[The Charter of Rights & the Legalization of Politics in Canada. Rev Ed]
Mandel, Michael, Dyck, Rand, Journal of Canadian Studies
Recent Work on Canadian Political Institutions
Rev. ed. Michael Mandel. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing Inc., 1994.
Patrick Malcolmson and Richard Myers are among the political scientists who regret that the discipline has "moved away from the study of government and political institutions in an attempt to explain political phenomena in terms of economic, sociological, psychological and anthropological phenomena." Instead, they argue, "the starting point for a sound understanding of Canadian politics is to focus on the basic institutions of government." Three of the other four books in this varied collection do deal with government institutions - the public service, the House of Commons and the courts - while the fifth concerns a quasi-governmental institution, the New Democratic Party. This review can thus be said to examine recent books on Canadian political institutions, but not all of them depend on an institutional or neo-institutional approach.
The Canadian Regime has about 200 pages of text and 50 pages of Constitution Acts, 1867 and 1982. Malcolmson and Myers aim for a "short and clear account of Canadian government." Given the "poor condition of civic education in contemporary Canada," their target audience is first-year political science students and ordinary citizens who want to be better informed. They hope "to articulate the inner logic and coherence of the regime," that is, to explain the interactions among the political institutions as well as their underlying principles.
The book is a fairly basic "civics" text, which briefly describes the constitution, federalism, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Crown, cabinet and prime minister, Parliament and the judiciary. It looks beyond this institutional base to include chapters on elections, political parties and "interest groups, public opinion, and democratic citizenship." Although they eschew theoretical approaches beyond their affection for institutions, the authors make reference to Aristotle, Mill and Locke in their categorization of political regimes and in their discussion of the fundamental principles of equality and liberty. What they say is clearly written, necessarily condensed, and conventional; most theoretical questions are handled well; and while some of their examples are excellent, others are hypothetical when better "real" examples exist. They touch upon such controversial questions as the merits of majority and minority governments, the reserve powers of the Crown, fixed election dates, the federal spending power, Michael Mandel's critique of the legalization of politics, prime ministerial government, the principle of ministerial responsibility, the effectiveness of backbenchers, the Triple-E Senate, the effects of the single-member plurality electoral system, party ideology and the "horse-race" coverage of election campaigns.
The book's main strength is its defence of the existing parliamentary system, with its executive dominance, party discipline, institutionalized opposition and accountability provided by the principle of responsible government. It sees no reason to look to American institutions to improve the operation of the Canadian system. The explanations of the components of the constitution, the conventions of responsible government, the constitutional amending formulas, Charter cases such as Southam and Oakes and the Thomas Berger affair, are impressive. Key terms are listed at the end of each chapter and discussion questions are at the end of the book.
While the authors succeed in their general explanation of the Canadian political regime and in clarifying basic principles, they falter on many of the details. Explaining such a broad subject in 200 pages leads to oversimplifications, such as in collapsing several phases of Canadian federalism and in devoting only three pages to the civil service. Since they rarely refer to the Constitution Acts that consume the last 50 pages of the book, the authors might have made more profitable use of that space. Less excusable for such a short book are small factual and spelling errors, such as "Commonwealth Cooperative Federation," "Stirling" Lyon, "Katherine" Callbeck and "Bloq" Quebecois. Also questionable are claims that the leader of the opposition is automatically appointed to the Privy Council; that the Governor General has never used personal discretion in searching for a prime minister; that most Supreme Court decisions are decided by a bank of seven rather than all nine members; and that the Progressive Conservative party "absorbed the remnants of the Progressive Party." Even when it was published in 1996, the book was out-of-date on the Chretien cabinet committee system and in its failure to mention the Canada Health and Social Transfer. One would not expect such a simple book to be overloaded with citations, but there are places where more footnotes would be in order and a bibliography would have been helpful.
