The Politics of Fiscal Federalism: Neoliberalism versus Social Democracy in Multilevel Governance Adam Harmes, Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2019, pp. 328
Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
unique combination of methods and novel data, using British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec -Canada's largest provinces-as their points of focus. The simplicity of their findings masks the rigour behind them. Briefly put, the authors found that neither parties nor the media contributed much to the regionalized nature of the 2015 outcome. To measure party strategies, the authors employed content analysis of campaign materials (news releases, social media posts), an examination of leaders' tours and
... an original survey of local candidates. They found that parties made sparing reference to individual provinces or regions in their news releases and social media posts and that leaders did not appear to appeal exclusively to regional interests on their tours of the country. This said, local candidates did campaign on a regionalized basis, adding their own personal and local spin on the election. On the second hypothesis, the authors mount an impressive content analysis of media framing of the 2015 campaign, examining both regional and national coverage in print and on television. As the authors emphasize, "Our data do not show that the media played a role in creating or emphasizing different views of the election issues" (123). This left one potential explanation: that the voters, themselves, approached the election differently from province to province. The authors drew on a two-wave survey of voters in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Their expert use of the block-recursive model reveals that the vote calculus is very different in each of the three provinces under examination. Language and sovereignty were most important in Quebec, for example, while the economy mattered more in Ontario. There, gender and the urban/rural divide appeared to explain more of the story of the Conservatives' losses, while class mattered more in British Columbia. As the authors conclude: "Canadians are simply not the same from province to province. They care about different issues and evaluate candidates and parties according to different criteria" (169). The authors close by inviting future research into the "longer-term variations in party positions and campaign behaviour" (169-70). In taking up this challenge, future scholars would do well to build in a more robust social media analysis-one that goes beyond studying what parties tell voters, in order to examine how online conversations among citizens differ from region to region. Future studies would also benefit from a greater focus on political marketing. Beyond campaign strategy, it is worth asking how party branding attempts and narrow-casting efforts play out on a regional basis. And Provincial Battles, National Prize begs for a pan-Canadian encore involving all 10 provinces, not just the largest and most Liberal-friendly. Theory is best built with a small number of cases, and this book demonstrates that in spades. It is best tested with many more.