The Imagined Electorate: Values, Perceived Boundaries and the Regional Rehabilitation of Political Culture

Speaker: Ailsa Henderson.

Lecture Dec. 3, 2014 at University of Edinburgh Business School.

Abstract: The Imagined Electorate: Values, Perceived Boundaries and the Regional Rehabilitation of Political Culture
Political culture is often seen as a concept whose time has come and clearly gone, instinctively useful but difficult to treat with precision. Researchers, who have typically employed it as a tool to compare states, have largely been silent on how it might operate at the sub-state level, notwithstanding the considerable research attempting to map regional political cultures within pluri-national or federal states. And yet addressing political culture below the level of the state forces one to explore many of its unanswered questions: How do we know when political cultures exist?; How do we delineate their boundaries?: How important is evidence of distinctiveness? This lecture explores political culture as it operates below the level of the state, identifies the existence of two forms of regional political cultures, identifies markers by which we can identify and delineate political cultures and highlights the importance of perception. It provides data demonstrating that citizens believe they possess distinct values from those in neighbouring regions, even in the absence of meaningful variations in attitudes. The result is an imagined electorate for whom legislators then legislate. Far from proving that regional political cultures do not exist, such imagined perceptions of difference form a central component of the subjective dimensions of politics that political culture as a concept was originally designed to capture. Throughout it argues that by exploring political culture below the level of states we can rehabilitate it as a tool for political scientists.

Something Old or Something New? Territorial Development and Influence within the Canadian Federation







Authors: George Braden, Christopher Alcantara, and Michael Morden.

Published in Canada: The State of the Federation, 2011, edited by Nadia Verrelli.

Publisher: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Description: Copy of chapter available here.

Explaining the Emergence of Indigenous–Local Intergovernmental Relations in Settler Societies: A Theoretical Framework

Authors: Jen Nelles and Christopher Alcantara.

Published September 2014 in Urban Affairs Review.

Abstract: There has been growing interest among practitioners and academics in the emergence of intergovernmental relations between local and Aboriginal governments in Canada. Initial research has focused on describing the nature of these relations but has yet to develop any theoretical expectations regarding why some communities are more likely to cooperate than others. We address this lacuna by developing a theoretical framework for explaining the emergence of cooperation between Aboriginal and local governments. After identifying a set of variables and specifying how they are likely to affect the propensity of communities to cooperate, we conclude with a discussion of how future researchers might use this framework to investigate cooperation and noncooperation between Aboriginal and local governments in Canada and in other settler societies.

Identifying Difference, Engaging Dissent: What is at Stake in Democratizing Knowledge?

Authors: Loren King, Brandon Morgan-Olsen and James Wong.

Published September 2014 in Foundations of Science.

Abstract: Several prominent voices have called for a democratization of science through deliberative processes that include a diverse range of perspectives and values. We bring these scholars into conversation with extant research on democratic deliberation in political theory and the social sciences. In doing so, we identify systematic barriers to the effectiveness of inclusive deliberation in both scientific and political settings. We are particularly interested in what we call misidentified dissent, where deliberations are starkly framed at the outset in terms of dissenting positions without properly distinguishing the kinds of difference and disagreement motivating dissent.

Scapegoating: Unemployment, Far-Right Parties and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Authors: Christopher Cochrane and Neil Nevitte

Published: January 2014 in Comparative European Politics.

Abstract: Far-right parties blame immigrants for unemployment. We test the effects of the unemployment rate on public receptivity to this rhetoric. The dependent variable is anti-immigrant sentiment. The key independent variables are the presence of a far-right party and the level of unemployment. Building from influential elite-centered theories of public opinion, the central hypothesis is that a high unemployment rate predisposes citizens to accept the anti-immigrant rhetoric of far-right parties, and a low unemployment rate predisposes citizens to reject this rhetoric. The findings from cross-sectional, cross-time and cross-level analyses are consistent with this hypothesis. It is neither the unemployment rate nor the presence of a far-right party that appears to drive anti-immigrant sentiment; rather, it is the interaction between the two.

