Ontario is a provincethat is near and dear to the nation of Canada, with flourishing aspects interms of its rich culture, economic prosperity, and home not only to thenation’s capital Ottawa but also to one of the most popular cities in Canada,Toronto.
Similarly, the provincial government of Ontario operates in a similarprinciple to the Federal Government of Canada in terms of the Westminster modeland also the First Past the Post system (Single Member Plurality) which refersto the party that wins the majority of seats in the legislature becomes theparty in power. However, Ontario sets itself apart from other provinces in twoaspects that are related to one other which serve a significant purpose inunderstanding Ontario’s political culture. The first aspect is that Ontario has a “disproportionatescale” that reflects its size in terms of its population where it is seen thatno other province/territory can match the size of Ontario’s population. Likewise, Ontario’s politicalculture reflects not only the province’s historical experiences but also thedevelopment of its key social, political, economic and cultural institutions.
Therefore, this essay will discuss the distinct characteristics, origins,effects, and changes that have been made in regard to Ontario’s politicalculture. Inthe context of Ontario, it is imperative to define the term of politicalculture. The term political culture, “refers to a set of widely shared outlooks, beliefs, and sentimentsthat people hold over some extended period of time and that broadly conditions theirbehaviour”. Furthermore, the study of a country’s or provinces politicalculture is something that lasts over a long period of time and changesdepending on “values andhabits of people’s minds”. Political culture has been changing slowly,but when it does change it is not something that is taken very lightly, it istaken at the extreme. Moreover, political culture is not promoting the policiesset forth by the government, however, it represents how well Ontarians areunderstanding, accepting, assimilating as well as complying with politicalattitudes that are set out of the province. On the other hand, politicalideologies refer to beliefs and views about governments and politics thatinfluence the way people to vote supporting the government for their actions.
Thus, it is important to also recognize that government policies along withpolitical attitudes set forth by people coincide with one another as peoplehave chosen their government with the certain policies and issue, in which theybelieve that the government should focus on, although some of the claims thathave been set forth are certainly unjustified. Historically,Ontario has been a major partner in forming, framing or working with theFederal Governments and have enjoyed being a considerable influence since theConfederation in 1867. Furthermore, Ontario, which was the most populousprovince enjoyed the advantage of being Canada’s “best friend” in all aspects.For example, in Ontario, the Conservative party was the most effective singularpolitical party possessing power except for one six-year interval between1919-1925 and one nine-year interval between 1934-1943. The longevity of theConservatives provided the province Ontario with political strength. Moreover,the Conservatives traditionally attracted talented and better candidates intotheir fold and were considered better organizers than other political partiessuch as the Liberals or the New Democratic Party. Thus, the ProgressiveConservative (PC) party possessed power in Ontario for forty-two years between1943-1985, which made it the longest in Ontario’s political history even thoughthere were instances of minority governments in 1971 and 1975.
Theconception of Upper Canada and the province of Ontario established economicsuccess as being one of the major reasons that brought a political party topower. The prosperity of the province was with the provincial premier who couldpotentiate new avenues to maintain economic successes. In the early 19thcentury, Premier Oliver Mowat was the first to improvise the loss of Ontario inwheat agriculture with the idea to promote industries such as specializedcrops, horticulture, animal husbandry, food processing technologies, andencouraged efficient modalities. In addition, Oliver Mowat also introducedindustrialization, mining, and forestry in Northern Ontario. These industrieswere administered expertly and efficiently which helped improve, prosper andgrow the Ontario’s economy. From1943-1985, various Conservative Premiers followed the example from Mowat’sgovernment by promoting industrialization and invested massively in publicinfrastructure and also attracted investments in manufacturing.
Consequently,they developed various social programs for the ever-increasing multiculturalpopulation that was ready to participate and takes advantage of the boom inOntario. Moreover, the Conservative political party realized that anefficiently managed socio-economic success would guarantee them to stay inpower instead of becoming an opposition party. Hence, the idea of people’sprosperity was a measure that would have to be undertaken as it paralleled thegood fortunes surrounding the province. The hallmark was the Ontario’spolitical existence that was created and managed efficiently by differentConservative premiers with the aim of reflecting their government’s essentialwill of the citizens.
