Political parties are at the centre of Canadian democracy. They choose our prime ministers, premiers, and candidates for public office; they decide which policy issues are considered in the provincial and federal legislatures; they dominate our election campaigns. As a result, a democracy that is participatory, responsive, and inclusive can only be achieved if Canadian political parties share these values and operate in a manner respecting them. In a concise and accessible manner, this book delves into the history, structure, mechanisms, and roles of Canada’s political parties, and assesses the degree to which Canadians today can rely on political parties as vehicles for grassroots participation.
About the author
William Cross is Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University. His recent publications include Political Parties (UBC Press 2004); Political Parties, Representation and Electoral Democracy in Canada (Oxford University Press, 2002); and Rebuilding Canadian Party Politics (UBC Press 2000, with R. Kenneth Carty and Lisa Young).
Dr. Cross' work also appears in numerous academic journals. He has served as Director of the Canadian Democratic Audit since 2000.
He does an excellent job of using the main themes of this research to explore the democratic limitations of parties, presenting them in an accessible manner. Throughout the study, and comprehensively in the last chapter, he offers a range of provocative reforms aimed at both encouraging on-going discussion and improving democratic practices within parties as well as at elections.
Canadian Journal of Political Science
Both as individual books, as well as the state goals of the Canadian Democratic Audit series, the analyses achieve what they set out to do. It is heartening to see that the state of politics is taken seriously, that there are difficult questions asked, systemic weaknesses are pointed out, and that these authors have the capacity to recommend what it is that might work better to develop a more inclusive and participatory democratic system. These books succeed in that they are moving into a territory that has a broad scope in challenging issues and institutions that set the stage for the major political categories of analysis ...
How does the Democratic Audit itself stand up to its own auditing criteria? The CDA promises to test Canadian democratic practices against standards of participation, responsiveness, and inclusiveness. Its books certainly welcome readership; they are compact, well designed, well organized , and easy to “use” – certainly some of the most accessible works of academic political science we’ve seen in years. Despite the range of topics, each author manages to return to a series of report-card-style assessments based on the prearranged audit standards ... William Cross and his colleagues in the Canadian Democratic Audit are on to something important. Canadians are concerned, and interested, too, about the state of how we govern ourselves. And if the CDA doesn’t answer all the questions, at least it helps raise most of them.
The Beaver, August/September 2005