CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 7. . . .October 16, 2009
The Canadian Federal Election of 2008.
Jon H. Pammett & Christopher Dornan, eds.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 2009.
349 pp., pbk., $36.99.
Canada. Parliament-Elections, 2008.
Canada-Politics and government-2006-.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Thomas F. Chambers.
From start to finish a simple question dominated the 2008 federal election and how the media covered it. Can Stephen Harper get the majority that seemed within grasp but had eluded the Conservatives in the two previous campaigns? Despite his protestations that all he could win would be a minority, the prospect of a majority was the reason Harper ignored his own fixed election date legislation that had set the next vote for October 19, 2009. He thought he could win now, and at the outset of the campaign that seemed plausible.
The Canadian Federal Election of 2008 is a useful text for introducing students, and anyone not familiar with it, to the intricacies of Canadian politics at election time. It should give those who read it a better understanding of a sometimes confusing and unpopular subject. It provides a thorough background of the election and the five main party contenders for office. It also has chapters on the financing of election campaigns and the role of the media in the 2008 election. In addition, there is a chapter on voting behaviour in this election and an assessment of the campaign's influence on the future of Canadian politics. It is a well-researched book, with many informative notes following the chapters.
There are nine chapters written by 17 professors of political science, including two former CBC journalists, Susan Harada and Christopher Waddell. Fourteen of the contributors are Canadian, two are American and one is British.
Numerous figures and tables are used to illustrate the points made. These are useful in helping understand the results of the election. Two appendices are also included. The first gives the percentage of the votes and number of seats each party received. The second gives the voting result in every constituency. A Key to the Appendices lists the acronyms of all the parties that ran candidates. Readers may be surprised to learn that Canada has a Work Less Party (WLP) and a party known as neorhino (NEO). The addition of an index would have made the book more useful as a reference.
Chapter 8, "None of the Above," explains why no party was able to capture enough public support to win a majority. As was known before the publication of this book, the public's perception of politicians is not good. This was reflected in the poor voter turnout in 2008 when only 59.1% of eligible voters cast a ballot. This was almost a 6% drop from the 2006 election. The book puts some of the blame for the public's apathy on the media, which did not in 2008, or in any other recent election, do enough to make elections exciting and meaningful.
The introduction, "The Outcome in Retrospect," deals with the short-lived coalition formed after the election and is arguably the most interesting part of the book. It shows that the public, contrary to what happened during the election, can be aroused by politics. The negative response to the proposed coalition was unexpected. The coalition also put the Governor General in the spotlight, a position she/he is rarely in and showed, at least in one way, how different Canada's political system is to that of the United States.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.
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