Malcolmson and Myers make reference to only one of the other books reviewed here, Michael Mandel's The Charter of Rights and the Legalization of Politics in Canada. That is partly because its first edition appeared in 1989, but it is also because the book cannot possibly be overlooked in any discussion of contemporary Canadian political institutions. It is not only the longest and most substantial of the five; it also deals with a major transformation of the Canadian political regime - the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the expansion of the power of judicial review. Moreover, in being profoundly critical of the "legalization of politics" in Canada, it challenges conventional wisdom, at least that of mass public opinion, on the merits of the Charter. For those familiar with the first edition of the book, this version refines and clarifies Mandel's central theses and updates his evidence to 1994, evidence that, he finds, only reinforces his original arguments.
In a review of its first edition, I summarized the book's theses this way: (a) an enormous area of discretion exists within which the courts can make highly political decisions, but judges disguise this with legal interpretations and abstract principles that are unintelligible to the general public; (b) while the Charter has been sold as enhancing democracy and the power of the people, it has really reduced the degree of popular control over government by transferring power from representative, accountable legislatures and politicians to an elitist legal profession and unrepresentative, unaccountable and unrestrained judges and courts; and (c) legalized politics enhances individual and corporate rights against the collective welfare of the community; the courts' conservative, class-based politics defend existing social arrangements and undermine popular movements; and the Charter glorifies individual rights at the expense of important social rights.
Mandel begins by outlining the history of the Charter. In an interpretation shared by Kenneth McRoberts (Misconceiving Canada, 1997), he reminds us that its principal proponent, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was obsessed with entrenching minority language rights into the constitution, but could only accomplish that objective within a larger, more attractive project. Mandel argues that for all the faults of parliamentary democracy, where "one-dollar-one-vote" is often more important than "one-person-one-vote," legalized politics is even less democratic; moreover, no one ever claimed that the American record on human rights with its Bill of Rights and judicial review was superior to Canada's.
In Chapter 3, Mandel addresses the politics of language and how this issue has been legalized. He explains that the desire to "make Quebec French" was at heart a question of the "concrete social, political and economic position of a people that constituted the overwhelming majority of the population." After tracing the enactment of Bill 101, as well as the history of official bilingualism in Manitoba, he exposes the contrivances of the courts, including their efforts to treat the issue in the same way in the two provinces. Mandel demonstrates how specific are the language rights in the Charter, in contrast to the vagueness of other rights, and how Section 23 of the Charter was designed to interfere with provincial jurisdiction over education. He also reveals how the aggressiveness of the Supreme Court on the bilingualism issue varied with the seriousness of the Parti Quebecois threat in Quebec; once the PQ was defeated in 1985, the Supreme Court could relax a bit. The Quebec sign law was about the freedom to exercise economic power, with the courts treating private advertising as a fundamental human right, and "every judge who sat on the Ford case had been appointed by the Trudeau administration."
In Chapter 4, Mandel deals with legal rights and asks whether the courts' use of the Charter to expand the procedural rights of accused persons, prisoners and immigrants disproves his argument that the Charter is only there to protect the powerful. He replies that the victims of crime are often in the same lower-class position as those charged, so in this sense the Charter does hurt the poor, adding that due process norms in the US have not done much for those at the bottom of that society. Turning to the Canadian experience since 1982, Mandel maintains that Section 24's exclusion of improperly obtained evidence has been used primarily to avoid soiling the purity of the judicial process, that is, to avoid bringing the administration of justice into disrepute. The presumption of innocence, he says, means "acquit even if, on balance, you think the accused is guilty." An alternative means of acquitting an obviously guilty party is to claim denial of the right to counsel, and Mandel asserts that Canadian courts go to absurd proportions to enforce this right too. He contends that despite the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, judges have been more than willing to allow electronic surveillance as long as it was approved by a judge, and to oppose searches of corporate headquarters when the order was not approved by a judge. The Askov (right to trial within a reasonable time) and Singh (right of refugee claimants to an oral hearing) decisions merit particular scorn, one paving the way for the dismissal of about 50,000 pending criminal charges in Ontario alone, and the other leading to an amnesty for over 20,000 questionable refugee claimants and an ultimate backlog of 85,000 claims because the system could not cope. In both cases, lawyers were the biggest winners. Mandel is also critical of judges who shut down judicial inquiries (including that into the Westray coal mine explosion) by putting the procedural rights of anyone who might have been charged ahead of the rights of the victims and their survivors.
