The Contrasting American and Canadian Political Party Systems

Political parties have existed for many years and support societies in achieving goals and objectives. It is hard to imagine what like would be like without them. G. Bingham Powell found that: Political parties are the institutions that link the voting choices of individual citizens with aggregate electoral outcomes in the competitive democracies. The parties set the alternatives offered to the citizens in elections and their organized activities can encourage both registration and election-day turnout.

The relationships between party systems and nations cleavage structures should play a major role in shaping voting participation level (Holomon, Johnson, and Munroe, 2004). With different political party systems there can be very different outcomes when it come to the satisfaction of voters with their political parties. The difference between Canada’s multiparty system and America’s two-party system is an unmistakable illustration of this.

In this essay I will demonstrate how Canada’s representative democracy is better than America’s with respect to the number of political parties in each system because in America; fewer voters’ opinions are covered and politicians are attempting to win a greater percentage of votes at an expense. With both Canada and the United States being so diverse and multicultural it should be expected to have a population of all various ideologies.

In today’s modern, North American society it is only natural that citizens have disagreements in opinion about the most important of issues such as finance, economy, health care, abortion rights, and military, which are just a couple of examples. All of these issues are very much political issues that are all usually part of each political party’s platform. In Canada there is a multiparty system, which means there are more options of political parties to vote for.

There is the Liberal Party, Conservative Party, New Democrat Party (NDP), the Bloc Quebecois, and the Green Party, all with different ideas to represent the opinions and beliefs of Canadians. In America’s two-party system, it is a lot more difficult and much more unlikely for all citizens’ opinions to be covered. In the two-party system there is less variety for voters because they must choose one or the other.

With the Republican and Democratic parties, for many political issues the voter must be on either one side or the other, nowhere in the middle. This means that not only do voters in America have only the choice of two parties, but also must chose from each extreme side of many major political issues. You can see this by just looking at what each party traditionally stands for.

Soutar has established that Conventionally, Republicans are for pro life, free marketplace, limited government, strong national defense, secure borders, fiscal responsibility, and strict interpretation of the constitution, while he also argues that democrats are for government assistance, a multicultural and diverse religious society, regulations on business and trade, protection of the environment, nuclear disarmament, and economic aid to impoverished foreign countries (Soutar, 2007, para. 9). With most of these issues, both parties stand for opposite views, which give voters two choices that are usually very contrary to each other.

Furthermore, voters may agree with one party on one topic and the other party on the other topic. There are no other parties to find a common ground and many voters are required to compromise their opinions and beliefs when voting. With only to choices to be had by voters, politics becomes awfully simplified. Some would say this would be a good thing because it aids citizens in understanding what each party stands for and even encourages them to vote. Unfortunately this is not the case. In 2008 only 56. 8% of voting-age citizens in America voted, just over half (National Voter Turnout, 2008).

If the simplification of politics, to the point of only wanting two options for candidates to run the country, was beneficial, then more people would be voting. Once again, the two-party system is only limiting people choices by not considering every individual’s opinion. In addition, when there are merely two options that have a realistic chance in winning an election, there will be more strategic voting and it will have more of an impact. Although America is definitely a two-party system, independentvoting. org found that 40% of Americans describe themselves as independent voters (About independentvoting. rg, para. 1). A lot of the time independent voters in America will simply vote for one party, not because if their platform, but because they are upset with the other party. Therefore they are not voting for their first choice, they are voting to prevent a certain outcome. Also independents that are part of smaller parties will vote for one of the two major parties because their party has no chance of winning. According to Holomon, Johnson, and Munroe, people find it difficult to find reasons to vote for a party with no realistic chance (Holomon, Johnson, and Munroe, 2004). With only two parties ompeting for government in America, they are trying to win more than 50% of the votes. This is something obvious that does not seem like it would have a huge effect on the presidential race. However, attempting to win over a larger percentage if the voting population actually harms the presidential race. In today’s society, winning over a group of citizens that large, requires more than just a strong political display. The presidential race becomes more of a popularity contest between the political leaders, which in a lot of cases comes at the expense of a professional political campaign.

Voters end up with more information about the leader’s personal life and begin focusing on their character rather than important political issues. One well-known example of this, which is one of many, is Sarah Palin’s vice presidential campaign in 2008. I, along with many other people, knew more about Sarah Palin’s teenage daughter being pregnant than I did about her actual political opinions. Along with candidates making themselves into celebrities to win elections, they also end up putting down other candidates in order to make themselves look better.

