Do Conventions Matter?

Do Conventions Matter?: Choosing National Party Leaders in Canada

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Do Conventions Matter?
    Book Description:

    Do Conventions Matter? provides a complete overview of national party conventions in Canada, from 1919, when the first convention was held, to 1993, including the selection of Stanfield, Trudeau, Broadbent, Clark, Mulroney, Turner, McLaughlin, Chrétien, Campbell, and Manning. Courtney compares leadership selection practices in Canada with those in the United States, Britain, and Australia, and shows that Canadian conventions remain a distinctive means of choosing party leaders.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6569-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Diagrams‚ Tables‚ and Appendices
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    Two headlines in theGlobe and Mailin the months leading up to the Conservative leadership convention of 1993 said it all: “Old-fashioned convention expected‚” and “Tory leadership hopefuls playing old-style politics.”¹ As the Tories prepared to meet that June‚ the process by which they were choosing Brian Mulroney’s successor was being popularly described as “old-fashioned‚” “old-style‚” and “out-of-date.” The picture painted by the media three years earlier when the Liberals chose Jean Chrétien had been much the same. The system used by Canadian parties for virtually the entire twentieth century was described as being outmoded and‚ by inference‚ near...

  6. 2 Two Generations of Leadership Conventions
    (pp. 8-30)

    For the better part of this century‚ Canadian political leaders have been chosen by their parties in convention. Grounded firmly in representational and democratic theory‚ this institution has grown and changed from its first to its second generations – from roughly the end of the First World War to the early 1960s‚ and from the 1960s on. The basic election rules for determining the eventual winner have changed little‚ but virtually all other aspects of conventions in the late twentieth century would be unrecognizeable to participants in the early contests. The number of candidates and delegates has increased dramatically; so has...

  7. 3 A Party’s Backstop: Leadership Review
    (pp. 31-53)

    The Liberal and Conservative parties adopted the convention as the wayto chooseleaders in 1919 and 1927 respectively‚ but it was not until the mid-1960s that the parties in convention took upon themselves the powerto removeleaders. Until then‚ removals were infrequent and‚ when they occurred‚ resulted from pressures exerted by members of the parliamentary caucus. No formal procedure was in place for periodic review of the leader. From the time of Confederation the principle had been widely accepted in Canada of allowing a leader who successfully led his party to retain the position subject only to the...

  8. 4 Mega-Bucks for Mega-Conventions
    (pp. 54-77)

    Modern conventions have become expensive exercises. The party staging the event wants to capitalize on the opportunity by presenting as colourful and as exciting a media event as possible. As the success of the convention rests on the human organization and financial resources that go into it‚ hundreds of individuals and millions of dollars (at least in the two older parties) will be needed by the party. Candidates too must be able to raise sizable funds. Without them‚ they will be in no position to mount a worthy campaign for the leadership. For its part‚ the public is also involved...

  9. 5 “Mediated” Conventions: From Print to Tube
    (pp. 78-102)

    All parties agree on one thing – the importance of extensive media coverage of leadership campaigns and conventions. From the time of the first leadership contests of this century‚ conventions have been planned with the media front and centre. Since 1919 convention officials and serious candidate organizations have struck committees and‚ in more recent times‚ appointed paid officials charged with responsibilities for “the press‚” or “publicity‚” or “communications.” Their titles may have changed‚ but their fundamental task has remained the same: to get the greatest print‚ sound‚ and visual coverage possible for the candidates‚ the convention‚ and the party.

    As is...

  10. 6 Three Conventions in Four Years
    (pp. 103-126)

    As we have seen in the previous two chapters‚ leadership campaigns and conventions have become highly organized‚ money-centred media events designed to appeal to a growing mass of party members at the delegate selection level. Before we move on to the representational‚ demographic‚ and organizational aspects of leadership selection‚ we must first recall some of the important features of the three national leadership conventions held between the 1988 and 1993 elections. Of the three conventions examined in this chapter - the NDP convention that chose Audrey McLaughlin in 1989‚ the Liberal convention of 1990 at which Jean Chrétien was selected‚...

