Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Governing Ourselves? the Politics of Canadian Communities

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Governing Ourselves? the Politics of Canadian Communities

Article excerpt

Mary Louise McAllister, Governing Ourselves? The Politics of Canadian Communities (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004), 332pp. Cloth. ISBN 0-7748-1062-9. Paper. ISBN 0-7748-1063-7.

Governing Ourselves? focuses on local democracy and local governance in Canada. A distinctive feature of the book is that the author, an Associate Professor in the Department of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo, uses case studies of five mid-sized cities - Prince George (BC), Sherbrooke (Quebec), Saint John (NB) and Kitchener-Waterloo (Ont.) - to explore issues of power and influence in local communities. Although intended as an introductory text on Canadian local government, institutional description and analysis are not at the heart of the book. Rather, institutions are set within a political economy perspective that seeks to demonstrate that the five case study municipalities - and also Canada's larger cities - have distinctive political cultures and therefore respond differently to changing global and domestic environments. This makes for a stimulating, interdisciplinary treatment of relevance to students of geography, urban planning and environmental studies as well as of political science and public policy. The author does, though, put much store on urban regime theory, an approach associated with political science, as the basis of her explanatory framework.

McAllister's central argument is that whilst local government does play a valuable role in providing a number of important services to a plurality of interests necessary to maintain the quality of life that Canadian society currently enjoys, nevertheless the institution falls short of fulfilling its role as an agent of a healthy, democratic polity. …

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