Chapter 5 concerns the class struggle - that between labour and business - as taken to court. The majority of the Supreme Court soon decided that freedom of association did not include the right to strike, and labour lost almost every other case it took to court, except perhaps the Lavigne case involving a challenge to the use made of union dues for political purposes. On the other hand, corporations have done rather well, such as in the two National Citizens' Coalition cases that struck down restrictions on third party advertising during election campaigns. (Also of political significance was the Conservatively biased Saskatchewan electoral map upheld by the Supreme Court). Then, although property rights as such did not make it into the Charter, Mandel shows how many other rights intended for individuals have been extended by the courts to corporations, including freedom of religion (Sunday shopping) and freedom of expression (tobacco advertising). In short, "working people have nothing to gain from Charter politics and business has nothing to lose."
In Chapter 6, Mandel moves from class to other inequalities and the Charter. As for equality rights in Section 15, Mandel notes the "huge inequalities in social power and living standards" in Canada, and declares that the judiciary is "most uncomfortable righting social wrongs at the expense of formal legal equality." Mandel is not convinced that access to Section 15 has been restricted to disadvantaged groups, as is sometimes suggested. He adds that Section 15 (2) - the affirmative action clause - was necessary because American experience had shown how much an obstacle constitutional equality could be to the achievement of real equality.
In Mandel's view, Aboriginal peoples, like francophone Quebeckers, wanted national, group rights rather than individual rights, and therefore achieved limited results through the Charter. He submits that even in a case like Sparrow (fishing rights) that was generous in rhetoric, the Supreme Court arbitrarily wrote a "reasonable limits" clause into Aboriginal rights. Whether the second round of the Delgamuukw case improves the fate of Aboriginal rights remains to be seen; so far, Mandel says, the Charter has operated to manage Aboriginal claims rather than to promote them.
On women, Mandel dwells on the Seaboyer ("rape shield") case in which the Supreme Court threw out the law restricting questions about a woman's sexual history in dealing with sexual assault. In this situation, Parliament did its best to circumvent the decision by revising the law, but it could only go so far. The Blainey case (girls playing hockey with boys) was a victory for a few elite women hockey players, but a mixed blessing for the sport as a whole. On the abortion question, Mandel provides a long analysis of the Morgentaler decision, the Charter case of which he most approves. But it was an unsatisfactory one in many ways and lost much of its edge when several provinces cut funding in this field. Even here, Mandel thinks that the politicians would eventually have acted without the intervention of the courts. He ends the chapter by arguing that feminists must come to terms with the fact that issues of class, gender and race often coincide and must be confronted simultaneously.
In conclusion, Mandel proclaims that the only way to defeat legal politics or defend ourselves against the Charter is to have a strong, responsive, democratic politics to compete with them. He hopes that the women's movement is setting the example of such a different, non-legalistic, way of doing politics.
Mandel presents a very convincing case and a wonderful antidote to those (such as naive political science students) who think that the Charter is the source of everything good about the Canadian regime. He admits that the book is long and demanding but most of it is understandable to non-lawyers, despite his argument that this is increasingly not the case with legalized politics. In regard to length, it was probably not necessary to include a 25-page digression into the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords that somewhat detracts from his criticism of the Charter itself. Mandel puts the gloomiest possible interpretation on the effects of the Charter and judges and finds something adverse in the most beneficial decisions. This reviewer, for example, would at least praise the Supreme Court for its frequent use of the "reasonable limits" clause in order to allow a law passed by democratically elected politicians to stand. While it is salutary to have the Charter analyzed in class terms, Mandel's left-wing perspective occasionally leads him on unnecessary tangents, and he is probably unrealistic in thinking that the politicians would eventually have acted on some of the more controversial issues. Nevertheless, his book is a brilliant tour de force, often tinged with humour.
