Local Democracy Project

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hfxcouncil.pngOver 30,000 candidates ran for approximately 10,000 offices in Canada’s 3,533 municipalities in the most recent election cycle. The rules that govern how candidates campaign, including how their campaigns are financed, vary considerably between and within provinces, yet we know very little about the effects of these rules and what candidates think about them.

How do candidates allocate time and resources during their campaign campaigns? Does money buy elections and political influence? Do rules limiting campaign contributions and spending increase the fairness of elections? Does requiring candidates to disclose their donors and expenditures reduce the potential for corruption and undue influence? How election campaigns are financed may have profound implications for the practice and quality of democracy – whose preferences are heard, and who gets what, when, where, and how.

The goal of the Local Democracy Project / Projet sur la démocratie locale is to comprehensively describe local election rules in ten Canadian provinces, explain how they have changed over the past decade, and determine their effects on election outcomes. We will also use anonymous surveys and interviews to learn about how candidates campaign in municipalities large and small, and gather their opinions about the rules that govern municipal elections.

There is substantial research on election rules and campaign finance regulation at the federal and provincial levels in Canada and other countries, but the subject remains virtually unstudied at the municipal level, where the vast majority of elections take place. Once elected, successful candidates make important decisions regarding Canadian social and economic life. Their control over the use of land, services, and infrastructure makes them attractive targets for private interests seeking to influence government decisions, including through campaign contributions. Local campaigns are also where many federal and provincial political careers begin and where politicians’ fundraising networks and support coalitions are first formed. For all these reasons, municipal elections are a rich empirical terrain in which to investigate the causes and consequences of election finance rules, and how different election rules affect the candidates’ success.

The project is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant and housed at Western University’s Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance.

For more information about the project, please email mldproject@uwo.ca.

People

Investigators

mld_taylor.jpgDr. Zack Taylor is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Western University and the project’s principal investigator. He was the founding Director of Western’s Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance and is a Fellow at the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on urban political economy and local governance.

mld_breux.jpgDr. Sandra Breux is Professor at the Centre Urbanisation Culture Société at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Montréal, where she co-leads the Smart Pedestrians Cities Laboratory and is Scientific Director of the Villes Régions Monde (VRM) Network. She is also a leader of the Canadian Municipal Barometer, an annual survey of mayors and councillors.

mld_good.jpgDr. Kristin Good is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Dalhousie University with a cross-appointment to the Law, Justice, and Society program. Her current research focuses on the intersection between diversity and local governance and also the constitutional status of Canadian municipalities.

mld_horak.jpgDr. Martin Horak is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Western University, where he serves as Associate Director of the Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance. He specializes in Canadian and comparative urban politics and how the spaces of urban life and everyday relations within them shape our attitudes towards those who are socially different from us, and in the possibility and practice of self-governing cooperation in cities.

Research Associates

mld_bouteiller.jpegBrittany Bouteiller graduated from Western University’s Honours Program in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics in 2022. While holding a Undergraduate Summer Research Internship, she prepared a pilot study for this project entitled “Election Campaign Finance Rules in Canadian Municipalities: An Overview,Centre for Urban Policy and Local Governance Research Bulletin #1, 2021.

mld_vanhooren.JPGShanaya Vanhooren is a doctoral candidate in Western University’s Department of Political Science. She is coauthor, with Dr. Zack Taylor, of Local Election Campaign Finance Regimes in Canada: Toward a Research Agenda,” Canadian Public Administration 64(1), pp. 99–121.

Computer screen with survey

The Candidate Survey

Between 2022 and 2026, the Project will field the largest survey of election candidates in Canadian history. The on-line survey will be sent to all candidates for municipal office in all Canadian municipalities with a population larger than 25,000 people. In provinces where fewer than four municipalities meet this threshold, we include the four largest municipalities in that province. We expect the survey to reach over 4,000 candidates in 183 municipalities in all ten provinces. All responses will be kept anonymous.

If you are a municipal candidate and have questions about the survey, please contact us at mldproject@uwo.ca.


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