Lightbody, James. City Politics, Canada.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Drabek, Stan
Pub Date: 06/22/2007
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2007 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Summer, 2007 Source Volume: 16 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: City Politics, Canada (Book)
Persons: Reviewee: Lightbody, James
Accession Number: 179315110
Full Text: Lightbody, James.

City Politics, Canada.

Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2005.

576 pp.

ISBN: 1-55111-753-3

While books on general Canadian politics fill any number of shelves, recent texts on local governance are few and far between. City Politics, Canada is therefore a welcome addition. At 576 pages, it ranges across the spectrum of political science (in its widest sense) applied to the theory and workings of local government, and provides a list of abbreviations, a glossary of terms, a long list of references, the highlighting of important phrases and terms and, a summary of the subsection headings of each chapter. This is more than a text: it is an encyclopedia of local governance.

The central purpose of the book is to study public policy-making in large Canadian urban centres from a variety of perspectives. To do this Lightbody does not spare the details. He quotes American political scientists such as Robert Dahl, Clarence Stone, Edward Banfield and James Wilson as well as Canadians such as K. Grant Crawford, Andrew Sancton, Warren Magnusson, Jane Jacobs and Donald Higgins amongst others.

The book is divided into four parts:

Part 1: "An Introduction to Canadian Metropolitan Politics" discusses the expected demographic, historical and sociological data but also introduces the reader to the political background necessary to study metropolitan politics. It covers terms such as political culture, power, democracy, accountability as well as a discussion of policy-making systems of cities.

Part 2: "The Politics of City Governing" covers the "usual suspects" of elections, voters, party or non-party politics at the local level, election financing, lobbying at city hall, political leadership, social movements and their effect on city government, as well as an interesting section on the media and its coverage of local politics.

Part 3: "Intergovernmental Issues and Metropolitan Governing" deals with the political and financial aspects of the relationships of local governments with provincial governments. He also goes into the question of who does what--i.e, what should local government be responsible for in terms of providing services? Lightbody decides that the important questions of government consolidation and the whole aspect of organizing regional or metropolitan governments fit within the ambit of provincial-local relationships. There is a discussion of different models of governance from one large government (i.e. Megacity Toronto) to special purpose districts. He enlarges the discussion to include the latest attempts at reform, the reasons why they are pursued, the political actors involved and their resolution.

Part 4: "Canadian Metropolitan Centres in a World Context" enlarges on a theme which has become a relatively new area of analysis and discussion on local politics: what are the effects of globalization and the internationalization of policy issues for local governments? Lightbody notes the push on the part of cities for world-class standing: are Canadian metropolitan areas Alpha or Beta cities? Are we entering an era of "glocalism"?

Lightbody is extremely frank about these issues: as he weighs in on public choice theory, city-region amalgamations, the role of the city on the international stage and political parties at the local level, no reader is left in doubt about his opinions.

There is one "egregious" error that possibly only a colleague from Alberta could point out. Lightbody indicates that Liberal David Bronconnier defeated Bev Longstaff "former Progressive Conservative MLA" for the Calgary mayoralty in the 2001 election. Not so. Longstaff herself was a well-known Liberal and member of Calgary city council. Two known Liberals led that mayoralty election in Calgary--a city which has always been well-known for its tendency to vote heavily Conservative. To say the least, Liberals in Alberta are few and far between so any diminution in numbers can cause concern! To pick up on a theme from above, what does this say about party politics at the local level?

This is a thought-provoking and detailed book that is aimed at both students of local government, urbanologists and citizens with an interest in the workings and issues of large city governments. I would recommend it as a must reading for all of those mentioned above.

Stan Drabek

University of Calgary
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.