Nov. 4, 2020

UCalgary Political Science Interviews: Dr. Anthony Sayers!

On getting interested in electoral systems, a book on Alberta elections, the Canadian Elections Database, encouraging young minds, and from tennis to academia!
Canadian Elections Database
Canadian Elections Database

Dr. Anthony Sayers is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary


Your work is broadly on political parties and electoral systems. How did you become interested in this area?

Growing up in Western Australia, the electoral system was heavily biased in favour of one party. I became interested in how we peacefully replace the elites that govern liberal democracies and then link their self-interest to the concerns of ordinary people. I discovered that representation, the solution to the problem, involves several logical impossibilities or limitations each of which must be negotiated by political institutions such as elections, parties, parliaments, and federalism.

Can you tell us about the research projects you have been working on? And, what is next?

My colleague Dr. David Stewart and I are completing a book looking at how the PC party managed to sustain big tent politics in Alberta for forty years and what ended its success. The work is based on surveys of the last four Alberta provincial elections.

I am the principal investigator working with eight colleagues on a project looking at representation in Canada. It makes use of the Canadian Elections Database of which I am the Director. The project can be thought of in this way: How is it that Canada has both the highest turnover of federal politicians (about half lose their seat at any election) yet the lowest turnover in governing party (the Liberals have dominated parliament for 80 the last 110 years) among established democracies?

I have recently published and forthcoming work dealing with the nationalization of the Canadian party system, its interaction with executive federalism, and a comparison of party systems in Canada and Australia. In the works are other projects on party finance and the distribution of infrastructure in federal states.

Dr. Anthony Sayers

Apart from your teaching and research, you are also the Undergraduate Honours Program coordinator in the Department of Political Science. Can you tell us a bit more about the Honours program and any plans you have?

The Honours program is an opportunity to engage with some of the most able students at the University of Calgary. Encouraging such capable minds to deeply engage in political science research is both invigorating and challenging. The program aims to strengthen their intellectual curiosity and provide them access to the ever-widening set of research tools with which to interrogate the political world in which we live.

Finally, people might not know, but you were an elite tennis player in your youth. Tell us about that!

‘Elite’ is not a word I have ever used to describe myself. However, I was highly ranked until the end of junior competition (19 years old) in Australia. I helped pay for my university education by coaching and playing tennis. If you have an interest in tennis, someone very close to me, Liz Smylie, is a much more accomplished tennis player than me. Next time round I hope to be as good as Roger Federer!


Our thanks to Dr. Anthony Sayers for sharing with us!
Follow Dr. Anthony Sayers on Twitter at @AnthonyMSayers
To learn more, visit Dr. Anthony Sayers’ profile