David McGrane - Political Scientist


Dr. McGrane’s current research centers on the federal NDP, federalism, Canadian provincial politics, Canadian provincial public policy, and Canadian federal and provincial elections.

Canadian Social Democracy Study/Étude sur la social-démocratie au Canada

The electoral success of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) during the leadership of Jack Layton was stunning. In the 2011, the NDP scored a historic breakthrough as it formed Official Opposition for the first time and won a large majority of seats in Quebec where it had only ever won one seat in a federal election. The objective of this SSHRC-funded study is to explain the electoral success of the NDP under Layton’s leadership, with a particular focus on its unanticipated surge of popularity in Quebec. The project will also analyze the NDP under the leadership of Thomas Mulcair as it adjusts to its new role as the Official Opposition, grapples with the task of representing three-quarters of Quebec’s ridings, and prepares for the next federal election. The result of the project will be a book-length manuscript to be submitted to University of British Columbia Press and the creation of a network of academics studying the federal NDP. See www.canadiansocialdemocracy or www.socialdemocratieaucanada.ca for more information.

2011 Saskatchewan Provincial Election Study

Dr. McGrane teamed with researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy to do the first academic telephone survey following a Saskatchewan election.  The survey, conducted by Social Responsibility Research Laboratory at the U of S, polled over 1000 Saskatchewan residents after the recent provincial election. Several students were hired to be interviewers for the survey which gave them practical and ‘hands on’ experience conducting academic research.  The survey examined such issues as how engaged people were with the election, attitudes about democracy, what people thought of the leaders and the parties, whether Saskatchewan is still social democratic territory, and attitudes about aboriginal issues, organized labour, and internal trade. It attempted to go beyond the ‘horserace polls’ that are reported in the media at election time to examine the Saskatchewan public’s deeper feelings about important political issues and explore why people vote the way that they do. The results of the survey were reported through a series of newspaper stories in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and Regina Leader-Post and Dr. McGrane and his colleagues are preparing a number of journal articles using the data. See the Saskatchewan Election Study website for all of the results and research briefs associated with this survey.

Fall 2011 Provincial Election Studies

Dr. McGrane was a Co-investigator on a one-year research grant of $69,975 to study provincial elections. Until now election surveys have focused primarily on Canadian federal elections so political scientists know very little about what drives voter behaviour during provincial elections.  In acknowledgement of this gap in our knowledge of Canadian elections, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council awarded a grant to a group of eight political scientists to do a on-line survey of voters immediately following the provincial elections in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Newfoundland in the Fall of 2011. Dr. David McGrane is a co-investigator on this grant and constructed the survey along with colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan, Memorial University, University of Manitoba, and Wilfrid Laurier University.  The survey asked voters questions about policy issues, leaders, political parties, local candidates, media coverage, and their reasons for voting or not voting. Additional surveys have now been completed after provincial elections in Alberta, Quebec British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. See the Comparative Provincial Elections Project website for more details.

Quebec and Saskatchewan Social Democracy

In order to gain a better appreciation of the transformation of social democratic ideology, Dr. McGrane’s Ph.D. dissertation compared Saskatchewan CCF-NDP governments to Parti Québécois governments during the second half of the 20th century in five economic policy areas and five social policy areas.  His dissertation concluded that there had been a similar transformation from ‘traditional’ to ‘Third Way’ social democracy in these two cases and that this shift was attributable to such factors as the advent of free trade and globalization, rising debts and deficits, alterations within the dynamics of Canadian federalism, and the agency of certain political actors. However, the dissertation also contends that the political cultures of these two provinces created a number of substantive continuities between traditional and Third Way social democracy. The possibility of there being continuities in the shift from traditional social democracy to the Third Way has not been appreciated in current European debates over the Third Way that set up a very strict dichotomy between the traditional social democracy of the postwar era and the Third Way of the 1990s and 2000s. It is this thesis of ‘continuity amidst change’ that is the central argument of the book manuscript that he has submitted to McGill-Queen’s University Press based on this research. 

Childcare Policies of Atlantic Canadian Provincial Governments

All Canadian provincial governments have been revisiting their childcare policies because they see childcare as: an investment in the future of their society; a tool to maintain economic growth; a way to reduce the cost of living for Canadian families; and, a means to facilitate women’s entry into the workforce thereby increasing gender equality. Unfortunately, only minimal research has been done to analyze the childcare policy and programs of Canadian provincial governments. Dr. McGrane’s project paints a portrait of the childcare systems in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Once we understand the diversity of childcare programs among these four provinces and why that variation exists, we can better evaluate the prospects for the reform of provincial childcare systems. The research coming out of this project will aid politicians, bureaucrats, businesspeople, childcare advocates, and parents in their ongoing attempts to improve Canada’s childcare system and ensure its success in the twenty-first century.

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