well known personalities like Hellyer or Hurtig, they may have collected substantial funds but not enough members. These factors seem to receive scant attention in the literature, with the exception of Harrison's comprehensive study of the Reform Party.
Yet in the end, the political opportunity structure seems more important than resources. If a new party has a brilliant political project and plenty of resources, but does not find a (regional and moderate ideological) niche in the party system, it may stay waiting in the wings--and retain its pristine purity forever.
1. The author would like to thank the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs for the Faculty Research Award that allowed him to do the research for this article; and he would like to thank Professor Leonard Preyra (St. Mary's University, Nova Scotia) and the anonymous reviewers of this journal for their constructive comments.
2. Stephen E. Henson and Jeffrey S. Kopstein, "Regime Type and Diffusion in Comparative Politics Methodology," Canadian Journal of Political Science 38 (2005): 69-99.
3. Data provided by Elaine Martel, assistant registrar Elections Canada, by email, December 2, 2004; see also Colin Campbell and William Christian, Parties, Leaders and Ideologies in Canada (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1996), 245-246.
4. See Stephen L. Fisher, The Minor Parties of the Federal Republic of Germany: Toward a Comparative Theory of Minor Parties (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974); Maurice Pinard, The Rise of a Third Party, 2nd ed. (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1975); Thomas Rochon, "Mobilizers and Challengers: Toward a Theory of New Party Success," International Political Science Review 6 (1985): 419-439; Paul Lucardie, "Prophets, Purifiers and Prolocutors: Towards a Theory on the Emergence of New Parties," Party Politics 6 (2000): 175-185.
5. Hanspeter Kriesi, Ruud Koopmans, Jan Willem Duyvendak, and Marco G. Giugni, New Social Movements in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 3-81; Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective Action and Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); see also Ferdinand Muller-Rommel, Grune Parteien in Westeuropa: Entwicklungsphasen und Erfolgsbedingungen (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1993), 93-98.
6. Arend Lijphart, "The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws, 1945-1985," American Political Science Review 84 (1990): 481-496; Matthew Soberg Shugart, "Electoral Reform in Systems of Proportional Representation," European Journal of Political Research 21 (1992): 207-224; Joseph Willey, "Institutional Arrangements and the Success of New Parties in Old Democracies," Political Studies 46 (1998): 651-668.
7 Tarrow, Power in Movement, 88; Tarrow does not discuss the media in this context, however.
8. Pinard, The Rise of a Third Party, 247-250.
9. See Harold D. Clarke, Allan Kornberg, and Peter Wearing, A Polity on the Edge: Canada and the Politics of Fragmentation (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2000), 53-63.
10. See Steve Patten, "'Toryism' and the Conservative Party in a Neo-Liberal Era," in Hugh G. Thorburn and Alan Whitehorn, eds., Party Politics in Canada, 8th ed. (Toronto: Prentice Hall, 2001), 135-147; see also Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Richard I. Hofferbert, and Ian Budge, Parties, Policies, and Democracy (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 95-116.
11. Clarke, Kornberg, and Wearing, A Polity on the Edge, 49-53, 122-135.
12. A. Brian Tanguay, "The Transformation of Canada's Party System in the 1990s," in James P. Bickerton and Alain-G. Gagnon, eds., Canadian Politics (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 1994), 124-131.
13. James P. Bickerton, "Crime et chatiment: le Parti Progressiste-Conservateur du Canada entre 1984 et 1993," Politique et Societes 16(1997): 117-142.
14. Trevor Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), 26-80; see also James Bickerton, Alain-G. Gagnon, and Patrick J. Smith, Ties That Bind: Parties and Voters in Canada (Don Mills: Oxford University Press), 132-138.
15. Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity, 45-47, 105-109, 142, 191-196.
16. Preston Manning, The New Canada (Toronto: Macmillan, 1992), 6-93.
17. See Campbell and Christian, Parties, Leaders, and Ideologies in Canada, 201-202; more in detail: Edward Bell, Social Classes and Social Credit in Alberta (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Press, 1994).
