Two regionalisms, one mechanism: how identity shapes support for decentralisation

Abstract

Regions with a strong sense of identity, especially culturally distinct regions within a country, typically wish for more autonomy. But regions with strong economic grievances against the centre also tend to resist centralisation. While both types of regionalism suggest widely different mechanisms with respect to support for decentralisation, we argue that this is not the case. Indeed, both types of grievances may lead regions to foster a strong sense of regional identity. In turn, regions with a strong identity tend to wish for more decentralisation. Canada is one such case where different regional dynamics co-exist within the same country. To test this hypothesis, we use the 2015 Canadian Election Study to compare regional attitudes towards decentralisation. We observe that identity has a similar role in shaping support for decentralisation in citizens from both the Prairies and Quebec, even though the nature of their identity is based on different grounds.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It has recently been argued that the main political vehicle of Padanian nationalism, the Lega Nord, has moved away from regionalism under the leadership of Mateo Salvini (Albertazzi et al. 2018). While this might in fact be the case at the national level, different regional Lega parties, or branches of the party, still maintain a regionalist discourse.

  2. 2.

    The term “Western Alienation” tends to include British Columbia. We find this definition problematic as British Columbia is sharply divided into two very different political cultures. The notion of Western Alienation does not apply to the cosmopolitan region of Vancouver and the Island of Vancouver, where the majority of province’s population resides. In fact, the Prairies are often seen as a distinct region from British Columbia (Friesen 1984; Resnick 2000). We thus choose to exclude British Columbia from the “Western Provinces” and instead focus on the Prairies.

  3. 3.

    This model also often includes a sixth region: the North (Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut). However, seeing the regular lack of data for this region, as in the case of the present study, the North is often omitted from the regional division of Canada in the scholarship. Since the data for our analyses is not available for the three territories, it was impossible to include them.

  4. 4.

    It must be said that since around 1% of the sample lie at the extremes of the scale, the chart does not show these extreme values, as the confidence intervals would be unreadable. To be specific, the full scale runs from − 3 to 3, while Fig. 3 presents results from − 2 to 2. Even then, no BC, Ontario or Atlantic residents have a score of -2, meaning the figure relies solely on simulations and, as a result, confidence intervals remain large.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the participants of the Workshop on Attitudes to Decentralization in Multi-Level States at the 2019 ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops as well as the anonymous reviewers of this journal for their valuable suggestions.

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Medeiros, M., Gauvin, JP. Two regionalisms, one mechanism: how identity shapes support for decentralisation. Comp Eur Polit (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41295-020-00233-2

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Keywords

  • Decentralisation
  • Regionalism
  • Attitudes
  • Identity
  • Canada