Canadian Politics

A21(b) - Conceptualizing Democracy in Canada

Date: Jun 14 | Time: 03:30pm to 05:00pm | Location:

The Individual in the Collective: Understanding Compromise in Deliberations: Joanna Massie (McMaster University)
Abstract: Increasingly, governments are using tools such as deliberative mini-publics (DMPs) to engage citizens and gather public opinion. DMPs are models of deliberation that involve a small group of descriptively representative citizens meeting over an extended period to learn about and consider policies, creating the conditions for participants to articulate their own interests and, where warranted, to compromise to recommend outcomes that are in the common good (Fishkin 2018, Curato et al. 2021). However, the process of compromise to reach the common good remains underresearched. While existing research explores the effect of the deliberative process on opinion change (e.g. Luskin and Fishkin 2002, Gastil, Black, and Moscovitz 2008), and the conditions that best engender opinion change (e.g. Rosenberg 2007), research typically fails to focus on the specific mechanisms of such change – that is, whether participants concede their own preferences to better fulfil the public interest. To understand the compromises that participants are willing to make, I survey participants in a real DMP before and after their deliberations. I examine not only objective changes in participants’ preferences and perspectives over this period but also whether participants believe that their changes are indeed compromises. I extend this work by examining whether certain types of participants are more or less likely to engage in self-reported compromise. This paper contributes both to our understanding of the role of DMPs in capturing common good for Canadian policymaking, and to the wider, emerging scholarship on the mechanisms of deliberation that lead to more active, democratically engaged citizens.

Challenges to Liberal Democracy: Minority Protections and Accountability to the ‘People’: Andrea Migone (Toronto Metropolitan University), Kathy Brock (Queen's University)
Abstract: This paper explores the possibility that – within an already broadly fragmented idea of democracy (König 2022) – an increasing focus on minority protection coupled with a strong political agenda towards the promotion of those protections in law and administrative practices – often with the intent of ‘locking-in’ these gains because of opposition to these protections by parts of society and of the political opposition – may have a negative effect on the perception of democracy as a ‘fair’ method for the representation and resolution of contrasting political priorities. We argue that two conflicting images of ‘democratic process’ are presented in these situations. On the one hand there is a ‘general’ notion of liberal democracy where the rights of minorities are protected but that protection is tempered by majority rule. In this image an important corollary is often present – especially in Westminster models – which stresses the relevance of the majority both as the ultimate seat of political legitimacy for elected officials and as a relatively simple tool to contain authoritarian drifts. The second image of liberal democracy is often raised by opposition parties and other groups when the ‘lock-in’ processes for the protection of some minorities are proposed. This image stresses the contradiction between majority rule and the top-down imposition of extra protections for one or more minority. In some cases, this narrative can contribute to reduced perceived legitimacy of a political party or even of an entire political system in an already weakened political space (Kriesi 2013; Grossman et al. 2022). We believe that this result depends on the very specific nexus between political accountability and liberal democracy, one that must practically balance the sometimes-dissonant couplet of minority protections and accountability to the ‘people’. Grossman, Guy, Dorothy Kronick, Matthew Levendusky, and Marc Meredith. 2022. “The Majoritarian Threat to Liberal Democracy.” Journal of Experimental Political Science 9 (1): 36–45. König, Pascal D. 2022. “Citizens’ Preferences for Liberal Democracy and Its Deformations: Evidence from Germany.” European Political Science Review 14 (3): 367–85. Kriesi, Hanspeter. 2013. “Democratic Legitimacy: Is There a Legitimacy Crisis in Contemporary Politics?” Politische Vierteljahresschrift 54 (4): 609–38.

Thinking Canada as a Democratic Deliberative System: Oscar Berg (Université du Québec à Montréal), Alain-G. Gagnon (Université du Québec à Montréal)
Abstract: The aim of this communication is to connect two fields of democratic theory, namely those of multinational democracies (Gagnon and Tully 2001) and deliberative democracy. Questions regarding the appropriate forms of democratic practice within multinational democracies, and the institutionalization of large-scale deliberation remain unresolved issues for scholars of both fields of study. Connecting the fields of multinational democracies and deliberative democracy can foster progress both their normative and empirical agendas, as James Tully once claimed for the case of recognition and dialogues theories (Tully 2004). To establish this connection, I will refer to deliberative democracy theory, with a specific emphasis on systemic approaches to deliberative democracy (Mansbridge et al 2010, Elstub, Ercan and Mendonça 2016) and deliberation within deeply divided societies (Dryzek 2005, O’Flynn 2006, Drake McCulloch 2011, Steiner et al. 2017). My main assertion is that multinational democracies are best conceptualized as deliberative systems. Consequently, normative ideas of multinational democracies need to be re-evaluated from a systemic deliberative perspective. To illustrate the argument, I’ll rely on the Canadian case as both a deep diversity (Taylor 1990) and a settler colonial state (Veracini 2011, Wildcat 2015). Therefore, thinking Multinational Canada as a democratic deliberative system raise questions about recognition, reconciliation and decolonization. Yet, we need to examine the possibilities and the pitfalls of systemic approaches to deliberative democracy to deal with incommensurability issues (Kahane 2010), make treaty federalism work (Papillon 2020), and achieve transformative reconciliation (Asch, Borrows and Tully 2018).

Pedagogy of Debate? Re-Examining The “Teaching Function” of Parliamentary Discourse in Canada.: Chris Greenaway (University of Toronto)
Abstract: This paper re-examines parliamentary debate in Canada through Bagehot’s notion of the “Teaching Function” of Parliament. It starts by contrasting adversarial and deliberative models of political discourse, establishing a framework for evaluating the communicative role of parliament. The study posits that Bagehot’s “Teaching Function” offers a discourse model that better reflects the institutional aims of representation and accountability. While Bagehot’s notion of the “efficient” and “dignified” roles of parliament are well-examined, the critical “Teaching” and “Informing” aspects are less understood. By analyzing debates from the Canadian Hansard, specifically on environmental policy as an empirical example, this paper operationalizes the teaching function to re-conceptualize parliamentary discourse in the House of Commons. The analysis of these debates re-examines the intersection of political discourse and public enlightenment - or the lack thereof.