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The Government and Politics of Ontario

The Government and Politics of Ontario

Edited by Graham White
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Government and Politics of Ontario
    Book Description:

    Now in its fifth edition, this textbook is the standard authority on the government and politics of Ontario. Ideal for undergraduate students, it provides general background information, discusses government institutions, and covers key issues on the political scene such as the role of the media, women in politics, and the North. Extensively revised and updated to reflect the experiences of the NDP government and the early Harris era, this edition also features a new section on change and continuity in the Ontario political system.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7019-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Graham White
  4. Part I: Introduction

    • ONE Sic Permanet: Ontario People and Their Politics
      (pp. 3-18)
      Desmond Morton

      In 1885, the Ontario government finally tore down the old lunatic asylum in Queen’s Park and began building Canada’s ugliest legislative building. It stands there still, recently renovated: a huge, asymmetrical red toad, squinting past the trees, statues, and a couple of flagpoles at the traffic on Toronto’s University Avenue.

      Like the provincial motto,Ut incepit sic permanet fidelis, ‘as it began, so it remaiuns, faithful,’ the legislative building symbolizes Otario’s official allegiance to tradition. The ponderous sandstone monument that most Ontarians call Queen’s Park is a museum for a theory of parliamentary government long since eroded by one-party dominance,...

    • TWO The Socio-Economic Setting of Ontario Politics
      (pp. 19-48)
      Rand Dyck

      In the course of governing Ontario, authorities encounter demands from many different interests. This chapter sketches the basic socio-economic setting of the Ontario political system, including its geography, its economy, its class structure, and its demographic background. In the process, it seeks to identify typical demands raised in the politics of the province.

      Ontario is just over one million square kilometres in area, making it about one-third smaller than Quebec. It is actually the third largest province in terms of land, but because it contains so much water, it is slightly bigger than British Columbia in total area. If Ontario...

    • THREE The Ontario Political Culture: An Interpretation
      (pp. 49-68)
      Sid Noel

      Ontario differs from the other provinces of Canada in two important respects. First, there are differences of scale that reflect Ontario’s disproportionate size: with more than eleven million people, no other province approaches it in population, in the size and diversity of its economy, in accumulated wealth, or in the amount of financial, corporate, and media power concentrated in its capital city. Second, there are differences of political culture that reflect Ontario’s unique historical experience, its economic preoccupations, and the evolution of its social, cultural, and political institutions. While these two sets of differences are closely connected, the focus of...

  5. Part II: Governmental Institutions

    • FOUR The Legislature: Central Symbol of Ontario Democracy
      (pp. 71-92)
      Graham White

      The legislature – Queen’s Park – is perhaps Ontario’s most central political symbol. It stands as the embodiment of the province’s democratic values – the people’s representatives making laws in accordance with democratically expressed public opinion. As with most highly symbolic institutions, the reality of what transpires at the legislature does not correspond very closely to the symbolism. Indeed, much of the population harbours highly inaccurate views of the role played by the legislature in Ontario politics, about its power, and about the influence wielded by its members. The natural expectation of an institution called a ‘legislature’ is that it makes laws, but...

    • FIVE Making and Implementing the Decisions: Issues of Public Administration in the Ontario Government
      (pp. 93-125)
      Richard A. Loreto

      The purpose of this chapter is to describe and analyse the institutional context and issues affecting the role, organization, and management processes of the Ontario Public Service (OPS) within the ministry sector of government. The analysis focuses exclusively on developments since 1990, encompassing the term of office of the New Democratic Party (NDP) government and the Progressive Conservative government elected in 1995. The analysis expands, rather than reiterates, the body of knowledge on the OPS and its institutional context established in the four prior editions of this book. In particular, readers are directed to the chapter on ‘The Bureaucracy’ in...

