Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Cameron D. Anderson


In advanced industrial democracies, including Canada, elections act as important mechanisms of democratic accountability. However, the migration of public decision-making responsibility away from elected representatives and toward new governance models may alter accountability relationships. As authority is dispersed horizontally to new governance actors that exist beyond the reach of the ballot box, questions of public input and accountability within the democratic governance process arise.

The objectives of the dissertation are: 1) to evaluate the extent to which Canadian provinces have opted to migrate decision-making authority horizontally in response to policy issues and why; and 2) to evaluate the existence and relative strength of the accountability relationships that emerge between new governance actors and both government and society once authority has migrated. It is hypothesized that period in time, political ideology, and government fiscal capacity are predictors of authority migration as a policy tool. Like wise, it is hypothesized that period in time, political ideology, and the geographic scale of the new governance jurisdictions, are predictors of the strength of both government and societal accountability relationships.

To test the hypotheses, a mixed method approach is utilized. First, the incidence of decision-making authority migration and strength of accountability relationships are evaluated using regression analysis. This analysis considers these relationships using an original dataset of cases of horizontal authority migration in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario, between the years of 1946 and 2005. Second, case studies and qualitative interviews are leveraged to gain greater contextual understanding of the causes and implications of migration of decision-making authority to regional healthcare bodies in the provinces selected.

While horizontal governance arrangements may raise questions over public input and accountability, findings support the hypothesis that their use is not new having existed for the entire post-war period. Furthermore, while the accountability relationship between government and new governance actors has remained dominant, the accountability relationship with society is strengthening as predicted. Perception of accountability relationships by interviewees, however, suggests that a lack of clarity in decision-making responsibility has weakened the ability for citizens to hold decision-makers accountable.