Canadian Mayors: A Profile and Determinants of Electoral Success

By Kushner, Joseph; Siegel, David et al. | Canadian Journal of Urban Research, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Canadian Mayors: A Profile and Determinants of Electoral Success


Kushner, Joseph, Siegel, David, Stanwick, Hannah, Canadian Journal of Urban Research


Resume

Les Characteristiques typiques d'un maire dune grande ville canadienne sont les suivantes: un homme d'age moyen datenant une education de niveau universitaire avec une experience dans la mairie et dans le milieux des affaires et ayant une affiliation, si tel est le cas, avec le Parti Conservateur. Pour ce qui est des determinants du succes electroal, detenir une periode d'exercice donne de loin le plus grand avantage. Le nombre de candidats ainsi que les depenses electorales sont deux autres determinants importants du succes electoral tandis que le sexe ne l'est pas. Bien que la majorite des maires ont un certain niveau d'elitisme en comparaison avec leurs electeurs, le fait important de detenir une periode d'exercice semble indiquer que les maires ne se sont pas eloignes des electeurs. Les maires canadiens, non comme les maires des vills americaines, nutilisent pas la maine comme point de depart pour un poste dum plus haut niveau dans la vie publique.

Abstract

The typical Canadian big city mayor is middle-aged, male, university educated, previously experienced as a city councillor, with a business background and a Progressive Conservative political affiliation, if any. With respect to the determinants of electoral success, incumbency yields by far the greatest advantage. The number of candidates and campaign expenditures are also important determinants whereas gender is not. While most mayors seem to have an elite background compared to their constituents, the fact that incumbency is such a significant advantage indicates that mayors have not lost touch with voters. Canadian mayors, unlike their American counterparts, do not use the mayoralty office as a stepping stone to higher office.

Keywords: Mayors; Elections; Municipal Government.

Introduction

The characteristics of corporate elites have been well documented in Canada (Clement 1975; Newman 1979; Porter 1965; Fleming 1991), and there has been a large number of studies of leaders such as prime ministers and premiers, and some biographies of high-profile mayors (Persky 1980; Colton 1980; Caulfield 1974; McKenna and Purcell 1980). However, local political representatives have received scant attention (Kushner, Siegel, and Stanwick 1997; Long and Slemko 1974). The occupations of the members of the federal House of Commons have been documented dating back to Confederation (Library of Parliament 1989). The relationship between elites, classes and members of parliament has also been examined (Panitch 1990). The characteristics of large city mayors, however, have received no such attention. Mayors, as the heads of governments closest to the people, play an important role in our political process. However, as elected elites, "it is surprising how little is known about the occupants of this office, their back grounds, how they reach office, and what they do after they leave the position" (Wolman, Page, and Reavley 1990, 500). Our review of the literature located only two other systematic studies of the characteristics of mayors - one in the U.S. (Wolman, Page, and Reavley 1990) and one in New South Wales, Australia (Department of Local Government 1996).

While this article makes some comparisons between Canada and these two countries, significant differences in institutional arrangements limit more direct comparisons. For example, partisan elections are more common in the U.S. than in Canada, and the presence .of term limits in many U.S. cities prevents mayors from serving more than one or two consecutive terms. In New South Wales, the mayor is not elected by popular vote, but instead by councillors from among their number. However, even with these institutional differences, some interesting comparisons can be made.

This paper examines the characteristics of large-city mayors and the determinants of electoral success. The characteristics considered are age, gender, education, prior occupation, political experience, political affiliation, campaign expenditure, and incumbency. …

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