    • SIX Local Government in Ontario
      (pp. 126-157)
      David Siegel

      The focal point of this book is provincial government, but a significant amount of ‘governing’ in Ontario is done by local governments. A book on provincial government is not complete without a discussion of the local governments in that province which are in some ways extensions of the provincial government.

      This chapter begins with a discussion of the general role of local government in Ontario, followed by a description of the provincial-municipal relationship. The next two sections then describe the structure of local government in Ontario and provide a quantitative overview of its activities. The following section reviews the problems...

    • SEVEN Ontario in Confederation: The Not-So-Friendly Giant
      (pp. 158-186)
      David Cameron and Richard Simeon

      Linchpin, prime beneficiary, milch cow, guardian of Confederation, smug defender of its own dominance. These are just some of the images that have been used to characterize Ontario’s role in the Canadian federal system.

      Geographically, economically, culturally, and politically, Ontario has always been at the centre of the federation, and has had the greatest stake in its maintenance. Until recently, most such images suggested a province and a people secure and comfortable in their perceptions of the federal system, and of their role within it. As by far the largest province in population, Ontario could be assured that whatever party...

  6. Part III: Politics

    • EIGHT Elections and Campaigning: ‘They Blew Our Doors Off on the Buy’
      (pp. 189-215)
      Robert J. Drummond and Robert MacDermid

      At a minimum, in our system of government, elections represent an opportunity for the circulation of political elites. Electors are given a chance, at frequent though irregular intervals, to say whether they agree to retain the office-holders they selected on the last such occasion, or prefer to replace them with someone new. Where political parties are organized as more than mere electoral or patronage machines, and actually have some programmatic differences from one another, elections also allow for a change of direction in public policy. Of course, voters may vary in the extent to which they perceive the policy differences...

    • NINE Ontario Party Politics in the 1990s: Comfort Meets Conviction
      (pp. 216-235)
      Robert J. Williams

      Political parties are often considered the heart and soul of a larger process called ‘politics’; the rise and fall of individual parties, inevitably linked to the personal fortunes of the party leader, usually demarcate the stages of evolution of a political system.

      Post-Confederation Ontario was dominated by a single party, the Liberals, and a remarkable individual, Sir Oliver Mowat, who together laid the foundations of ‘Empire Ontario’ and its distinctive political tradition. The extraordinary success of the Conservative (later Progressive Conservative) Party over the first eighty-five years of the twentieth century, which consisted of winning the largest number of parliamentary...

    • TEN Spinning Tales: Politics and the News in Ontario
      (pp. 236-267)
      Frederick J. Fletcher and Rose Sottile

      In this chapter, we view the news media as a political institution, examining its role in Ontario politics and its relationship to other key political institutions, particularly the government and opposition political parties and interest groups. In addition to describing the key elements of politics and news in Ontario, we discuss important examples in text boxes throughout the chapter.

      While there are many forms of political communication, from discussions among friends to party conferences, few are independent of the news media. For governments, the news media are important, not only to publicize their accomplishments, but also to inform the public...

    • ELEVEN Judging Women’s Political Success in the 1990s
      (pp. 268-283)
      Cheryl N. Collier

      The 1990s have been a roller-coaster ride for women in politics in Ontario. At the beginning of the decade, women saw unprecedented gains in their political representation in the legislature, cabinet, and elite levels of the bureaucracy. As well, women were able to acheive substantive policy gains in areas of particular interest to them¹ as a result of this increased political participation. However, this decade has also seen the first drop in women’s representation in electoral politics after twenty-five years of successive increases. And perhaps, as a direct result, many of women’s policy gains have subsequently been stripped away.


    • TWELVE Politics and Policy in the North
      (pp. 284-306)
      Geoffrey R. Weller

      The political patterns that are observable in northern Ontario are described here as the politics of disaffection. This is characterized by a tendency to vote for the party in power at both the federal and the provincial level in the hope of getting some return that will correct or at least mitigate the worst effects of hinterland status. At the same time, there is a strong undercurrent of radical politics. In addition, there are occasional calls, usually very weak, for separate status. The party in power usually undertakes initiatives that are intended to retain or obtain the allegiance of the...

