Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The topic of partisanship and the role of parties in the system appears to be getting more attention in Canada, though mostly of the negative variety. The dominant reason is that our parties give the impression of being less and less successful in representing us. I just read a good article on this disillusionment:

Currently less than 1% of Canadians belong to a party. (recent membership drives may have raised that to just over 1%, but the basic point stands) In addition party membership is, as anyone who attends party events can tell you, heavily stilted toward middle age and later. In short parties in Canada are, to a large extent, exactly what those who do not belong characterize them as - establishment in-groups.

More important than that, however, is that parties are closed shops these days even to their members. Membership is often little more than paying $10 to be able to vote in a leadership or nomination contest, as well as being added to the inevitable fundraising list. Unsurprisingly this extractive model of membership doesn't grow membership or engender loyalty, so without outside elements like personal charisma or ideological conviction the party organization simply doesn't work.

I think that this is an important topic, and I intend to return to it at length in the next week or so. The changes in information technology, and the success of relatively 'flat' and open organizations like Google seem to me to point the way to a much more successful vision of party organization. Engagement and grassroots involvement don't have to be limited to tired catchphrases, as they all too often are these days. Canadians are engaged in their communities and causes, the question is how to modernize the political process to enable it to partake in that energy!

No comments:

Post a Comment