Radicalism, Protest Votes and Regionalism: Reform and the Rise of the New Conservative Party


  • Anthony Michael Sayers University of Calgary
  • David Denemark University of Western Australia




Political Parties, Electoral Systems, Populism


For descriptive and analytical reasons there is an understandable tendency to view political parties as homogenous. Yet it is widely known that most parties, particularly those that compete in single-member plurality systems, are effectively coalitions. This paper explores support for the Reform Party of Canada in part to better understand the character of the current governing Conservative party of which it was a founding component. We find a party that attracted two distinct kinds of supporters: radicals, for whom support reflected the appeal of Reform party policies, its leader and ideology, and protest voters for whom it was mainly an alternative to the then-governing Liberals. These supporters were geographically concentrated; the former in Western Canada, the latter in Eastern Canada. Such diversity describes one of the central challenges confronting all parties operating in Canada’s single member plurality system: sustaining a coalition of supporters in which reasons for attachment to the party vary by region. As with previous governments, it helps to explain the peculiar political demands that confront the current Conservative government as it seeks to maintain this coalition.

Author Biography

David Denemark, University of Western Australia

Professor, Political Science and International Relations




How to Cite

Sayers, A. M., & Denemark, D. (2014). Radicalism, Protest Votes and Regionalism: Reform and the Rise of the New Conservative Party. Canadian Political Science Review, 8(1), 3–26. https://doi.org/10.24124/c677/2014570