There’s a Party at City Hall: Political Parties and Candidate Diversity in Canadian Municipal Elections

Authors: Chris Erl*, McGill University
Topics: Political Geography, Canada, Urban Geography
Keywords: Political Geography, Representative Geography, Urban Geography, Canadian Geography, Human Geography, Local Government, Elections, Visible Minorities, Electoral Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Municipal politics in Canada varies notably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some cities feature well-organized political parties, others have leader-centric “équipe” or teams, while others still are officially non-partisan, with political parties operating in the 'shadows'. I hypothesize that cities with formal political parties and, to a lesser extent, équipe, provide candidates from marginalized groups (such as women, visible minorities, and people from queer and Indigenous communities) resources and support and, therefore, increase their electoral presence. In contrast, candidates in non-partisan, shadow party systems must rely more on personal networks and the “behind the scenes” allocation of partisan resources, resulting in a disadvantage for candidates from minority and marginalized communities. To evaluate these claims, I conducted a survey of over 3,200 candidates for local office in British Columbia and Ontario, analyzed campaign financial returns, and considered campaign contribution networks to draw connections between candidates and larger political organizations. By analyzing the connections between local political organization and the racial, ethnic, and sexual diversity of municipal officeholders and candidates, this paper seeks to answer questions about the role of parties and the impact of ostensibly non-partisan and politically distinct local elections on the political and electoral representation of Canada’s diverse and changing population.

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