I should like to comment on the fine article, “Party Loyalty and Electoral Volatility: A Study of the Canadian Party System,” by Paul M. Sniderman, H.D. Forbes, and Ian Melzer in the June 1974 (
vii, no. 2) issue of this journal. This article should be a major corrective in the study of Canadian political parties. In addition, the authors provide a number of useful insights which should fruitfully guide future research on parties.
In the beginning of their article they point out that there is a “consensus among students of Canadian politics on the functions of parties and the nature of voting in Canada,” which consensus they call “the textbook theory of party politics.” Among the elements of this theory, according to the authors, is the interpretation that both major, old-line Canadian parties, the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, are brokerage parties, and are, therefore, indistinguishable. Although the authors present evidence that calls into serious question other aspects of the “textbook theory,” such as the supposed lack of validity of the concept of party identification in Canada and the purported high level of electoral volatility of the Canadian voter compared to the British and American voter, the authors at the end of their article still accept important elements of the “textbook theory.” Thus, on page 286 they incorporate into their conclusion the idea that “it is surely true… that the major parties advance very similar platforms and share the same overall economic ideology.”