Big Tent Politics: The Liberal Party's Long Mastery of Canada's Public Life

Big Tent Politics: The Liberal Party's Long Mastery of Canada's Public Life

by R. Kenneth Carty


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The Liberal Party of Canada is one of the most successful parties in the democratic world. It dominated Canadian politics for a century, practising an inclusive style of "big tent" politics that enabled it to fend off opponents on both the left and right. This book traces the record of the party, unwrapping Liberal practices and organization to reveal its distinctive "brokerage" approach to politics and franchise-style structure. A masterful analysis of how one party came to define the nation's public life, this book also identifies the challenges that lie ahead as Liberals seek to reinvent themselves for the twenty-first century.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780774830003
Publisher: University of British Columbia Press
Publication date: 05/10/2016
Series: Brenda and David McLean Canadian Studies Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

R. Kenneth Carty is professor emeritus of political science at the University of British Columbia.

Table of Contents

1. An Unnatural Party
2. The Natural Governing Party
3. Four Eras, Four Liberal Parties
4. A Different Kind of Party
5. The Life of the Party
6. The Chief Broker
7. Brokerage, the Liberal Party, and Canadian Politics

Appendix: Liberal Party Leaders, 1887 to the Present

Further Reading on the Liberal Party of Canada

What People are Saying About This

John English

In Big Tent Politics Ken Carty looks at the how and why of the Liberal Party’s remarkable twentieth-century success, focusing on its masterful practice of brokerage politics. Taking note of today’s rapidly changing electoral terrain, Carty also raises serious doubts about whether the 'big tent' that the Liberals so carefully erected can withstand the strong winds generated by ideology, regionalism, and a disengaged electorate.

Stephen Clarkson

Comprehensively researched, engagingly argued, and smoothly written, Ken Carty’s masterly mix of narrative and analysis provides a 'big tent' kind of analysis worthy of its mammoth subject. Carty wears his learning lightly, presenting us with an authoritative, concise, and fascinating set of insights into what was one of the main driving forces of Canadian politics for more than a century.

Stéphane Dion

I thought I knew everything about the party I once had the honour of leading. But while reading this book, every page taught me something. To read about the history of the Liberal Party is to learn about the history of political life in Canada since Confederation. It is to also understand why, of all democratic countries, Canada is the one that has been most often led by a party from the centre. These are among the many insights in this thought-provoking book by one of Canada’s top political scholars.

Tom Axworthy

The Liberal Party of Canada was once so successful it was known as the government party. How things have changed. Now, for more than a decade, it has become the non-government party. Ken Carty’s succinct and insightful analysis delves into the secrets of the Liberal Party’s success while it ponders the reasons for its more recent decline.

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