Poli 204 fall 2013 course outline


Introduction and overview:

This course is a survey course intended to introduce students to the study of Canadian politics. Canada is a complex country composed of several peoples with a diverse population and a history whose roots goes back many thousands of years before the European settlement of North America and the encounter of our aboriginal first nations Native peoples with European explorers and settlers. This encounter benefited enormously the European colonial traders, adventurers and settlers but imposed harsh and often life threatening circumstances upon the first nations peoples- a legacy which continues in contemporary Canada. By the time of Confederation in 1867 when the modern Canadian nation state was born the original Native  peoples of Canada were reduced to some 140,000 people, including 10,000 Inuit and 10,000 Metis.In the mid 16th century the aboriginal population of the Canadian portion of North America  has been estimated as at least 200,00 and possible as large as two million. (See A. Finkel and M.Conrad history of the Canadian peoples 1867 to the present;  Thornton, Russell (2000). “Population history of Native North Americans”. In Michael R. Haines, Richard Hall Steckel. A population history of North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 13. ) At the time of Confederation in 1867 the population of Canada according to the 1871 census consisted of 1.62 million people in Ontario; 1.192 million people in Québec; 285,594 people in New Brunswick; 388,000 people in Nova Scotia; 10,500 non aboriginal people in British Columbia; 150,000 people in Newfoundland; some 25,000 plus people in what became the Prairie provinces in modern Canada. So at the time of Confederation in 1867 the population of the entire country including its aboriginal people was about 3.7 million people. In 2013 some 146 years later the population is  35.14 million (Stats Canada estimate) almost 10 times  greater. So in demographic terms Canada must be considered a modest success story.Its neighbor , ally but sometimes rival to the south, the United States has grown from 37 million people in 1867 to 316.6 million people in 2013.At the time of the founding of the USA as an independent country the population was under three million people.

Canada as a country also inhabits the second largest land mass in the world. Only the Russian federation is larger.Its economic history over the past five centuries has involved  its exploration and exploitation of its natural resources at first by foreign European powers like Britain and France  and later the United States who developed a robust trade in staple commodities like fish, fur , timber , pulp and paper and mineral resources and later petroleum and natural gas which in turn enriched these metropolis powers and at the same time developed the Canadian domestic economy through backward and forward linkages to the staple base of development. The Canadian financial base also grew up out of this process of development. Canada was also the locus for the development of an initially limited but increasingly robust democracy supported by a sophisticated competitive party structure whose roots lay in the country’s colonial heritage and its eventual adoption of  the Westminister model of representative parliamentary democracy.the Native peoples of Canada have also contributed to Canadian democratic traditions of participatory democracy and community which play a growing role in contemporary Canada. The rise and development of the labour movement and agrarian populism also contributed to the growing sophistication of Canadian democracy. The federal status of the country and its relatively successful integration of French speaking Canadians in Quebec, as well as in New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba with smaller numbers in the other provinces through the constitutional  division of powers and a federal structure and a charter of rights that recognized the need to respect and protect minority language groups through out the country has also contributed to its relative success despite the strong presence of an independence movement and independence leaning political parties which compete for both federal parliamentary seats and provincial seats in Québec.

Given this economic , historical, geopolitical background we will explore a number of core aspects of Canadian democracy and politics. Our objective is to permit students to understand the rich history of the country, the diversity of its peoples and political culture and the promise of Canadian democratic institutions and its politics in an age of increasing global integration.


Texts: Eric Mintz, Livianna Tossutti and Christopher Dunn, Canada’s Politics:Democracy, diversity and Good government second edition Pearson Toronto 2011&2014

Recommended Supplemental reading :Alvin Finkel and Margaret Conrad , History of the Canadian Peoples, vol 2, third edition, Parson Addison Wesley Longman.

Robert Jackson & Doreen Jackson, Politics in Canada:Culture, Institutions, Behaviour and Public Policy Pearson Prentice Hall


1.Introduction and Overview: Canada’s history and peoples. its economic heritage. The development of a staple base and its impact upon trade and finance and employment.The banks, the railways and the political system. Wealth and social class and Canadian political culture.Brokerage versus class politics.Minz et al pp.1-54; pp.72-86; Finkel & Conrad pp.1-82.

2.Liberal democracy, possessive individualism, Canadian structures and diversity.Mintz et al, pp.1-54; C.B. Macpherson excerpt on reserve.

3.Canadian political culture, class and linguistic cleavages and the regional division of labour in the age of globalization.Québec versus Canadian nationalism. Mintz et alpp.87-108

4. The question of economic management.foreign investment, free trade the crash and its consequences, the rise of chronic unemployment and its political and social impact. Inequality.the debt and the impact upon the Canadian health care and welfare system. Mintz et al pp.55-86

5. The constitutional division of powers. The charter of rights and Freedoms. Centralization versus decentralization and the problem of economic management.Executive federalism, assymetrical federalism, Federal provincial financial arrangements.Mintz et al, pp.310-354; Finkel &Conrad pp.444-467;Jackson&Jackson, pp.140-186.

6.The party system and Canadian electoral history. electoral reform.the role of the media.Mintz et al, pp.242-309.

7.Political ideologies and party politics. Liberalism, conservatism, environmentalism, and social democracy.Jackson& Jackson pp.376-403

8. Institutions of government. the executive The governor General and King Byng.Mintz et al pp.410-439

9. The PMO, the Cabinet Mintz et al pp.410-439.

10. Parliament, the House of Commons, the Senate, the need for reform.Mintz et al pp.441-475

11. The bureaucracy, public administration and the policy process Mintz et al,pp.476-507

12. The courts and the judicial system Mintz et al. pp.508-531

13. Canadian foreign policy: Peacemaker or Powder Monkey ? mintz et al pp.150-177

13 Summing up and review.

Evaluation: one term essay due third week of October. Topics to be posted. 50 % A final exam 50 %.

Essay : Write an essay of between 9-10 pages on one of the following topics. The essay must include a bibliography of sources consulted. Sources should include scholarly books, articles from academic journals and where appropriate the quality press, for example The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, Le Devoir. Use a manual of style and proper citation.The essay is due in class the third week of October.

Topics:(under construction)
1. “The Quebec Charter of Values is rooted in the Quebec nationalist opposition to Canadian federalism and the nationalists’ rejection of multi-culturalism.” Discuss critically explaining the roots of the debate over values in Quebec, the goal of a secular society in the light of Quebec history and your assessment of the claim that this Charter is simply a legitimate expression of the need to protect Quebec’s culture.

2. How can C.B. Macpherson’s notion of possessive individualism be used to construct a theory of Canadian politics? Explain his theory and explore Canada’s class cleavages and political economy in your essay.

3. Foreign ownership and control of the Canadian economy is still an issue of considerable importance in Canada’s political economy. Explain why and discuss how it has been integrated into our politics in the past and its current status.

4. Does Canada’s voting system of first past the post need to be reformed? What alternative systems are there, how would they work, why would they be better and how could they be implemented.

5.Discuss the power of the Prime Minister and his/her office. What checks if any need to be placed on it?

6. What ought to be Canada’s role in global affairs? Are we a peacemaker or a powder monkey ?

7. Discuss the relationship of Canada to the U.S. Given the close economic integration that the free trade pact has promoted explore what challenges this poses to our sovereignty and independence.

8. Analyze the problem of unemployment. What role has government economic policy played in this problem? What is the role of the Bank of Canada and the Department of Finance in managing this problem? Explain the competing approaches of Keynesianism versus monetarism with respect to this problem.

Note several more topics will be added to the list.



About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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