PARTY AGGREGATION IN FOUR COUNTRIES
CHAPTER SIX DEMONSTRATED the broad patterns of party aggregation in our four countries, and offered specific examples of party system change in response to centralization and decentralization. In this chapter we expand our discussion of party aggregation, taking a more systematic approach to the history in each country. These cases support our evidence from the previous chapter and add considerable weight to our arguments.
In some ways, the Canadian party system has seen very little stasis. Minor and regional parties have come and gone, and there have been several dramatic and rapid fluctuations in the fortunes of the major and the minor parties. No one could reasonably conclude that Canada has had a two-party system or a fully national system, except for a brief interlude from 1904 to 1920. This is in spite of the fact that it has had, for the most part, a single-member, simple-plurality electoral system since the Dominion's founding.
Despite the instability in some party system measures for Canada, there has been remarkable stability in the identity of the two major parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives.1 Only in the 1990s have one of these two, the Conservatives, begun to show signs of perilous health. Otherwise, these two parties have consistently won the most votes in
1Johnston (2000) has a slightly different interpretation of the Canadian party system. He
observes that Canada, like India, has seen the dominance of one party, the Liberals. He
argues they have dominated Canadian elections much like the Congress Party has done in
India. If one examines national-level data, as Johnston (2000) does, the Liberals do appear
as the dominant party post-1935. But national-level data mask the fact that the Liberals
faced more severe competition in the provinces, and, like the Congress Party of India, the
Liberals were opposed by different parties in the various provinces. As the opposition to
the Liberals varied by province (as it did for the Congress in India), the difference between
the vote share of the Liberals and their closest competitor at the national level had to be
larger than the differences in the vote share of the Liberals and their main opponents in
each of the provinces.