18. See David Laycock, The New Right and Democracy in Canada: Understanding Reform and the Canadian Alliance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 99-100; see also Bickerton, Gagnon, and Smith, Ties That Bind, 128-136.
19. R. Kenneth Carty, William Cross, and Lisa Young, Rebuilding Canadian Party Politics (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2000), 27-31; see also Lawrence Leduc, "The Canadian Federal Election of 1993," Electoral Studies 13(1994): 163-168.
20. See Preston Manning, "Navigating Troubled Waters," Inroads 1 (1992): 22-27.
21. Clarke, Kornberg, and Wearing, A Polity on the Edge, 135-138; see also Eric Belanger, "Issue Ownership by Canadian Political Parties 1953-2000," Canadian Journal of Political Science 36 (2003): 539-558.
22. Roger Gibbins and Sonia Arrison, Western Visions: Perspectives on the West in Canada (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 1995), 106-109; see also Campbell and Christian, Parties, Leaders, and Ideologies in Canada, 204-208.
23. See Belanger, "The Rise of Third Parties in the 1993 Canadian Federal Election: Pinard Revisited," Canadian Journal of Political Science 37 (2004): 581-594.
24. Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity, 93-109, 192-193.
25. Carty, Cross, and Young, Rebuilding Canadian Party Politics, 98-100.
26. In October 1993 the Reform Party received about 25 percent of the news coverage, according to Richard W. Jenkins, "The Media, Voters, and Election Campaigns: The Reform Party and the 1993 Election," in Joanna Everitt and Brenda O 'Neill, eds., Citizen Politics: Research and Theory in Canadian Political Behaviour (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 215-230.
27. Flanagan, Waiting for the Wave: the Reform Party and Preston Manning (Toronto: Stoddart, 1995), 50, 74-84; Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity, 190-199.
28. Flanagan, Waiting for the Wave, 150; see also W. T. Stanbury, "Regulating Federal Party and Candidate Finances in a Dynamic Environment," in Hugh G. Thorburn & Alan Whitehorn, eds., Party Politics in Canada, 8th ed. (Toronto: Prentice Hall, 2001), 179-205.
29. See Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity, 50, 108.
30. Clarke, Kornberg, and Wearing, A Polity on the Edge, 139.
31. Interview with Preston Manning, Calgary, 7 October 2004; see also Preston Manning, Think Big: My Adventures in Life and Democracy (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2002), 271-275.
32. "We Must Demand Better": The Conservative Party Platform (Ottawa: Conservative Party, 2004).
33. See Michel Vastel, Lucien Bouchard: En attendant la suite (Outremont, QC: Lanctot, 1991), 157-186; Manon Cornellier, The Bloc (Toronto: Lorimer, 1995), 1-31.
34. See Gilles Duceppe, Question d'identite (Outremont, QC: Lanctot, 2000), 19-40.
35. See Lucien Bouchard, Un nouveau parti pour l'etape decisive (Montreal: Bloc Quebecois, 1993), 7, 33, 42-44, 51.
36. See Bickerton, Gagnon, and Smith, Ties That Bind, 164-178.
37. See Neil Nevitte et al., "Electoral Discontinuity: The 1993 Canadian Federal Election," International Social Science Journal 146 (1995): 583-599, especially 592; and Belanger, "The Rise of Third Parties," 590-591.
38. Cornellier, The Bloc, 76-80; see also Jean Crete and Guy Lachapelle, "The Bloc Quebecois," in Hugh G. Thorburn and Alan Whitehorn, eds., Party Politics in Canada, 8th ed. (Toronto: Prentice Hall, 2001), 292 301.
39. Cornellier, The Bloc, 70-78
40. Ibid., 76-78; as the Bloc did not submit a fiscal return in 1993, exact figures are not available; see also Stanbury, "Regulating Federal Party and Candidate Finances," 194.
41. Crete and Lachapelle, "The Bloc Quebecois," 297.
42. Clarke, Kornberg, and Wearing, A Polity on the Edge, 139.
43. See Elisabeth Gidengil et al., "Back to the Future? Making Sense of the 2004 Canadian Election Outside Quebec," Canadian Journal of Political Science 39 (2006): 1-26, especially 19.
