Review: Across the Aisle

Posted 28 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Across the Aisle: Opposition in Canadian Politics
By: David E. Smith
Format/Source: galley courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

How do parties with official opposition status influence Canadian politics? Across the Aisle is an innovative examination of the theory and practice of opposition in Canada, both in Parliament and in provincial legislatures. Extending from the pre-Confederation era to the present day, it focuses on whether Canada has developed a coherent tradition of parliamentary opposition.

David E. Smith argues that Canada has in fact failed to develop such a tradition. He investigates several possible reasons for this failure, including the long dominance of the Liberal party, which arrested the tradition of viewing the opposition as an alternative government; periods of minority government induced by the proliferation of parties; the role of the news media, which have largely displaced Parliament as a forum for commentary on government policy; and, finally, the increasing popularity of calls for direct action in politics.

Readers of Across the Aisle will gain a renewed understanding of official opposition that goes beyond Stornoway and shadow cabinets, illuminating both the historical evolution and recent developments of opposition politics in Canada.

I came across this title on NetGalley. I was intrigued by it because of its timeliness; in recent times, the official Opposition here in Canada has been pretty uninspiring and divided, enabling the Conservative party to consolidate their authority over policy and the direction of the country. It is frustrating so I was interested to see how Smith argues about this situation.

What I appreciated the most about this book was how in-depth Smith’s analysis and presentation of the official Opposition was in relation to parliamentary politics and Canadian politics. He draws in a lot of material through its history, spanning back to the early days of the country, which is a nice refresher on Canadian history. All of the factors mentioned in the book blurb above were discussed in great detail, supporting his premise regarding the nature and role of the official Opposition.

Across the Aisle is an illuminating and well-researched piece. Apologies that this review is so short; it’s been a while since I’ve read it and alas, the galley copy has been archived since I’ve started this review. Regardless, I highly recommend this title if you are interesting in Canadian history and Canadian politics.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Read the author’s profile from The University of Saskatchewan Researchers Page || Order this book from The University of Toronto Press

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