  11. 7 Who’s There? Representation and Leadership Selection
    (pp. 127-158)

    Representation has been at the heart of leadership selection by party convention. The abandonment of the parliamentary parties in 1919 and 1927 as the authoritative bodies for choosing party leaders came largely as a consequence of their perceived representational weaknesses. Mindful of Canada’s cultural and regional divisions‚ the parties seized upon national party conventions as ideal assemblies to compensate for the representational inadequacies of their parliamentary caucuses. The presence of an equal number of voting delegates from every constituency imparted to the convention a political legitimacy to select leader independent of‚ and possibly even outside of‚ the parliamentary party.


  12. 8 The Demographics of Leadership
    (pp. 159-184)

    The men and women who serve as party leaders are selected in a cultural‚ social‚ and political environment unique to each event. That environment defines both the framework within which the various candidates for the leadership will construct their organization and the terms by which the media‚ the public‚ and the delegates will judge the contest and its candidates. Changes in the country’s cultural and social composition as well as in its political institutions gradually transform public and party expectations about the qualities needed to lead a party and about the career and political backgrounds of those who are to...

  13. 9 From Announcement Day to Acceptance Day: The Net Worth of Networks
    (pp. 185-211)

    Several are called (and others think they deserve to be called)‚ but only one is chosen to lead a party. The man or woman victorious in a national leadership convention gains the job because a majority of the delegates voting on the final ballot find that person preferable to any of the alternatives. Behind that simple and obvious truth are other factors that in combination help to explain why one individual‚ and not another‚ has made it to the top. The previous chapter has examined the complex mix of a candidate’s socio-demographic-political background and the regional-linguistic considerations that come into...

  14. 10 Who Wins? Convention Coalitions
    (pp. 212-232)

    One of the established facts of political science is that electoral outcomes are shaped by the institutional context within which voting takes place and the electoral system employed to choose the winner.¹ That has certainly been true of leadership conventions whose six basic rules have defined the institutional framework within which balloting has been conducted in Canada. The rules‚ essentially the same since 1919‚ are as follows:

    the ballot is secret and individual;

    the winner must have a clear majority of the valid votes cast;

    the low candidate(s) are eliminated if there is no winner on a...

  15. 11 Mail Order Leadership: One Member‚ One Vote
    (pp. 233-253)

    National parties in Canada have arrived at a crossroads. Either they can continue to choose their leaders in some form of a delegated convention or they can adopt some variant of a universal ballot. There is no turning back to the earlier (a few romantics might say halcyon) days of selection by the parliamentary caucus or a group of party notables. The choice that parties are facing has surfaced as part of the larger political agenda because of the changes that a number of provincial parties have made to the way in which they choose their leaders and because of...

  16. 12 Federal Leadership Selection Reforms: The Wave of the Future?
    (pp. 254-273)

    The movement to reform the leadership selection processes in favour of some form of direct‚ universal vote has been felt at the federal as well as at the provincial level. Both the Conservative and New Democratic parties have recently adopted alternatives to their previous leadership selection processes‚ following the lead of the Liberals who‚ in 1992‚ put in place a modified convention system for their next leadership race. Of the three older parties‚ the Liberals have studied the issue most extensively‚ although when it came down to making a decision about the path the party would follow‚ it baulked at...

  17. 13 Do Conventions Matter? Parties‚ Conventions‚ and Canadian Democracy
    (pp. 274-294)

    Canadians have long been accustomed to having their political leaders chosen in party conventions. The leadership convention‚ having operated at both the national and provincial levels for most of this century‚ has emerged as one of the country’s most widely and easily identified political institutions. Recent leadership races‚ distinguished from earlier ones by their larger number of candidates and delegates and their greater costs‚ media hype‚ and dramatic excitement‚ have captured the public’s attention as no other political event‚ with the obvious exception of a general election has been able to do. Television has turned the nation’s living rooms into...

  18. Tables
    (pp. 295-362)
  19. Appendices
    (pp. 363-374)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 375-450)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 451-466)
  22. Index
    (pp. 467-477)