Poli 204 2 CC/ 2021 Concordia university
Introduction to Canadian Politics
Professor Harold Chorney
Course outline including essay topics list
Office hours t.b.a.
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. So too is a recognition of the indigenous peoples of Canada and their mistreatment and acts of genocide against them by the powers of the day from the past.
The ongoing debate about the place of Québec in Canada can also 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.The indigenous people numbered by some historical estimates as high as 1 million were recorded in the 1871 census as being close to 200,000. In 1867 the population of Canada was 3.46 million people excluding the first nations’ population. 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 close to 38 million. Quebec‘s population is 8.2 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 indigenous population is now estimated to be over 1.674 million or 4.9% of the total population.
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.
On October 19th, 2015 Canadians went to the polls to elect a new Parliament. This election was a very closely hard fought election with three major parties each according to the poll of polls having had a good chance initially to elect the largest number of members and form a minority government. In the end it produced a majority Justin Trudeau led Liberal government. There was a subsequent election in October of 2019 in which the Trudeau Liberals lost their majority but were able to form a minority government with support from the NDP and Green party and sometimes the Bloc Québécois. In the 2019 election the Liberals won 157 seats with 31.1 % of the vote; the Conservatives 121 seats with 34.4% of the vote; the New Democrats 24 seats with 15.9% of the vote; Bloc Québécois 32 seats with 7.7% of the vote; the Greens 3 seats with 6.5 % of the vote; Judy Wilson-Rabould Independent 1; others 0 seats with 0.4% of the vote. There are 338 seats and 170 seats are needed for a majority. Seats won are not proportional to vote share and the uneven results reflect the partly undemocratic nature of the first past the post electoral system which cries out for reform.
We will discuss the election and the current election assuming one is called for this fall 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. The election in 2015 of a majority government under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, a son of a former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau and a coalition of liberals, liberal progressives, environmentalists and liberal social democrats stands in sharp contrast to the recent electoral experience in the USA when Donald Trump was elected. The election of Joseph Biden and his Democratic Party coalition of progressives, moderates and environmentalists in 2020 moved the U.S. closer to values widely held in Canada although there are still significant differences.
Our complex but close trade relationship with the USA under the former Trump Republican administration has strongly affected Canada and its democracy as anti free trade sentiments worked their way through Congress, the White House and the halls of public opinion. We will face serious economic challenges if the protectionist anti- NAFTA nationalist sentiments apparently held by the Congress toward the new agreement are not moderated. . We also face a potentially very dangerous situation should there not be a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the dispute over North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them to North American targets.The decision of President Trump to weaken Americn ties to NATO is also an important development although President Biden has reversed this position.
Text:Eric Mintz, Livianna Tossutti and Christopher Dunn, Canada’s Politics:Democracy, Diversity and Good Government. Pearson , 2017 or preferably the new 2021 edition co-authored by Tossutti, Mintz, Brock and Barrie also published by Pearson available through the text bookstore or by ordering from Pearson or Amazon directly.
Evaluation: An essay due in the last week of October, October 26 on a topic chosen from a list of possible topics included in the list of possible essay topics below. 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.1Beginning 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; D.Creighton the Story of CanadaHarold Innis, Essays in Canadian Economic History, 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; Richard Pound, Canadian Facts and Dates,Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2005.
- Introduction and overview. Coping with the pandemic. The last Canadian federal election, issues , polls and media spin.The electoral system and the need for reform.The recent American election and its impact upon Canada.The economics of full employment and the impact of globalization and growing inequality.
- Geography and Economic history: the role of the staple in French Canada and British North America.Readings and sources: Mintz et al, Canada’s Politics, pp.1-51, pp.91-120; Finkel & Conrad, History of the Canadian Peoplesvol.1 & 2; pp.1-208 in vol.2, pp. tba; Michael Hart, A Trading Nation:Canadian Trade Policy from Colonization to Globalizationch.1,2&3. Stanley Ryerson, Unequal Union:Confederation and the Roots of the Conflict in the Canadas 1815-1873; Stephen Clarkson, Does North America exist? Governing the continent after NAFTA and 9/11.Mel Watkins, A Staple Theory of Economic Growth, D.Drache,Harold Innis and Canadian Capitalist Development, and Claire Pentland, The Development of a Capitalistic Labour Market in Canadaall in G.Laxer ed, Perspectives on Canadian Economic Development,Oxford U. Press, 1991. J.Bhagwati ,Protectionism; Arghi Emmanuel, Unequal Exchange:A study of the Imperialism of Trade.
- Indigenous peoples in pre European Canada. Indigenous Rights and Governance. The Riel rebellions Manitoba and Québec.
- The conquest and its legacy.Québec nationalism in twentieth and twenty-first century Canada.
- Democracy and the Liberal democratic state.The 1837 rebellions and the chartists. The roots of confederation and the Canadian constitution. Canadian political culture. Gender politics. Identity politics.
- The clash between labour and capital in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and its impact upon Canadian politics and the political party system.
- The Canadian economy, the business cycle, free trade , globalization, unemployment, inequality and regional disparities.
- Canada as an urban nation. The growth of diversity. Canada’s treatment of its minorities. Québec nationalism and Canadian federalism.
- Canadian political culture and our place in global politics. The other North America.
- Political parties, interest groups and social movements. Democratic reform.
- The constitution and the Charter of Rights. The Federal system and the economics of federalism.
- The institutions of government: Parliament and the power of the Prime Minister.
- The judiciary and the courts.
- Summary and Review.
Essay Topics for the TermAssignment: Due the last Tuesday in October. October 26. 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,TheNew York Times, Le Devoir, Toronto Star, The Wall Street Journal. Use a manual of style and proper citation and include a reference to it in your bibliography.
1.”The Quebec Charter of Values and the bill 21 on religious symbols and Bill 96 are rooted in the Quebec nationalist opposition to Canadian federalism and the nationalists’ rejection of multiculturalism.” 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 and these bills are simply a legitimate expression of the need to protect Quebec’s culture.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Discuss the power of the Prime Minister and his/her office. What checks if any need to be placed on it? What countervailing powers and influences are available in Canadian democracy?
- What ought to be Canada’s role in global affairs? Are we a peacemaker or a powder monkey ?
- 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, environment , public health and independence. If the new trade agreement were to fail what ought our trade strategy be.
- 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.
- Discuss Canadian economic history from the point of view of staple development ?Does staple theory still have explanatory power in the twenty first century?
- 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 indigenous people for their rights and reconciliation after the cultural genocide practiced against them.
- What role have trade unions played in Canada’s political and economic development ? How have they enhanced democracy? What is their role in an increasingly globalized world economy?
- Discuss the evolution of indigenous rights and governance in Canada.
- Discuss the recent 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?
- Discuss Canada and free trade in the context of globalization. How can we break free from excessive dependence on an uncertain American market? What differences has the new Trump administration made to the Canada U.S. relationship and how should Canada respond?
- Discuss gender issues in Canadian politics.
- Discuss the importance of environmental issues and climate change in Canadian politics.
- Discuss the housing crisis in Canada. What policies are necessary to deal with it?
- Discuss the problem of poverty and excessive inequality in Canada. Would a guaranteed or basic income policy be helpful . How would it work.