Handbook of Political Party Funding
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Handbook of Political Party Funding

Edited by Jonathan Mendilow and Eric Phélippeau

Scrutinizing a relatively new field of study, the Handbook of Political Party Funding assesses the basic assumptions underlying the research, presenting an unequalled variety of case studies from diverse political finance systems.
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Chapter 15: Public funding in Canada: reform without consensus

Maxime Pelletier


While the impacts of public funding to political parties have been studied extensively, the question of why public funding measures are adopted in the first place has attracted less attention from scholars. In this chapter, the predictions of two important contributions to this field will be evaluated in light of the Canadian case. In addition to those of the cartel theory, the propositions developed by Michael Koss in its monograph The Politics of Party Funding (2011) will be considered. Cartel theory and Koss’s arguments are quite different, but they have in common a focus on the role of cooperation between the major political parties in the introduction of some forms of public funding regime. However, as the present case shall demonstrate, cooperation is not a necessary condition for public funding to be significantly expanded or cut back. On the contrary, when veto points are minimal and the salience of the issue of public funding is high, Canadian political parties have shown a willingness to reform the party finance regime without securing a consensus on the issue and, at times, against their own financial interests. The chapter analyzes the main elements of the party finance reforms with a focus on the competitive effects of the changes and the position adopted by political actors each time the topic surfaced on the agenda. It then examines the factors which have allowed the reforms to take place despite a lack of consensus between the parties. The chapter concludes with what the study of the Canadian case may contribute to the theoretical knowledge of the adoption of public funding to political parties.

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