44. Not including the Communist Party of Canada, the Social Credit Party, and its offshoot, the Ralliement des Creditistes, which are not considered "new parties" here.
45. See Campbell and Christian, Parties, Leaders and Ideologies in Canada, 203-204; and Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity, 57-58, 74, 78-79.
46. See Chedly Belkhodja, "La dimension populiste de l'emergence et du succes electoral du Parti Confederation of Regions au Nouveau Brunswick," Canadian Journal of Political Science 32 (1999): 293-315.
47. According to a brochure the party published (probably in 1992) entitled "Now in Unity the People Can Speak" (Regina: Canada Party, no date).
48. Interviews with Paul Hellyer, Toronto, conducted 4 June 1997 and 17 September 2004.
49. See Paul Hellyer, Goodbye Canada (Toronto: Chimo Media, 2001), 57-75, 189; see also the Platform of the Canadian Action Party, "A Plan to Get Canada Working" (Toronto, 1997).
50. See Canadian Action Party, "Our Vision," 2000, online: http://www.canadianactionparty.ca/WhoWeAre/OurVision.asp (accessed 23 November, 2000).
51. Hellyer interview, 4 June 1997; see also Elections Canada, "Breakdown of Election Expenses of Registered Political Parties" (1997), online: www.elections.ca/ecFiscals/1997/table05_e.html (accessed 31 July 2006).
52. Hellyer interview, 4 June 1997.
53. See Turmel's website, which in 2004 still contained the program of the Abolitionist Party: http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel/abprogs.htm (accessed 26 May 2004).
54. See Ed Vanwoudenberg, A Matter of Choice (Surrey, B. C.: Premier Printing, 1989), 13-21.
55. Interview with Ronald Gray, National Leader of the CHP, Abbotsford (BC), 6 June 1997.
56. See "Party Policy: A Blueprint for Restoration" (Surrey, B. C.: Christian Heritage Party, 1995), 41-42.
57. Vanwoudenberg, A Matter of Choice, 16, 28.
58. Telephone interview with Heather Stillwell, Interim National Leader of the CHP, 28 October 1993; interview with Ronald Gray, 6 June 1997.
59. Herman Veenhof, "Gereformeerde Canadezen oneens over politiek," Nederlands Dagblad (16 October 1993).
60. See Bickerton, Gagnon, and Smith, Ties That Bind, 146-147; Gidengil et al., "Back to the Future?" 7.
61. In 1993 and 1997 the CHP spent about $250,000 and 200,000 respectively; see Elections Canada, "Breakdown of Operating Expenses of Registered Political Parties" (1993), online: www.elections.ca/ecFiscals/1993/table05_e.html (accessed 24 July 2006); and Elections Canada, "Breakdown of Operating Expenses of Registered Political Parties" (1997), online: www.elections.ca/ecFiscals/1997/table05_e.html (accessed on 31 July 2006).
62. See the website of the PCP, first http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/corylagencies/political/home.htm (accessed on 1 June 2004); later http://www.progressivecanadian.org (accessed on 13January 2006).
63. In 2004, data from the Canadian Election Study indicate that 47 percent of the voters considered the Conservative Party Leader "too extreme," while 58 percent agreed that the Liberal Leader "only cares about big business"; see Elisabeth Gidengil et al., "Back to the Future?" 18.
64. Telephone interview with Tracy Parsons, acting president of the PCP, 14 September 2004; in 2004 the PCP declared only $2,381 election expenses (see Elections Canada, "Breakdown of Paid Election Expenses by Expense Category and Registered Political Party--2004 General Election," online: www.elections.ca/content.asp?&document=table2_04&lang=e&textonly=false (accessed 24 July 2006).
65. Bickerton, Gagnon, and Smith, Ties That Bind, 177-178.
66. See his "Leaders Reports" on the party's website, online: http://westernblockparty.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6 (accessed 13 January 2006); see also Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity, 58, 72-5.
67. See the "Policy Draft" of the FPNP, online:www.fpnpoc.ca/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=85Itemid=42 (accessed 30 December 2005).
