Reassessing Presidents and Prime Ministers in North America, Europe and Japan
Edited by Ludger Helms
Chapter 3: Not Necessarily Leadership But Leadership if Necessary: Canadian Prime Ministers and the Management of Expectations
Jonathan Malloy The criteria for successful (and unsuccessful) leadership and governance in Canada are not always clear. Such ambiguity is of course found in other nations, but Canada’s geographic and linguistic peculiarities pose particular challenges for its political leaders. Among the G-8 nations, Canada is the second largest in size but the smallest in population, and is a European settler society with a small but significant aboriginal population, a consistent flow of new immigrants, and growing cultural and racial diversity. The Canadian federal system is relatively decentralized, with education, the delivery of health care and the bulk of social services all within provincial jurisdiction and outside the direct control of the federal government. While the country is officially bilingual, English is predominant and only about a fifth of the population speaks both English and French. French-speakers are concentrated primarily in the province of Quebec, which itself has a sizable English-speaking minority community; one province (New Brunswick) is officially bilingual and others have minority French-speaking communities. Most importantly, Quebec has held two independence referendums in 1980 and 1995, the latter failing by less than 1 per cent; other parts of Canada, especially the Western provinces, carry their own strong sense of regional alienation. Consequently, regionalism, linguistic issues and national unity play particularly important roles in Canadian politics and the success or failure of national leaders. A somewhat related factor concerns the Canadian electoral and party systems. While being a single-member plurality system, Canada is the most notable violator of Duverger’s Law...
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