Once again, a lot of the time, this takes the focus off of political issues and puts it onto the character of the political leaders. When a party’s main purpose is to elect their candidates and generate support for their leaders rather than focusing on furthering their member’s interests, the party is acting as an electoral vehicle instead of an agent of representation. Holomon, Johnson, and Munroe found that when a party is acting as an agent of representation they are concentrating on their members’ benefits, which is desirable, but not always the case (Holomon, Johnson, and Munroe, 2004).

This becomes the case when parties and their leaders are trying to win over such a large group of people because realistically they cannot please everyone’s interests. Parties will do whatever they can to gain the power and make attractive promises that will later be broken. Just in the latest American presidential election, Barak Obama had made appealing promises, which were some of the main reasons he was elected, which still to today have not been filled leaving many Americans angry.

Just a few of the promises broken by the president that Schilling has found are: that he has not yet signed the freedom of choice act pertaining to abortions, he has not brought the troops home from Iraq which was promised to be done by August 31st, 2010, and he has not eliminated capital gains taxes for small businesses which was also promised (Schilling, 2009). All of these are important issues that could make or break a vote for someone, especially when there are only two parties to choose from.

This shows how parties will make promises in an attempt to please everyone to try to win over a large amount of the population, all citizens with different ideas and beliefs. Sometimes for political parties to make these promises in an attempt to please everyone and win votes they must change their ideas all together. The Republican Party, for example, has changed a lot over the past years to try to become more modern and attract voters from younger generations. Even some previous presidents feel estranged from their parties and are uncomfortable with some of the decisions and changes that have been made.

Balz and Broder found that before his death, former president Gerald R. Ford had expressed his discomfort with the party’s move to the right on abortion views and some of the president Bush’s Iraq policies (Balz & Broder, 2007, para. 5). This goes to show how a party can change so much that even former presidents disagree with decisions that newer presidents make. Because the political parties are trying to persuade so many people to vote for them they need to make big promises that will make everyone happy, many of these people having different ideas about politics.

Unfortunately the bigger these promises are, the more likely they are to never be filled, and promises not being filled by politicians have been the case for a long time. Although it is clear, after looking at these facts and arguments, that America’s two-party system has glitches and problems, some would argue that Canada is actually a two party system as well, and that based in the information given, Canada’s political system has the exact same problems.

This is said because, although Canada does have more than two parties with seats in the house of commons, It is well known who the two major parties in Canada are who battle for government. The Britannica encyclopedia states that “Canada also possesses what is essentially a two-party system, Liberals or Conservatives usually being able to form a working majority without the help of small, regionally based parties” (Political Party). It is of many people’s opinion, and is often argued, that Canada has a two-party system and not a multi party system. As much as some people think this it simply cannot be proven by the facts.

Holomon, Johnson, and Munroe found that the effective number of parties is based on a combination of their numbers and their strength, meaning that as long as a party has any power they should be counted in the party system (Holomon, Johnson, and Munroe, 2004). The Conservative party holds 141 seats; the Liberal party holds 76 seats, the Bloc Quebecois hold 47 seats, and the NDP hold 36 seats in the house of commons (Party Standings). It is evident that there are other political parties in Canada with considerable power and numerous seats in the House of Commons.

Not only is this obvious, but it is also a good idea to consider the fact that the outcome of the elections in Canada would be different if there were only the Conservative and liberal parties. Based on “second choices” in Canadian political parties, if the only options were Conservative and Liberal, 75% of NDP voters would vote Liberal, giving the Liberal party a lot more votes and many more seats in the House of Commons (If Canada had a Two-Party System, 2009). Examining these facts makes it apparent that Canada has powerful and effective political parties, other than the Conservative and Liberal parties, making it a multiparty system.

In proving this it is obvious that Canada does not have these same issues because voters have more than two political parties to choose from, making Canada’s representative democracy better in this respect. It is very clear that neither of the two parties, Republican or Democratic, satisfy Americans anymore. In a 2008 poll 47% of people said the two-party system had “real problems” and another 29% said the system was broken (Jones, 2008, para. 1). Considering the arguments that have been made, these American citizens have reason to believe this, especially with the parties they have to choose from.

They have little choice and the choice they do have requires them to choose between two leaders competing to prove their individual character or not vote at all. This demonstrates how America’s two-party system I dysfunctional for the individual voter and is inferior to Canada’s multiparty system. References About independentvoting. org (n. d. ). Independentvoting. org. Retrieved from http://www. independentvoting. org/about/ Balz, D. & Broder, D. (2007, January 3). Remembering a Leader and a Party that was. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/02/AR20070102011