Canada: The Puzzle of Local Three-Party Competition
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1Canada was the first single-member plurality electoral system to exhibit chronic multipartism, and it continues to be among the most fractionalized. At first the Canadian facts seemed to challenge the emerging orthodoxy about electoral systems, based on Duverger's (1954/1963) seminal work. Duverger's “law” states that plurality electoral systems kept competition within two-party bounds. If Canada was a challenge, it was also a goad. The Canadian case was taken to indicate that pressures toward bipartism operate locally rather than in the system as a whole. Provided that support for some third party is sufficiently localized, a national system can register multipartism, even as local pressure produces district-level bipartism with different party pairs in different places.
The theory may have outrun the case. This chapter documents that sectional differences in party strength are no more than half the Canadian multipartism story. Equally important has been the secular propagation of a...