If the courts are playing a greater role in the political decisions since 1982, no one denies the continuing influence of the public service. Three leading Canadian political scientists, Andre Blais, Donald Blake and Stephane Dion (in an earlier academic life) joined forces to write Governments, Parties, and Public Sector Employees. Their objective is not so much to establish the importance of the public service, however, as to examine how each of the four countries under consideration (Canada, the United States, Britain and France) and the political parties within them treat their public servants.
The book examines the straightforward hypothesis that "parties and governments of the left tend to be more generous toward public sector employees than parties and governments of the right." At first sight, this might seem too obviously true to engage the attention of three such scholarly minds, but scientific research in the discipline sometimes disproves commonly held notions. In this case, the proposition is generally supported in the end, but the journey to such confirmation is well worth the effort.
The authors begin by asking whether political parties make a difference in general as far as policy outputs are concerned. The literature is somewhat ambiguous on this point, indicating that the influence of party ideology on government policy is "much stronger in some countries than others." The authors then inquire about the party leanings of public sector workers themselves, and find that research in many countries has shown that public sector employees are at least slightly more supportive of leftist than of rightist parties. The authors define "generosity toward public sector employees" as policies that are (a) more likely to increase public sector employment, (b) more likely to increase public sector wages, (c) more likely to recognize bargaining rights such as the right to form a union and the right to strike and (d) more likely to recognize political rights, such as the right to engage in political activity. The study is confined to central governments and excludes military and defence employees, but includes all governments in the four countries over the period 1950-1990. They use "both quantitative and qualitative methods, relying mainly on time series techniques for longitudinal analysis and on the examination of legislative debates, statements by political leaders, and party platforms, as well as personal interviews." They present their data in both simple form and subject to multivariate analysis and regression.
In the work on Canada, the authors determine on the basis of the literature that the three main parties in the period under review, NDP, Liberals and Conservatives, can be respectively labeled as left, centre and right. After observing variations in the size of the federal public service from 1950 to 1990, they conclude that the number of employees increased at an average annual rate of 2.2 per cent under Liberal governments and decreased by a rate of 0.8 per cent under Conservative governments, with the NDP being the staunchest opponent of such reductions. While the massive cuts of the Chretien-Martin period post-date this study, it seems reasonable to conclude that the three parties' positions on the subject remained intact after 1990.
Although they eventually gave in on the long-delayed pay equity problem, the Liberals were perceived as stingly on the issue of public service wages; on the other hand, the Mulroney government enacted the wage restraint programme in 1991 that is still with us. From 1950 to 1990, the Liberals' generosity varied considerably, but overall, they were more magnanimous than the Conservatives with respect to wages, and the NDP was "slightly more supportive of wage increases than the Liberals."
After detailing the 1967 extension of collective bargaining rights (including the right to strike) to the public service as well as the periodic suspension of such rights (including nine back-to-work bills), the authors conclude that the difference between Liberal and PC governments in this respect was small. Nevertheless, the Liberals were slightly more generous, while the NDP was the most favourable to public sector bargaining rights. Political rights for public servants include the right to vote, to seek election to public office, to join a political party, to engage in activities on behalf of a party, to be a candidate and "to speak in public on matters of political controversy related to government policies." Although the major legislation on these issues was also enacted by the Liberals in 1967, the authors find little difference between the actions of Liberal and Conservative governments while the NDP has been more favourable to public sector employees' political rights. The overall conclusion of the Canadian chapter, then, is that the general hypothesis is confirmed, although "the distance between the Liberals and Conservatives appears to be smaller than between the Liberals and the NDP."
