Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Municipal Political Parties and Politicization: The Case of the 2013 Gatineau Elections

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Municipal Political Parties and Politicization: The Case of the 2013 Gatineau Elections

Article excerpt


This article examines the link between politicization and municipal political parties, using the case of the City of Gatineau. The 2013 municipal election was a novel event for Gatineau due to the arrival of a municipal political party, Action Gatineau. Using a broad definition of politicization, our objective is to study the degree to which this party and Projet Gatineau, the citizen movement that preceded the party, politicized local issues. More specifically, we will analyse four land use planning projects and the election campaign to demonstrate the efforts made towards increasing public participation as a municipal practice.

Keywords: elections, municipalities, politicization, political parties, land use planning, land use management, urban planning, urban development, Gatineau


Cet article interroge le lien entre politisation et partis politiques municipaux en prenant le cas de la Ville de Gatineau. L'election municipale de 2013 est marquee par une nouveaute a Gatineau, l'entree en scene d'un parti politique municipal, Action Gatineau. En faisant appel a une definition large de la politisation, nous cherchons a voir dans quelle mesure ce parti et Projet Gatineau, le mouvement citoyen qui l'a precede, ont contribue a politiser les enjeux locaux. Plus precisement, nous nous penchons sur quatre projets d'amenagement du territoire et sur la campagne electorale pour montrer les efforts faits pour augmenter la place de la parole publique dans la pratique municipale.

Mots cles: elections, municipalites, politisation, partis politiques, amenagement, urbanisme, Gatineau


This document refers to the 2013 Gatineau municipal elections, which brought to power Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, the leader of the new municipal political party, Action Gatineau. Via this case study, we will examine the links between municipal political parties and municipal politicization. The 2013 electoral event was indeed particular, being the first to include a municipal political party in due form in this city. Using this election and the preceding period (2009-2013), we will analyse the degree to which the emergence of Action Gatineau politicized municipal issues. In this article, we consider politicization to be the establishment of opportunities for citizens as well as elected officials to debate urban issues, including not only traditional municipal issues related to property services, but also issues in other areas, including those related to land use planning, urban development, quality of life, and social justice (Graham, Philips, and Maslove 1998; Lagroye 2003).

The question we pose, namely that of how municipal political parties contribute to the politicization of land use and urban development issues, has already been raised explicitly or more implicitly by several analysts. Sancton (2011, 176) mentions that local issues are generally considered not important enough to remain politicized:

   An important student of American urban politics,
   Paul Peterson, has suggested that political parties
   that exist solely at the municipal level cannot be
   sustained because the issues are not sufficiently
   important. In national political parties [sic] are
   formed and sustained around major political issues
   such as war and peace, free trade, and social class.
   The media pay close attention to what the parties
   do and individual voters form relatively long-lasting
   party attachments of varying degrees of intensity.
   Such factors generally do not exist at the municipal

According to this view, municipal political parties, because they are not an integral part of large national political parties, could not be long-lasting because they cannot mobilize issues and important political identities. Municipal political parties are thus viewed as short-lived and politically weak organizations. …

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