I was cleaning up some of my files and I came across a hierarchy list that I created when I was involved in politics. I was thinking about how political parties range from the perennial governing party such as the Liberal Party of Canada to others who are a party in name only, but actually do not contest any elections. The listing ranges from the practical purpose of governing to the social purpose of providing an outlet for the politically and socially isolated.
- Government Parties – broad-based coalition parties that form government after every election. (Liberal Party, Conservative Party)
- Parliamentary Parties – movement or regionally based parties that usually win seats after every election. (New Democratic Party, Reform Party, Bloc Quebecois, Social Credit Party, National Progressive Party)
- Ideological Parties – fundamental ideological or issue parties that contest elections but rarely win seats. (Green Party, Christian Heritage Party, Communist Party, etc.)
- Concept Parties – small, idea parties that are somewhat organized but rarely contest elections. (Rainbow Coalition Party, Collective Group Party, Canadian Party for Renewal, etc.)
- Wilderness Parties – minor parties that are unable to contest elections but try to influence citizens to support their platform. Many of them are established only on the Internet. (Socialist Party, Education Party, Canadian National Party, etc.)
The listing represents a rough process of party evolution. Like true evolution, not everyone succeeds. A Concept Party has very little chance of doing much more than run a candidate or two and then blink out of existence. Even established, Governing Parties can be knocked out of their niche. The governing federal Progressive Conservative Party never recovered from its electoral crushing in 1993. Party die-hards left the reborn Conservative Party to form the Progressive Canadian Party which appears to be stuck in the Ideological Stage.