The discussion of the United States is more complicated because distinctions must be made between presidential as well as congressional parties, while also taking into account the separation of powers and weak party cohesion. In brief, on each of the four questions, congressional parties matter much more than does the partisan colouration of the presidency. While in principle Democratic and Republican presidents may differ in expected ways with respect to the public service, in practice they do not often act in the policy fields under review but use what limited influence they have over Congress on issues other than those related to federal employees. Even at the Congressional level, while the Democrats are generally more generous, such issues are rarely a priority, and the limitations on collective bargaining and political rights differ greatly from Canadian standards. Although union membership among federal employees is higher than elsewhere in the US, the range of issues included in collective bargaining is narrow, and these employees do not have the right to strike. Such limitations are somewhat offset by union lobbyists and campaign contributions to the Democratic party.
Determining the size of the British public service is complicated by the nationalizing actions of Labour governments and the privatizing initiatives of Conservatives. In any case, "public employment grew more often than not under Labour and shrank under most Conservative governments," even before Margaret Thatcher. Approximately 80 per cent of civil servants working for the central government in Great Britain are union members and through their membership in the Trades Union Congress are affiliated to the Labour party. Given the commonly understood ideological differences between the two main British parties (at least preTony Blair), one might expect the other three questions to be answered more strongly in Britain than in the US or Canada. On the contrary, changes in civil service wages over the 40-year period do not support the expectation that Labour would be more generous; nor do Labour governments appear to have been more sympathetic to trade unionism and collective bargaining in the civil service. The question of political rights demonstrates a bipartisan consensus. Thus only the first question is answered positively in the United Kingdom, the least of any of the four countries.
Political parties in France can be classified on the left-right axis with little difficulty (Socialists and Gaullists or RPR). Since national civil servants are more highly unionized than other wage earners and most of these are linked to national unions identified with the left, one would expect strong support for each of the four questions. The authors show that this is the case with respect to collective bargaining and political rights. Apart from the fact that the left nationalized and the right privatized, the answer is not so clear when it comes to the size and remuneration of the civil service.
In conclusion, the authors calculate that "most of the time the left is more generous than the right." They also find that in the case of both left and right, actions in power are more moderate than party platforms. Another observation is that European parties are not necessarily more ideologically polarized than in North America. Finally, of the four measures of generosity, left and right are generally most divided on the subject of the size of the public sector.
Even if the central hypothesis of the book does not seem strikingly original or very broad, this reviewer finds the work to be a model of contemporary political research. First, comparative research usually brings the richest results. Second, the authors unearthed remarkably comparable data in four countries that enabled them to make meaningful cross-national comparisons, not an easy feat. Third, they employed both quantitative and qualitative data in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the issues. Fourth, they present their evidence in both sophisticated numerical form as well as in readily understandable language. Finally, while the hypothesis is somewhat narrow, the breadth of the research provides a wide perspective on the politics of each country surveyed.
If Mandel is right that the courts have usurped the policy-making role of the politicians, then the current role of the House of Commons in the Canadian political regime is less significant than it was prior to 1982. The assumption that this is true has led David Docherty to ask, in Mr. Smith Goes to Ottawa, what Members of Parliament really do and how they feel about it. In particular, he compares pre-election expectations with post-election reality.
Docherty's book is mostly based on three surveys - of 108 MPs in 1992, 241 non-incumbent candidates in 1993 and 65 rookie MPs in 1996. Because these response rates are not entirely representative (Quebec and the BQ being under-represented), he supplemented his surveys with MP and candidate interviews. While these results are no doubt statistically respectable, he occasionally writes as if he had had a 100 per cent response. Docherty's approach combines two models popular in the contemporary discipline. First, the rational choice model assumes that politicians are ambitious, self-interested, strategic utility maximizers. Second, institutionalism posits that personal goals are heavily influenced by the structure of institutional arrangements that greatly constrain the choices available. In a nutshell, non-incumbent candidates in federal elections are full of dreams about changing the world and rising to great heights of power, but soon come up against the reality of their limited role in policy formation and the development of legislation, as well as of the likelihood that they will remain indefinitely on the backbench. Docherty asks if this frustration is the cause of the high turnover rate in the Canadian House of Commons, that is, early voluntary retirement.
