The accepted view of contemporary federal-provincial party relations in Canada is one of independence, distance, and separation. Rather than creating vertical linkages that bridge the federal and provincial jurisdictions, parties are said to have created “two political worlds”, each separate and distinct from the other. The primary purpose of this study is to challenge, or at the very least question, this conventional wisdom about Canadian politics: do parties truly inhabit two political worlds? This is particularly relevant given that there has been very little research on the subject of party integration in the last two decades. Emphasizing the informal, the human, and the local aspects of vertical party integration, this study demonstrates the considerable linkages that exist between federal and provincial parties in Ontario. The analysis presented here reveals a number of important multi-level connections including overlapping personnel, the provision of campaign endorsements, shared campaign teams, the sharing of party resources, and joint social activities and policy discussions in the inter-election period.
There is, however, considerable inter-party variation. Therefore, the second purpose of this study is to explain differences among parties. Not all parties respond to multi-level governance in the same way, and it is important to uncover the factors that lead to greater levels of cooperation and collaboration. In doing so, the study evaluates two possible explanations (one based on shared and consistent ideology and another based on formal organizational interconnectedness). While the organizational view tends to dominate the literature, this study demonstrates that organizationally truncated parties (those that operate only at a single level) can establish strong and meaningful multi-level linkages in the absence of any formal organizational connections if they have a coherent ideology that spans the federal and provincial realms. This coherent ideology helps to build informal norms of cooperation and collaboration and encourages individuals to participate for the same party at both levels.