MPA Major Research Papers

Date of Award


Degree Type

Major Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration


Political Science


Laura Stephenson

Geographical Areas

Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland & Labrador


Why are local government acclamations so common, and is it a problem for municipal democracy? This paper provides a preliminary examination of local uncontested elections through the exploration of various opinions and arguments raised on this topic. Since the academic literature on acclamations at the local level is extremely sparse, information was gathered through a content analysis of online newspaper articles and by performing interviews with current mayors from some of the most and least competitive municipalities following the 2018 election cycle. The following eight reasons for the occurrence of acclamations are referenced in the non-academic literature, many of which are supported by interview findings: apathy/lack of interest in local government, incumbency advantage, poor pay, heavy and demanding workloads, damage to reputation/criticism, shrinking populations, lack of power/prestige of local positions, and the length of the term of office. Findings from both the content analysis and the interviews demonstrate that perspectives on acclamations are mixed. Some past and current local politicians, representatives from municipal associations, various Chief Electoral Officers and political science experts argue acclamations are a sign of public satisfaction while others say uncontested elections contribute to low voter turnout and a democracy which lacks accountability, the diverse exchange of ideas, and participation. Though it is not within the scope of this paper to examine the merits and flaws of either the perspectives offered or is there any consensus reached on the impacts of acclamations in the literature, possible strategies to increase candidate participation are briefly presented.