Canadian First Ministers’ Conferences and Heresthetic Strategies: Explaining Alberta’s Position on Multiculturalism at the 1971 Victoria Conference

Authors: Christopher Alcantara, Renan Levine, James C. Walz

Published Spring 2014 in Journal of Canadian Studies.

Abstract: The Province of Alberta seems an unlikely early advocate of multiculturalism; yet, several months before the federal government unveiled its official policy on this issue, it was an Alberta premier, Harry Strom, who demanded that multiculturalism be a condition for constitutional reform during the 1971 Victoria Constitutional Conference. What explains this puzzle? Using William Riker’s concept of heresthetics and the literature on Alberta politics, Western alienation, and Canadian federalism, the authors argue that Strom introduced multiculturalism at the conference as a strategic manoeuvre to bolster and defend Alberta’s compact perspective on federalism and to block any constitutional change that would prevent Alberta from recognizing itself as an equal and autonomous partner in the Canadian federation. The authors’ findings suggest that Riker’s concept of heresthetics may be useful for analyzing other instances of intergovernmental relations in Canada.


Authors: Felix Munger and Manuel Riemer

Published January 2014 in Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology.

Introduction: Defining a particular relationship between nature and society, sustainability is closely linked to the social construction and social use of nature because humans require an ecosystem (i.e., limited areas of interaction between all living organisms and nonliving components such as water, rocks, air, minerals) that supplies sufficient renewable resources (e.g., clean air, water) to survive and nonrenewable resources (e.g., minerals, natural gas) for the production of goods. Through the advent of modernization, industrialism, and the development of capitalism (especially in the neoliberal form it has taken since the late 1970s), the social construction of nature has shifted from a perspective of a living organism with which humans live in harmony (e.g., mother earth) to an instrumental view (i.e., nature as machine).

Responding to the “New Public”: The Arrival of Strategic Communications and Managed Participation in Alberta

Author: Simon Kiss

Published March 2014 in Canadian Public Administration.

Abstract: This article examines the rise of more strategic, professional and politically sensitive communications in the Government of Alberta and argues that citizen demands for transparency and participation are also reasons for the increased importance of strategic government communications. Accommodating these demands in the context of traditional representative democracy requires politically sensitive staff who can manage processes without jeopardizing the government’s re-election or policy agenda. This article draws on analyses of government documents, interviews and the archives of premiers Getty and Klein.

The Nature of Political Advising to Prime Ministers in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK

Authors: Anna Lennox Esselment, Jennifer Lees-Marshment & Alex Marland

Published June 2014 in Commonwealth & Comparative Politics.

Abstract: Political advisors to heads of government occupy such a privileged sphere of influence that their role is a source of consternation among democratic idealists. Interviews with advisors to prime ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK inform a small body of comparative literature about political advising in the Commonwealth. The authors find that first ministers consider input from many advisors and therefore the counsel of any one advisor is of limited impact. Further research is needed to understand the extent to which these agents project the power of the executive office and make decisions on the principal’s behalf.

How to Win and Lose an Election: Campaign Dynamics of the 2011 Ontario Election

Authors: Simon J. Kiss, Andrea M.L. Perrella and Barry J. Kay

Published August 2014 in Canadian Political Science Review.

Abstract: Ontario’s general election on Oct. 6, 2011, produced a hung parliament and left much unresolved. The Progressive Conservative party under Tim Hudak entered the election year with promising prospects, and the PCs won 37 seats, 10 more than in 2007, yet failed to beat out the Liberals. The New Democratic Party under Andrea Horwath also enjoyed a much improved seat count of 17 elected members to Queen’s Park. Combined, the incumbent Liberals were re- elected, but reduced to a minority of 53 seats, one seat shy of a majority, and the first minority government in Ontario politics since 1985. Premier Dalton McGuinty’s attempt to secure a majority of seats in the form of 2012 by-elections failed, and shortly thereafter he resigned, leaving his Liberals and Ontario politics on stand-by for a possible non-confidence vote and, consequently, a new election. This review examines how the 2011 result unfolded. We place attention on campaign dynamics and issue salience.