    • THIRTEEN The New World of Interest-Group Politics in Ontario
      (pp. 307-328)
      Henry J. Jacek

      The election of Mike Harris and his majority Conservative government in June of 1995 not only marked the most dramatic shift in public policy in over fifty years, it also heralded a completely new era in Ontario interest-group politics. This new regime, however, appears to be more complex than simple ideological explanations indicate. Some interest groups are in a sense being deinstitutionalized and forced into what some may see as primarily political movements. Others, such as comprehensive business interest associations (BIAs), are being given even more privileged access than before. Finally, some, in a surprising way, are likely to be...

  7. Part IV: Change and Continuity in the Ontario Political System

    • FOURTEEN An Insiders’ View of the NDP Government of Ontario: The Politics of Permanent Opposition Meets the Economics of Permanent Recession
      (pp. 331-364)
      Chuck Rachlis and David Wolfe

      On 6 September 1990, with 37 per cent of the popular vote and 74 of 130 seats, the New Democrats were elected as the thirty-fifth government of Ontario; on 1 October Bob Rae became premier. Almost five years later, on 8 June 1995, the NDP was defeated as Mike Harris’s Conservatives elected 82 MPPs.

      After forty-two years of Conservative party government in the province, voters have chosen three different political parties in the three general elections since 1985. Some see this as evidence of major inconsistency on the part of the Ontario electorate. Others interpret the differing outcomes in 1987,...

    • FIFTEEN Reclaiming the ‘Pink Palace’: The Progressive Conservative Party Comes in from the Cold
      (pp. 365-401)
      Peter Woolstencroft

      In the first week of the 1985 Ontario provincial election theToronto Starpublished a Gallup poll that put support for the Progressive Conservative Party at over 50 per cent. The Liberal Party, at 29 per cent, and the New Democratic Party, at 20 per cent, seemed to be at their traditional support levels: their respective leaders, David Peterson and Bob Rae, could be identified by roughly only one-quarter of the poll’s respondents.¹ At a leadership convention earlier that year the Conservatives had chosen Frank Miller to succeed William Davis, who had been premier since 1971. The Tories, reputed to...

    • SIXTEEN The Harris Government: Restoration or Revolution?
      (pp. 402-417)
      Thomas Walkom

      The election of Mike Harris as premier in 1995 has been widely viewed as the beginning of something fundamentally new for Ontario – a radical sea change in the bland, centrist politics of Canada’s largest and wealthiest province. True, Ontario’s political scene had already gone through changes. After forty-two years of unbroken Conservative rule, it had experienced five years of Liberal government and five more under the New Democrats. But both the Liberals under David Peterson (1985–90) and the NDP under Bob Rae (1990–5) had quickly adopted the cautious, middle-of-the-road tone of their Tory predecessors. Indeed, by the end...

    • SEVENTEEN Change in Ontario Politics
      (pp. 418-442)
      Nelson Wiseman

      In the past half-century, Ontario has undergone staggering change. By 1985, the Conservatives had governed for forty-two years, having won twelve consecutive elections. This represents the longest tenure of any Canadian regime in this century. It seems paradoxical that such apparent political immobility existed against the backdrop of Ontario’s profound socio-economic transformation. Wouldn’t one have expected a less linear political path in a dynamically changing province? One approach to this question is comparative: how does the Ontario case contrast to other provinces or regions? Another approach is to scratch below the surface and poke at Ontario’s apparent political stability and...

  8. APPENDIX 1: A Guide to Sources on Ontario Government and Politics
    (pp. 443-448)
    Graham White
  9. APPENDIX 2: Legislative, Executive, and Political Records at the Archives of Ontario: A Brief Guide
    (pp. 449-454)
    Jim Suderman
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 455-458)