Grassroots Politicians: Party Activists in British Columbia

By Donald E. Blake; R. K. Carty et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Continuity and Change: Party Activists, 1973-87

NORMAN RUFF WITH THE AUTHORS

Political parties are inevitably institutions of both continuity and change. They bear memories of battles fought, definitions of old issues still to be settled, and traditions that shape the careers and options of contemporary politicians. At the same time, they must continue to absorb and reflect the changing patterns of a dynamic society and economy. It is the tension between these two impulses that shapes parties' organization and activity.

Individual party members and activists carry these traditions and mirror social changes. Thus we can observe in the shifting profiles of a party's activists the balance between continuity and change as well as the party's response to the changing competitive environment and its place in it. In this chapter, we use this technique to examine how, if at all, the Social Credit, New Democratic and Liberal parties in British Columbia have changed over the last decade with the emergence of a polarized two-party system.

The leadership convention studies of 1986 and 1987 provide a good deal of information about the contemporary parties. Fortunately, we also have some parallel information on a number of important dimensions similarly gathered at provincial party conventions in the early 1970s. Survey data from the Social Credit leadership convention which choose Bill Bennett in 1973, and from the NDP and Liberal party conventions of 1973 and 1974, respectively, allow us to compare the three parties at the beginning and end of the Bill Bennett era. In the case of the NDP it is also possible to extend some of the analysis back another decade using Walter Young's study ( Young 1971) of the party in the mid-1960s.

The data we have provide portraits of the parties from three perspectives. First, it is possible to examine socio-economic profiles of

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Grassroots Politicians: Party Activists in British Columbia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Grassroots Politicians i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Figures vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter One - the Polarization of Bc Politics 3
  • Chapter Three - Continuity and Change: Party Activists, 1973-87 24
  • Conclusion 34
  • Chapter Four - Social Credit: Pragmatic Coalition or Ideological Right? 36
  • Conclusion 55
  • Chapter Five - the New Democrats: What Kind of Left? 58
  • Conclusion 70
  • Chapter Six - the Liberals: Centre or Fringe? 71
  • Conclusion 83
  • Chapter Seven - Leadership Selection in the Bc Parties 85
  • Conclusion 97
  • Chapter Eight the Social Credit Grassroots Recapture Their Party 99
  • Chapter Nine Resisting Polarization: the Survival of the Liberals 112
  • Conclusion 120
  • Chapter Ten Towards the Centre?: the Dynamics of Two-Party Competition 122
  • Appendix 137
  • Notes 143
  • Bibliography 147
  • Index 151
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