The leading values of stability, economic growth andprosperity were rewarded in the Ontario politics. The link between political culture and politicalbehaviour is very closely related and more interactive when politicalinstitutions are involved. Political culture contains two different elements,ideational and operative. Ideationalconcepts such as the beliefs about democracy are absorbed by the institutionsfrom the society especially after being resisted and are perpetuated activelyby the society. Whereas, operative norms reflect how politicalinstitutions like the cabinet or legislature works in comparison to howcitizens expect their politicians to behave in contrast to how they act inparliament.
Hence, it is important toacknowledge that political culture goes side by side with political behaviouras political culture solely cannot determine the reasons behind changes ofpeoples’ mindsets or social values determining why an individual was moreinclined to vote for a certain political party over the other when it comes todetermining the outcomes of an election. Therefore, it is crucial thatpolitical behaviour is attached when determining when considering politicalculture as it helps to identify and explain the changes that have taken place. The scholars support thestandard interpretation of the political behavior in Ontario since the changein political culture in the province has brought about equality and respect ofthe values of the people in the region. In the standard interpretation,scholars agree on five operative norms that make up Ontario’s political culturenamely economic success, the assumption of prominence, managerial efficiency,reciprocity in politics and the balancing of interests. Economic success notonly for the individual and mass public but also for the state which is interrelated.Progressive foresight, innovation, exploration, and modernization of new ideasand areas, striving for opportunities and excellence is utilization andmanagement of the resources. Wearing the cap of Captain Canada and act as the forerunner whencompared to the other provinces was an important norm aided by the abundantnatural resources and the sheer strength and quality of the population.
Managerial efficiency and effectiveness was definitely an important norm justlike the exceptional CEO of a multinational who has a clear vision, objectives,planning, organization, direction, and control who can produce results. The expectationof reciprocity is akin to the patron-client relationship with mutual benefits,rewards and fair favours at different levels. The balance of interest is a tricky norm in which power is shared amongvarious but different interest groups but never lopsided or unfair orimpractical. The key being recognition, inclusion, and consultation. Thus, theoperative norms provide a basis for understanding the political culture ofOntario and also political parties that used these norms came out successfullyin elections, whereas others didn’t. Ontario’s political culture has graduallychanged over time, which did not happen over one night as claimed by manypolitical scientists.
Furthermore, it includes the values and the capacities ofa society which helps to suggest and guide changes in the dynamics of politicalculture. In regard to the change in dynamics of Ontario’s political culture, “Ontario has had three changesof governments in the last ten years”, which was due to politicalstability being a major asset and the domination of the Conservative Party inOntario politics for several years. Thus, Ontario’s political existence, whichwas established by Oliver Mowat and other Conservative premiers helped toreflect one of the key values of the province’s political culture which “reflects in their governmentsthe essential will of the people”. On the one hand, it canbe argued that the political culture of Ontario has been changing from the1980s for many different reasons. The first reason that political culture inOntario has been changing refers to the matter of identity as at one pointOntario, unlike other provinces felt disconnected to Canada as a whole.Furthermore, Ontario decided that for their provincial identity to improvewithin Canada, it was important not to distinguish themselves as a separateprovince instead they would project their Ontarian provincial identity with theCanadian national identity instead.
The second reason is the poor leadershipthe of elected Ontario premiers who failed to respect and follow theConstitution. The main purpose of the Constitution was to protect thesovereignty of its citizens and that every leader whether they were at thefederal, provincial, or municipal level was expected to follow or to draweffective leadership guidelines. The province of Ontario and its citizens didhave good intentions for Canada as a whole nation, however, it seemed like itirritated more than appreciated by other Canadians in other provinces as itseemed to appropriate the mantle of Captain of Canada. Managerial efficiency is considered to be the main normdefining the political culture of Ontario. Moreover, the notion of efficiency was drawn from themilitary, but with political evolution and influence, it made leaders morecapable and efficient in managing resources in order to make them suitable tohelp lead citizens. The government of Ontario has been classified as a”long-held unusually high and exacting standard of province”. Ontarian political culture has graduallychanged to define political leadership based on managerial excellence andcompetence instead of personal charisma to win the support of theirelectorates.