68. Mel Hurtig, A New and Better Canada (Toronto: Stoddart, 1992); see also David Roberts, "Fledging Party Outlines Platform," The Globe and Mail (5 December 1992).
69. Mel Hurtig, At Twilight in the Country: Memoirs of a Canadian Nationalist (Toronto: Stoddart, 1996), 371, 379, 383; see also Stanbury, "Regulating Federal Party and Candidate Finances," 194.
70. Hurtig, At Twilight in the Country, 377.
71. See Clarke, Kornberg, and Wearing, A Polity on the Edge, 137.
72. Hurtig, At Twilight in the Country, 382-390.
73. Lucardie, "Prophets, Purifiers and Prolocutors," 176.
74. See the programs of the Marijuana Party: "The Marijuana Party Platform," online: http://www.marijuanaparty.com/eng/e_prog.html (accessed 13 November 2000); "Complete Platform," online: http://www.marijuanaparty.com/article.php3?id_article=6 (accessed 26 May 2004).
75. Interview with Marc-Boris St. Maurice, Marijuana Party Leader, Montreal, 10 September 2004; however, since January 2005 his successor, Blair Longley, has tried to develop a more comprehensive ideology (email 21 January 2005).
76. Interview with St. Maurice; see also the party website: "New Elections Law Requires 250 Member Declarations," online: http://www.marijuanaparty.ca/article.php3?id_article=150 (accessed 8 December 2004); in 2004 the party spent only $5,160 according to Elections Canada, "Breakdown of Paid Election Expenses by Expense Category and Registered Political Party--2004 General Election," online: www.elections.ca/content.asp?section&document=table2_04&lang=e&textonly=false (24 July 2006).
77. See the website of the party, online: www.environmentvoters.org/home.html (accessed 22 July 2006).
78. Lucardie, "Prophets, Purifiers and Prolocutors," 177.
79. See Sara Parkin, Green Parties: An International Guide (London: Heretics Books, 1989), 306-313; see also Green Party of Canada/Canadian Greens, "Statement of Unity and Values" (1988).
80. Interview with Jim Harris in Profit Magazine, 21 June 2004, online: http://www.greenparty.ca/index.php?module=article&view=331 (accessed 28 October 2004); interview with Jim Harris. Green Party Leader, Toronto, 16 September 2004.
81. See the party platforms: "Election '97" (Green Party of Canada, 1997); "The Green Guide. The Green Party of Canada Platform Election 2000" (Green Party of Canada, 2000), online: http://www.green.ca/english/election_platform_2000.shtml (accessed 23 November 2000); "Someday Is Now: Platform 2004" (Green Party of Canada), online: http://www.greenparty.ca/platform2004/en/policies.php (accessed 25 June 2004).
82. Le Devoir (28 August 2006).
83. Myrna Allen, "Outside Looking In: A Study of Canadian Fringe Parties," M. A. thesis, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia (1997), 70-72; see also Claude Laflamme, "Le Parti Rhinoceros" (1999), online: http://www.ecrivain.net/ferron/index.cfm?p=1_Vie/rhino_parti.htm (accessed 12 December 2004).
84. See Stanbury, "Regulating Federal Party and Candidate Finances," 188, 194; interview with Neil Paterson, National Leader of the Natural Law Party of Canada, Vlodrop (The Netherlands), 21 May 1997.
85. Gibbins and Arrison, Western Visions, 77; Laycock, The New Right, 153-155, 171; Belanger, "The Rise of Third Parties," 590-592.
86. Gad Horowitz, "Conservatism, Liberalism and Socialism in Canada: An Interpretation," in Hugh G. Thorburn and Alan Whitehorn, eds., Party Politics in Canada, 8th ed. (Toronto: Prentice Hall, 2001), 90-106; Campbell and Christian, Parties, Leaders and Ideologies in Canada, 232-235.…
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Publication information: Article title: Pristine Purity: New Political Parties in Canada. Contributors: Lucardie, Paul - Author. Journal title: American Review of Canadian Studies. Volume: 37. Issue: 3 Publication date: Autumn 2007. Page number: 283+. © 2008 Association for Canadian Studies in the United States. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.