The high turnover rate in the House of Commons is a frequently cited weakness of the Canadian political regime, reaching 50 per cent in 1984 and 68 per cent in 1993, for a recent average of about 45 per cent. In the 1968-93 period, 57 per cent of turnovers were due to electoral defeat and 43 per cent to voluntary retirement. Generally speaking, however, defeat affected more newly elected MPs, while it was veterans who voluntarily retired, whether after reaching the maximum pensionable term of 15 years, after being demoted from a policy-oriented post, or after a change in party leadership. In other words, the high turnover rate has little to do with early job dissatisfaction caused by party discipline and lack of opportunity to influence policy outputs. MPs rail against bureaucrats and cabinet ministers who refuse to listen to their individual entreaties or committee recommendations, but in the end, three-quarters of them declare that their expectations have been realized. Docherty suspects that many have modified their original goals and prefer not to admit their own failings, rationalizing that local constituency service or community representation is also fulfilling work.
Docherty has an interesting chapter on party discipline. After discussing the concept of confidence and non-confidence, with a good comparison of Canada and the UK, he turns to the first term of the 35th Parliament (1993-96). With 200 new MPs and two new parties, one of them (Reform) determined to reduce party discipline, this might have been the time for some changes in institutional norms. Despite Warren Allmand's vote against the budget and John Nunziata's denunciation of the failure to remove the GST, as well as a number of Liberal (and Reform) dissidents on gun control (Bill C-68) and on increased penalties for violence against homosexuals (Bill C-33), nothing really changed. This can be confirmed by Jean Chretien's later threats and exhortations with respect to government policy on compensating Hepatitus-C infected victims of tainted blood. Docherty reports a surprisingly large number of candidates and MPs who told him they would follow their constituents over their leader and party when it came to such a choice, however, research on actual voting behaviour beyond the survey group would have been more meaningful. Most issues do not involve a clear choice between riding and party and it is not easy to determine majority opinion in a riding, even if its MP wanted to. Moreover, the longer MPs stay in Parliament, the more likely they are to obtain some kind of promotion, and "the less likely they are to see personal profit in loosening notions of confidence and party control."
Docherty takes us through the life cycle of a Member of Parliament and, in the chapter on candidates, he provides a profile of those seeking election in 1993. Although he gives no figures on the number who are self-recruited as opposed to recruited by parties, he includes interesting data on such variables as provincial experience and length of formal association with the party. He notes that the percentage of women elected was almost as large as the percentage of women nominated, so to increase the number of women MPs, more female candidates are needed.
Once elected, MPs find that the apprenticeship period is longer than expected. They seek advice from veterans in their own and other parties, except for the 1993 Reformers who, in self-imposed isolation, turned to their rookie leader for advice and direction. Although some rookies come with realistic expectations, most declare that they will not feel fulfilled unless appointed to cabinet. Within two years in Ottawa, however, most come to terms with the institutional constraints of their job and the ambitious realize that loyalty to the leader, rather than their personal qualifications, is the leading criterion for advancement.
Docherty then asks questions about how they spend their time. An excellent graph indicates that about 42 per cent of members' time is spent on constituency work, more than the time on legislative work and policy development combined. Most MPs would prefer to engage in policy work and their personal time spent on constituency work gradually declines while that of their staff increases. While the phrase "assisting individual constituents" is fairly straightforward, Docherty might have better explained exactly what services they procure for their ridings and how they do so. In any case, he provides a good account of the demands on an MP's time and of the harried atmosphere of the local constituency office (in which staff do most of the work). He reports that while increased resources since 1968 allow MPs a greater capacity to build local name recognition and while MPs think that work in the riding is the key to re-election, there has been no change in the defeat rates of incumbents. Despite the evidence that party and leader are more important factors in determining how people will vote, MPs seem to think they are elected, re-elected and defeated on the basis of their personal merits and constituency service.
