Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis is about grassroots participation in Canadian political parties.;The thesis identifies and examines tensions between two views of public decision-making. Traditionally, Canadian politics have been described as brokerage and consociational. Increasingly, however, voters are rejecting these elite-dominated processes and demanding increased opportunity for direct, effective participation. Some favoured methods of increased participation, however, lack the collective processes traditionally believed necessary to build consensus among Canada's strong regional and linguistic cleavages. This thesis identifies the essential characteristics of these two views, providing a framework for assessing the current practices of political parties and popular reform proposals.;The thesis identifies parties as institutions capable of offering both increased opportunities for effective participation and for consensus-building. Several of the most important activities engaged in by political parties are examined within this context: candidate nomination, leadership selection, policy-making and election campaigning. Data collected from a national mail survey of party activists is used to measure the participatory opportunities currently available to party members, the effectiveness of this participation and the attitudes of members towards the participatory opportunities afforded them. Recent developments within parties, aimed at increasing member participation, and popular reform proposals are also examined. Consideration is given to the effect increased grassroots participation may have on the parties' ability to accommodate divergent interests.;The methodology employed in this study is largely empirical and theoretical. It is empirical as it draws upon data resulting from the mail survey, from party documents and from news reports of election campaigns and party activities. It is theoretical in that it suggests a new framework for the study of the tensions between two views of legitimate democratic decision-making. Historical events are used to illustrate that existing tensions are not new in Canadian politics and to assist in understanding and evaluating reform proposals.;The thesis concludes that Canadian political parties can become more participatory without jeopardizing their capacity to broker consensus among regional and linguistic interests. Given that elite-dominated processes are increasingly viewed by voters as being illegitimate, more transparent, participatory processes may actually increase voters' acceptance of arrived at accommodations.



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