Canadian Political
Political Culture
The sum total of the
politically relevant values,
beliefs, attitudes and
orientations in a society.
It’s the feelings people have
toward the overall
Attitude toward the country or
Political Culture and the State
A second component of political culture is
the beliefs regarding the role of the state.
 Also includes orientations to the decisionmaking apparatus.
 Issues include
– Trust in institutions
– Participation in politics
Political Culture
 Political
culture also includes popular
 Sydney Verba and Gabriel Almond found
that there are three basic categories of
political culture.
– Parochial
– Subject
– participatory.
 People
do not expect any positive action
from government
 Perceive government as a police officer
and tax collector.
 Public wish to keep distance from
themselves and the government.
 Do not expect public participation
Subject Culture
 Some
expectation of positive action from
 Do not see themselves involved in politics
 Questions of what governments should do
are to be decided by people with influence
and power.
Participatory Culture
High expectations of government
 Expect the public to participate in politics
– Choose leaders
– Influence political action
Integral part of liberal democracy.
– Substantial consensus on the legitimacy of political
institutions and direction of public policy
– Widespread tolerance of plurality of interests.
– Widely distributed sense of political competence.
Why examine Political Culture?
The question Almond and Verba were
trying to answer is:
– How do we create stable democratic
– This question emanated from the WWII
– The underlying theme is to avoid the collapse
of democracy as was seen in Italy and
Almond and Verba’s answer
Stability rests with attitudes of citizens
 Culture matters as institutional relations are not
 Stability is fostered by encouraging attitudes in
which the “self” is an important actor.
 Political culture also gives order and meaning to
a political process
 That provides the underlying assumption and
rules that government behaviour in the political
Almond and Verba’s Model
Political Culture
Political Behaviour
Political Culture
Culture is the living patterns of a people.
– The place of the family
– The role of the religion
– The influence of economics and politics
Used as an umbrella term that includes
institutional arrangements as well as
– Attitudes
– Beliefs
– Orientation to politics
Traditional Canadian Political
– Popular Sovereignty: people have a final say
in who will be elected officials.
– Popular sovereignty is limited to elections, few
referenda have occurred in Canada
 1898: prohibition
 1942: conscription
 1992: Charlottetown Accord
– Elections are periodic
Traditional Canadian Political
Political Equality
– One person, one vote
Political Freedom
– Conscience & religion
– Thought, belief, opinion, expression, freedom
of the press.
– Peaceful assembly
– Freedom of association
Traditional Canadian Political
Majority Rule
– The large number takes precedence over the
smaller number.
– Minority rights, however, are protected.
– Charter rights
 Women
 Visible minorities
 Aboriginals
What are Canadian values?
Not America?
 American culture:
– Life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness
Canadian culture:
– Peace, order & good government.
Lipset: Continental Divide
– Canada, class-aware, elitist, law-abiding,
statist, collectivity-oriented, and grouporiented.
The Fragment Theory
 Formulated
by Louis Hartz.
 Colonial societies such as the U.S. and
Canada originated as fragments of larger
European society.
 American origins were as an act of
revolution against Great Britain.
 Therefore, individual freedom and
suspicion of government informs the
political culture of the U.S.
The Fragment Theory
Canadian origins were French settlers of Acadia
and New France
 Canada never had a rebellion against Britain.
 Canada also includes the Loyalists who were
refugees from the American revolution.
 Because of these differences in origins, Hartz
argues that Canada is more
– Corporatist
– Collectivist
– Deferential
Trends in Political Culture
 Post-materialism
has an influence on
political culture.
 New generations have a different
relationship with governments than their
 These have consequences
– Lower voter turnout
– Decrease in party loyalty
– Single issue movements.
Canadian Values?
Particularism and
Deference to
Caution, diffidence,
dependence, and
Canadian Cultural Themes
Elitism: pattern of
decision making in
which “small groups
of people exercise
considerable power”
 Elitist view argues
that Canadians are
deferential to
The diversity of
geographic factors
and economic
concerns that are
politically important
and perceived by
members of the
political system.
impact and
relationship of the
major cultural groups
of French and English.
 This means that both
cultures and
languages are
protected, no matter
the cost.
impact of external
factors such as the US
impact on Canadian
 Not only are we
linked economically,
but many forces at
work in the US filter
to Canada.
Popular Canadian Myths
How do we define
ourselves as Canadians?
– Less crime in Canada
than in the U.S.
– Canadians speak more
softly than Americans.
– Canadians are more
– More tolerant
– Have more respect for
Changing Political Culture
Direct democracy
– Referendum
– Initiative
– Recall
– Politicians should
reflect the opinions of
their constituencies.
Regional and Provincial subcultures
 Ethnic subcultures
 Class subcultures
 Other subcultures
– Age cohort
– Post-materialism
Political Participation
Political efficacy: sense of political
competence and a feeling that one can
have impact on the system.
 Electoral Participation
– Voting
– Joining political parties
– Join voluntary groups

Canadian Political Culture