Value Change and Governance in Canada


218 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-8020-8405-2
DDC 320.971'09'049




Edited by Neil Nevitte
Reviewed by Paul G. Thomas

Paul G. Thomas is the Duff Roblin Professor of Government at the
University of Manitoba, the author of Parliamentary Reform Through
Political Parties, and the coauthor of Canadian Public Administration:
Problematical Perspectives.


Until a couple of decades ago most Canadians were deferential citizens
who were willing to place great trust in political and bureaucratic
elites and had confidence that governments could solve problems.
However, according to the six academic contributors to this volume,
there is now a new political culture, especially among younger
Canadians. Many people have given up on the traditional political
process of periodic elections, political parties, and the indirect
representation of their opinions through legislatures. They are
demanding more continuous and direct involvement in the policy process.
Their faith in governments has been shaken, although they have not
entirely abandoned the belief that governments exist to solve
society’s problems.

This book offers no straightforward or easy answers to deal with public
discontent toward the political system. In his introductory essay, Neil
Nevitte argues that the shift in the Canadian political culture mirrors
developments in other Western countries brought about by long-term
trends of rising affluence and higher levels of education. Richard
Nadeau examines the tricky question of how satisfied Canadians are with
their political institutions compared to citizens in other countries.
Mebs Kanji argues, on the basis of extensive survey data, that
discontent with the different parts of the political system is high
enough to represent a threat to the vitality and stability of Canadian
democracy. Lisa Young looks at citizen engagement and trust in Alberta,
a province known for its populist political culture and support for
various forms of direct democracy. Young concludes that governments need
to take action to generate greater citizen involvement. Neal J. Roese
explores the psychological bases for trust in political institutions and
argues that more Canadians have feelings of empowerment, political
awareness, and the desire for active participation. The final essay by
David C. Docherty argues that citizens and elected representatives
differ in what they see as a legislator’s primary duty.

Canadians tend to see politicians as ambitious, self-serving
opportunists, whereas legislators see their job as helping constituents.
Legislators must communicate better what they do in office if they wish
to reduce the negative stereotype of their occupation. This is a book
written for academics, students, and, to a somewhat less extent,
policymakers in government.


“Value Change and Governance in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,