This article analyses data from the 2000 Study of Canadian Political Party Members to address the question of why individuals join political parties in Canada and to trace their paths to activism. Because Canadian parties are essentially brokerage parties characterised by ideological flexibility and limited substantive roles for their members, membership in a party is likely to be motivated less by ideological concerns than by membership in a social network mobilised in support of a particular individual. As a consequence, most accounts assume that individuals are mobilised into party membership by family, friends, and neighbors in order to support candidates for the leadership or local nomination. In contrast to this expectation, we find that for all five major Canadian political parties, it is the members' ideological or policy-related commitment to the party that is by far the most important motivation for joining. Although parties do, to varying degrees, rely on social networks for recruitment into party life, ideological concurrence between member and party acts as a constraint on recruitment. The data also indicate considerable differences between the two traditional brokerage parties and the newer, more ideologically oriented parties.

Political Research Quarterly

Young, L. (Lisa), & Cross, W. (2002). Incentives to membership in Canadian political parties. Political Research Quarterly (Vol. 55, pp. 547–569).