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Marc André Bodet, "Representation at the margins: The impact of governing parties on spending in Canada," Party Politics, 19 (July 2013), 665-682. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
Modern representative democracies face serious challenges, particularly when it comes to reinvesting public money. An almost inevitable consequence is the neglect of certain interests while others, more widespread or better organized, reap greater benefits (Dahl, 1956; Madison, 1787). Political tensions are both managed and fostered through interaction between partisan interests, parties themselves and rigid institutional rules. Frictions inevitably emerge.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Dickey-Fuller unit-root test (t-statistic).
Figure 1. Change in the fraction of total budget (percent).
Table 2. ARIMA estimates -- predictors of change in spending ratio.
Table 3. Party effects in five policy domains.

Last Paragraph:
Do parties make a difference in budgetary policy? The answer in Canada is a definite yes. If there are constraints imposed by federalism and the incremental nature of developed states' policy-making, these seem to be at least partly overcome by a combination of a majoritarian system of elections and an executive-centred decision-making process. For sure, there is a good amount of friction in certain policy domains that limits the role of parties in budgetary policy. But governing parties are still able to influence public spending. The magnitude of partisan effects appears to be rather subtle. But small effects add up over time. The systematic influence of parties on budgetary decisions, even at the margins, has a considerable effect over the long term. This finding provides fresh insights into the study of budgetary policy in Canada, but also provides a method to test similar hypotheses in other parliamentary systems. This new approach will hopefully clarify our understanding of the role of governing parties in policy.

Last updated November 2013