Quasi-Democracy?: Parties and Leadership Selection in Alberta


194 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0791-1
DDC 324.27123'015





Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science and
environmental studies at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial
University of Newfoundland.


Canadian parties have been moving from leadership selection by a
delegate convention to a direct vote by all party members. This study,
based on surveys of those participating in the Alberta PC open
leadership vote (1992), the Liberal televote (1994), and the NDP
delegate convention (1994), provides a comparison of different types of
leadership selection processes as well as an analysis of the political
attitudes, social characteristics, and party involvement of each
party’s leadership voters.

Political scientists Stewart and Archer find that, in terms of gender
and age, direct membership votes are generally more representative than
leadership conventions. However, many of those voting have little
commitment to the party and obtain their knowledge of candidates and
issues exclusively through the mass media. Thus, direct membership votes
could be viewed as “quasi-democratic” because the amount of
deliberation involved in leadership voting is limited and because there
are abuses of the electoral process.

The PC leadership process was successful in attracting large numbers of
new “members” who could register up to the time of voting. Ralph
Klein benefited particularly from the support of those with populist
sentiments, a factor that may have contributed to his success in
subsequent general elections given the political culture of Alberta.
Interestingly, although Nancy Betkowski led on the first ballot (due, in
part, to the mobilization of female supporters), a very large majority
of women who joined the party after the first ballot voted for Klein.
The Liberal televote was plagued by problems and controversies that
resulted in a relatively small turnout and bitter infighting that hurt
their subsequent electoral fortunes.

A significant limitation of this study is the unrepresentativeness of
the survey of Liberal voters and the lack of a survey of first ballot PC
voters. The authors might have given more attention to examining the
background to the leadership campaigns. There also appear to be some
errors in the calculation and interpretation of the data. Overall,
however, Quasi-Democracy? is an interesting and informative study that
has significance beyond the Alberta political scene.


Stewart, David K., and Keith Archer., “Quasi-Democracy?: Parties and Leadership Selection in Alberta,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/29416.