Cities, Subsidiarity, and Federalism

Author: Loren King

Published June 2014 in Federalism and Subsidiarity.

Abstract: My aim here is to use the city as an analytic category, a lens through which to examine the principle of subsidiarity and the justification of federalism. I will argue that two powerful justifications for subsidiarity seem as if they should be mutually supporting, but in fact pull us in different directions with respect to the justification of particular institutional strategies for realizing autonomy for distinct groups. I conclude by drawing out some implications of my analysis for the justification of federalism. I begin by explaining the ideas of subsidiarity and federalism, and explaining my chief aims more fully, before turning to cities to advance my analysis.

Barriers to Calling 9-1-1 during Overdose Emergencies in a Canadian Context

AuthorsKayla M. Follett, Anthony Piscitelli, Michael Parkinson, and Felix Munger

Published July 2014 in Critical Social Work.

Abstract: Research has shown there are notable barriers to calling 9-1-1 during accidental overdose emergencies. Overdose is a significant health and social justice concern, yet Canadian researchers have not explored the existence or prevalence of these systemic obstacles. The current case study examines the barriers to calling 9-1-1 that people face in Southern Ontario when confronted with accidental overdose incidents. The locality of this study is particularly suitable as Wellington County, that is, Waterloo Region and Guelph are socio-demographically similar to Ontario and Canada. Barriers were assessed by surveying individuals that have or currently use drugs (n=291) and are clients of local methadone clinics or outreach services. Data were explored using frequency tables and then compared using crosstabulations. The findings of this case study suggest there are multiple barriers to calling 9-1-1 during accidental drug overdoses. Similar to previous studies, the most common barriers cited were fear of being arrested (53%), breaching probation or parole (30%), and fear of losing custody of children (24%). Lowering the barriers to calling 9-1-1 may help to forge the path necessary to improved health care and access to resources. Ultimately, and most importantly, lives may be saved.

Reforming Election Dates in Canada: Towards an Explanatory Framework

AuthorsChristopher Alcantara and Jason Roy

Published June 2014 in Canadian Public Administration.

Abstract: Since 2001, ten governments in Canada have passed fixed election date legislation. The typical assumption in the literature is that governments did so as a way to address public concerns about the undemocratic nature of calling and timing elections. This argument, however, does not explain the timing (that is, when the legislation was passed by each jurisdiction) of this policy change. We approach this puzzle deductively by applying the theoretical insights of multiple streams theory to the Canadian experiences. Our findings suggest that although all three streams were important, the political stream is crucial for explaining the timing of the legislation.

Here is also an op-ed that Dr. Alcantara wrote on the topic of fixed election dates.

Citizenship After the Nation State: Regionalism, Nationalism and Public Attitudes in Europe

AuthorsAilsa Henderson, Charlie Jeffery and Daniel Wincott

Published November 2013 in Comparative Territorial Politics.

Abstract: An outstanding cast of contributors led by Charlie Jeffery, Ailsa Henderson and Daniel Wincott, confront the idea of ‘methodological nationalism’, that is the uncritical choice of the ‘nation-state’ as a unit of analysis that dominates postwar social science. It looks within the state to a regional-scale unit of analysis. Using specially collected data from 14 regions across five European states Citizenship After the Nation State explores how citizens define and pursue collective goals at regional scale as well as at the scale of the ‘nation-state’. It shows that regional institutions, actors and processes have transformed the state, in many ways ‘de-nationalizing’ it, and recasting it as a more complex form of political organisation, one that needs to respond to the demands of distinctive regional political communities as well as the political community as organized at the state-level. What comes ‘after the nation-state’ is, in other words, not the regional disintegration of the state or the emergence of a ‘Europe of the Regions’, but rather the consolidation of multi-levelled statehood.