Poli 204/2 2015
Introduction to Canadian Politics
Professor Harold Chorney
H531 Tuesday 2:45 to 5:30 pm
Office hours 3:30-5 pm on Thursdays other hours tba.
The study of Canadian politics is a complex field which draws upon a number of traditions in Canadian political science including institutionalism, political behaviour, political theory, international politics, political economy, history, judicial and constitutional history and economic history. In a broad survey course lasting a single term we can only touch upon a number of key aspects of the field. In my view some knowledge of the key economic and political history of Canada and its initial colonial relationship to Great Britain and France and its relationship to the great republic to the south , the United States is essential in making sense of Canadian politics and its political history. The ongoing debate about the place of Québec in Canada can only be properly understood in the light of Canadian history and the history of the French fact in the founding of the country. Much has changed in Canada over its history. New France in the 18th century had a European origin population of about 70,000. In 1867 the population of Canada was 3.46 million people excluding the first nations’ population of about 120,000 people.In 1913 the population was 7.63 million. In 1941 Canada had a population of about 11.5 million people. Its population today according to Statistics Canada is over 35.2 million. Whereas in the 1940s and fifties the major groups were those of British or French background and people from other ethnicities constituted less than twenty percent of the population this third group has grown substantially in importance.The first nations’ and aboriginal population is now estimated to be over 1.4 million.
Canada can no longer be understood as a British country or a former French colony. This in strong contrast to the Canada of the early 1950s when both the Union Jack and the Red Ensign flew on the flagpole of my elementary school in Winnipeg and we were considered British subjects. Rather Canadian nationality has come into its own based as it is on a wide range of ethnicities , founding peoples and nations and immigrants from all over the world. We will likely be a nation of more than 40 million in the not too distant future and have in much of the country a strong pan Canadian national sensibility. Yet at the same time Québec maintains its identity as the very successful product of more than 4 centuries of French dominant presence in North America. This French presence and identity is also strong in several other regions of the country notably New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba. The partly bilingual character of Canada and the tension over Québec’s place in Canada are creative if difficult elements of the Canadian nation making process.
This fall on October 19th Canadians go to the polls to elect a new Parliament. This so far appears to be a very closely hard fought election with three major parties each at this point according to the poll of polls having a good chance to elect the largest number of members and form a minority government. We will discuss the election in detail, including the leading policy issues, the nature of the voting system, the differences between the parties, Canadian electoral history and the issue of getting younger Canadians to vote in much larger numbers.
Text :Eric Mintz, Livianna Tossutti and Christopher Dunn, Canada’s Politics:Democracy, Diversity and Good Government. Pearson , 2014. Available at text bookstore.
Evaluation: An essay due in the first week of November on a topic chosen from a list of possible topics made available in the next two weeks. 50 %. A final exam 50 %.
Additional reading: I draw upon several other works in Canadian history and Canadian politics . These include Alvin Finkel and Margaret Conrad’s two volume History of the Canadian Peoples vol.1 Beginning to 1867 (1993) vol.2 3rd ed. 1867 to the present; C.B.Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism:Hobbes to Locke;Stanley Ryerson, French Canada; Unequal Union; Craig Brown, the illustrated history of Canada, 2002; Donald Creighton, The Road to Confederation:The Emergence of Canada; Rand Dyck& Christopher Cochrane, Canadian Politics Critical Approaches; Stephen Brooks, Canadian Democracy, Oxford U Press, 2012. Michael Hart, A Trading Nation:Canadian Trade Policy from Confederation to Globalization, 2002. Mel Watkins and W. Easterbrook, Approaches to Canadian Economic History, 1969.Bob Rae,Whats’s Happened to Politics. Simon&Schuster, 2015.
1. Introduction and overview. The current Canadian election, issues , polls and media spin.The electoral system and the need for reform.
2. Geography and Economic history the role of the staple in French Canada and British North America.
3. Aboriginal peoples in pre European Canada. Aboriginal Rights and Governance. The Riel rebellions Manitoba and Québec.
4. The conquest and its legacy.Québec nationalism in twentieth and twenty-first century Canada.
5. Democracy and the Liberal democratic state.The 1837 rebellions and the chartists. The roots of confederation and the Canadian constitution.
6. The clash between labour and capital in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and its impact upon Canadian politics and the political party system.
7. The Canadian economy, the business cycle, free trade , globalization and regional disparities.
8. Canada as an urban nation. The growth of diversity. Canada’s treatment of its minorities. Québec nationalism and Canadian federalism.
9. Canadian political culture and our place in global politics.
10. Political parties, interest groups and social movements. Democratic reform.
11. The constitution and the Charter of Rights. The Federal system and the economics of federalism.
12. The institutions of government: Parliament and the power of the Prime Minister.
13. The judiciary and the courts.
14. Summary and Review.
Essay Assignment: Due the first Tuesday in November 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.
1. “The Quebec Charter of Values was 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 was 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.
9. Discuss Canadian economic history from the point of view of staple development. Does staple theory still have explanatory power in the twenty first century?
10. Discuss the struggle for responsible democratic government in Canada and its roots in the 1837 rebellions, the Riel rebellion, the struggle of the suffragettes for women’s voting rights and the struggle of the aboriginal people for their rights.
11. What role have trade unions played in Canada’s political and economic development ? How have they enhanced democracy ?
12. Discuss the evolution of aboriginal rights and governance in Canada.
13. Discuss the current Canadian election. In the end what do you believe determined the outcome :policy differences, the image of the party leader; regional differences; ideology; economic circumstances or media manipulation? What can polling tell us about this ? Does the election show us the need for reforming the electoral system?