During Mowat’s time as Premier of Ontario, he governed withexcellent competency and discipline which established a high standard ofexpectations and performance standards for the future generations of leaderswho were to follow after him. Thus, the political culture in Ontario hasgradually changed over time as Ontarians recognize that governments will haveto implement the norms of managerial efficiency, competence, stability,Canadian identity, pragmatism and loyalty instead of relying on the qualitieslike personal charisma, ideologies, good intentions or major changes. Sincethe 1980s, the political culture in Ontario has gradually evolved and changedwith simultaneous changes in all aspects of society with the socio-economicinfluence of electronic media and global impacts within and outside thecountry. In the present day, individuals in society are electing leaders basedon the interests that they believe would be beneficial to the country.Moreover, Ontarians have been electing their leaders who value not only theirneeds but also leaders who are development and management oriented. Moreover,the 1980s became a time where political officials expressed their democraticrights which made them realize that participating in elections was an importantaspect of Ontarian political culture. Thus, the political culture alsogradually changed from matters of politicians’ self-interest in terms ofgovernment policies to transforming policies that were to be reflective of theneeds and demands of the citizens in the province.
On the other hand, there are other scholars who believethat Ontario’s political culture has not fundamentally changed at all. Thepolitical culture of Ontario has remained surprisingly stable despite theinstabilities and upheavals of the 1980s and 1990s and the economic challengesof the 21st century. By examining the most recent political history(2011 elections), it is evident that there are continuing themes that havemaintained despite the differences between the governing parties and premiers.
The durability of the Conservative party political culture for decades – theyformed the Government nineteen times or so – and the collapse later was alsoagain endured by the successors on the same framework. Wilson confers in hiswritings that the values have remained the same when he wrote about the “Bland works”. Ontario still maintainsits guiding three overall values and principles. They include loyalty,management and pragmatism or practicality. Loyalty is contained in the motto of Ontario, UT IncepitFidelis Sic Permanent (Loyal she began, Loyal she remains). From theorigins of fleeing from the American Revolution and the war of 1812, Ontariowas cemented as a loyal society which reflects in the political culture for alltimes. Ontario political culture has not also deviated from the focus oneffective management and pragmatism.
Political parties or leaders lacking thesefocuses have been voted out time and again.Ontario is not ahomogenous society. They are multi-cultural, mostly uninterested as evidencedfrom the lower voter turnouts in recent years, in-attentive in general asevidenced by the ignorance and voter turnout for Electoral reforms,conservative, focus more in federal politics but practical and cautious on theday of voting. A party with a stronger anti-state program and propaganda has runthe risk of defeat. Factors like scandals, basic social issues, inefficienciesin the socio/economic scenes have brought governments down. When the field hadonly inefficient leaders and scandalous parties and lack of focus, the resultwas a minority government.
However, in all these, the three key guiding valueshave not changed for the voters in Ontario. Apart from these guiding factors,the Canadian identity has gotten stronger.In conclusion, Ontarians are becoming moreindividualistic, competitive, more attuned to global forces, more ideological.Only governments that reflect and incorporates these will survive. The coreoperative norms are strong but the political culture is evolving.
The three key values still remain the focusof the Ontario of today. The citizens do not endorse the leadership who lackthese values. The successful Ontario governments were comfortably intimate bothwith business and traditional elites and increasingly with the organized labourand other socio-economic-cultural interests. The economic fortunes of Ontarioprovince enabled the mass public intimacy, especially from the post-war era.
These key values are still referred by all political parties in one form or theother in the current political scenario of Ontario showing that there has beennot much change in the political culture of Ontario. On a lighter yet strongernote it can be concluded that the Ontario political culture is akin to thepeople (Ontario voters) strongly preferring time and again until now to sail ina solidly built Canadian ship with 5 star facilities and loyalty programs (Canadian identity, party, loyalty, pragmatic) steered by Captain of Excellence(Excellent leader, management) in a calm, safe Ocean of Opportunities(conservative, fairness, opportunity for self and state’ssocio-economic-political welfare and progress).