Several recent reports seek to evaluate the impact of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Canadian democracy by documenting his government's efforts to curtail established democratic processes and mechanisms for public debate. However, this article uses examples of the Harper government's changes to legislative and parliamentary norms to demonstrate that this government's efforts to curtail multi-directional public debate were importantly accompanied by efforts to amplify unidirectional communication of the government's partisan messages. The paper finds that this corresponding emphasis on communication exemplified a “photo-op” approach to democracy, which highlights points of compatibility between the seemingly contradictory authoritarian-populist “publicity state” and neoliberal democratic ideals. This research demonstrates the necessity of attention to government communication in analysis of the Harper government's impact on the Canadian public sphere. It also illustrates the pragmatic rather than doctrinaire nature of New Right politics in Canada and the affinity between neoliberal and authoritarian-populist approaches to governance.

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Journal Canadian Journal of Political Science
Brabazon, H. (Honor), & Kozolanka, K. (2018). Neoliberalism, Authoritarian-Populism, and the “Photo-Op Democracy” of the Publicity State: Changes to Legislative and Parliamentary Norms by the Harper Government. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 1–25. doi:10.1017/S0008423917001020