Docherty concludes by accepting the limitations on the policy influence of MPs, by noting small advances in recent years in this respect, and by recommending incremental changes in the future. His theoretical framework, involving rational choice versus institutionalism models, which has hovered beneath the surface throughout, is here made explicit.
The institution under scrutiny in the last of these books is the New Democratic Party. Alan Whitehorn and Keith Archer have written, both individually and in tandem, much of the most definitive recent work on the NDP, and they join forces again in Party Activists: The NDP in Convention. Although they draw widely and wisely on their previous work, this book concentrates on surveys of delegates at the 1987 and 1989 NDP conventions, with samples of 731 (53 per cent) and 1,060 (42 per cent) respectively. They argue that their data are still relevant a decade later, and for the most part they are right.
The book is divided into four parts, the first of which deals with the organizational and ideological structure of the party. For the uninitiated, the authors explain the NDP's claim to be a mass party. Representation at conventions is proportional to the size of the constituency association membership and thus skewed in favour of the western part of the country. Readers will be interested to find that most NDP convention delegates are political activists in other ways, busy signing petitions and engaging in protests, strikes and demonstrations. Perhaps most surprising is that at the conventions in question, 40.7 and 47.3 per cent of delegates identified themselves as middle class and only 24.7 and 18.2 per cent as working class. At the same time, 48.4 per cent called themselves social democrats and 27.6 per cent, socialists.
In one of the most interesting chapters of the book, the authors contrast 1987 NDP convention delegates' views on 31 policy items with those of Liberals in 1984 and Progressive Conservatives in 1983. To the extent that convention votes reflect a party's underlying ideological foundations, this exercise produced a clear-cut ideological spectrum with the NDP on the left, the Liberals in the centre and the PCs on the right. Attitudes of NDP delegates were more consistent than in the other two parties, as well as being further from both Liberal and Conservatives than the latter two were from each other. So much for the "end of ideology," at least in the 1980s!
Part II of the book examines intra-party caucuses and major policy issues. The authors outline the history of organized labour in Canadian politics and the unique relationship established between unions and the party in 1961. Unions typically send about 25 per cent of convention delegates, and 82 per cent of non-union delegates felt that the trade union link had been of benefit to the party. Are union members a conservative, redneck influence in the party, as is sometimes charged? Archer and Whitehorn conclude that although union delegates are generally slightly to the right, the attitudes of union and constituency delegates towards policy are remarkably consistent. Mostly men, union delegates differed slightly from the others on such issues as gender parity in the party, military alliances, defence spending and labour relations.
The authors also analyze policy items by region, gender and age, and conclude that in spite of minor variations, the party is not particularly divided along these lines either. NDP delegates have always been sympathetic to the unique character of Quebec; they generally feel closer to provincial governments than to Ottawa; but they are ambivalent about further decentralization of Canadian federalism. Archer and Whitehorn detail the pioneering efforts of the NDP to promote gender equality, ending up with two women federal leaders, and contrast that concern with the party's lack of effort to recruit younger members and give them special convention representation.
The third part of the book examines three key policy areas. In each case the authors (somewhat redundantly) analyze delegate attitudes by gender, age, region and union or non-union delegate status. In policy areas such as the role of the state, public ownership and social welfare policy, how did NDP delegates react to the neoconservative agenda of the 1980s? They were somewhat divided, 50 per cent wanted to reduce deficits as much as possible and 40 per cent felt that governments had been spending too much, but they overwhelmingly wanted increased spending on education, housing, welfare and health and increased public ownership, especially in the oil and gas and banking industries. Although nearly one-half of the delegates identified themselves as middle class and had relatively high incomes, they empathized with the struggles of the working class; 54 per cent saw class as the central question of politics; they were concerned about socio-economic inequalities in society and believed these could be alleviated by a strong welfare state that taxed the rich.
