Congrats to Rob Currie-Wood for the successful defence of his PhD dissertation, entitled Re-Examining the Distribution of Decision-Making Power Within Canadian Political Parties. Rob has also been awarded a Senate Medal for his research.

“My doctoral thesis explores and explains how power-sharing arrangements develop within political parties. Despite their seemingly hierarchical structures, political parties are incredibly complex organizations comprised of different groups, or ‘faces,’ in elected office, in central office, and on the ground. These groups have traditionally been viewed as operating relatively independently from each other. For instance, in Canada we often think that grassroots members control the selection of election candidates and parliamentary leaders, while elected officials monopolize decisions about party policy. However, recent studies suggest each face has a consequential role in all of the key democratic tasks conducted within the party.

Building on the comparative literature of party reform, I develop a theoretical framework that views the formation of power-sharing arrangements as cyclical in nature. This model is examined against reforms to internal party democracy in Canada since the party system fragmented in the 1990s. A variety of empirical data—including in-depth interviews with Liberals, Conservatives, and New Democrats—reveals that power-sharing arrangements develop in response to new democratic norms, modes of communications technologies, and institutional changes like amendments to election finance law. Although each party remains grounded in its own origins and ideological orientation, Canadian parties have responded to these pressures by developing a new distribution of power that is largely defined by an arrangement of shared authority.”

Rob Currie-Wood