Book Review: Shopping for Votes By Susan Delacourt

From The Catalyst Summer 2014

Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them
By Susan Delacourt
Douglas and McIntyre, 2013

Reviewed Katherine Scott

Susan Delacourt has written an illuminating and evocative book about the drift of consumer culture into Canadian politics – where voters no longer think of themselves as citizens but as taxpayers who shop among politicians for those who target their individual needs at the lowest cost.

Shopping for Votes tells the story of the “creep of shopping language into the political marketplace” as political parties have sought, over the past half-century, to better understand and appeal to voters.

Political parties, no longer content to simply advertise themselves and their platform to the general voter, now actively work to identify what voters want and create products that appeal to their individual interests. According to Delacourt, the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper has most fully embraced political marketing, creating an electoral machine so precise in its micro-targeting that it knows exactly which voters are needed to secure victory, riding by riding.

The roll out of “boutique tax breaks,” such as the Children’s Art Tax Credit and the Firefighter Tax Credit, are part and parcel of Canada’s new political world. The days of “big tent” parties are long gone.

Susan Delacourt has revealed the corrosive influence of market culture on the pursuit of the collective good. At the same time, she concludes, it’s too easy to blame the political classes. Rather, we all must take some responsibility for our transformation into consumers of Canadian democracy and begin to demand clearer lines “between our civic life and shopping pursuits.”

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