Canada's membership in NATO and NORAD was a big issue for the party in the 1980s, and the authors review this debate in detail. More generally, they show how nationalistic NDP delegates wanted, not surprisingly, to reduce American influence over Canada in the economic, defensive, cultural and union spheres. Of greater current interest is the chapter on materialism and post-materialism. According to some scholars, left and right are being displaced as party ideologies by post-material values based on such issues as the environment, quality of life and gender. But Archer and Whitehorn observe that Canada seems to be immune to this trend, with economic issues still front and centre (not forgetting regional-ethnic questions, of course). So it is with the NDP; while it is the party most sensitive to these post-material values, they do not divide the party. Left and right remained the most significant predictor of political attitudes within the party and the new issues have been incorporated into the old left-right ideological divide. This reviewer would also extend this observation beyond the NDP to the whole Canadian political system.
The final section of the book is on leadership, with major chapters on the selection of Audrey McLaughlin in 1989 (one of the conventions on which they have detailed survey data) and that of Alexa McDonough in 1995. In the latter case, the authors' lack of survey data does not prevent them from providing an authoritative account of the proceedings. In both cases, they refer to the candidates who came forward as a relatively weak group, and list the stronger contenders who decided to stay out of the race. Why did a neophyte like McLaughlin win in 1989? The competition was unattractive; delegates thought she would be a winner on the election trail; and they felt she was competent and could unite the party. Of course she had substantial female backing, but in spite of the prominence of the women's caucus, the youth caucus, the labour caucus, the left caucus and the provincial caucuses, Archer and Whitehorn argue that most delegates came to an individual decision rather than voting with the collective, whether union or constituency delegation, of which they were part.
The party's dismal fate in the 1993 election led to another leadership convention in 1995. The authors explain the motives for grafting an extra-constitutional primary system on to the traditional convention vote. This desperate effort to gain media attention and to show that the party was democratic was not particularly successful. It did not engender great enthusiasm at the grass roots level or a high turnout rate, and if a few more Saskatchewan delegates had bothered to go to the convention, Lorne Nystrom might have become leader. The authors remind us of the puzzling withdrawal of Svend Robinson who was ahead on the first ballot, but generally find that the individualism of a one-member-one-vote leadership selection process does not seem to resonate with a party based on the principle of collectivism. Like all of the other books included in this review except Malcolmson and Myers, it ends with an excellent bibliography.
The four books in this collection that deal with specific governmental or political institutions are all solidly based and add to our knowledge of their relationships with the rest of the political regime. As for the significance of the institutions involved, Mandel clearly establishes the huge impact of the courts and the Charter in the policy-making process, while Docherty does not challenge the view that the House of Commons is not overly important in that process. Malcolmson and Myers defend the overall system of parliamentary democracy as we know it against any faddish reforms, while Mandel regrets that the system has already been transformed by the Charter and judicial review. Although they ostensibly focus on public sector employees, the actual conclusions of Blais, Blake and Dion relate primarily to the question of party ideology. They and Archer and Whitehorn confirm that the Liberal, New Democratic and Conservative parties represent left, centre and right respectively, and that such ideological distinctions are still basic to Canadian political activity.
Of the four books that deal with specific institutions, only Docherty's explicitly employs an "institutional" approach in the sense of arguing that the norms of a political institution seriously constrain the behaviour of its members, and he has done so convincingly. When Malcolmson and Myers write of the superior virtues of an "institutional" approach in Political Science, they mean something slightly different: emphasizing governmental institutions rather than the societal forces that may or may not have an impact upon them. It is a respectable position for the kind of book they have written. Not dealing with "institutionalism" as such, but in a somewhat related vein, Blais, Blake and Dion delve briefly into the disciplinary debate over the merits of state-centred as opposed to society-centred approaches. In answer to Malcolmson and Myers, they would likely join others who plead guilty to bringing economic and sociological forces into their treatment of the political regime but also acknowledge the continuing importance of political institutions.…
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Publication information: Article title: [The Charter of Rights & the Legalization of Politics in Canada. Rev Ed]. Contributors: Mandel, Michael - Author, Dyck, Rand - Author. Journal title: Journal of Canadian Studies. Volume: 35. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 2000. Page number: 239. © Trent University Fall 1996. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.