I reviewed Prof. Elizabeth Gidengil’s latest book, Take a Number: How Citizens’ Encounters with Government Shape Political Engagement (McGill-Queen’s University Press) in the Canadian Journal of Political ScienceYou can read the full review here (paywall).


The book reports on the first comprehensive study to investigate policy feedback effects in Canada and has a number of particularly notable findings. First, policy feedback effects operate quite differently in Canada than they do in the US (which has a much more developed feedback literature, one that Gidengil’s study reveals can’t simply be ported over to help us understand the Canadian case). Second, the study suggests that public service experiences have a strikingly significant impact on political participation, especially for women. Third, at least in the case of the Ontario services included in the study, the book suggests that many public services are failing citizens, either because they leave their users dissatisfied, or because those most in need of these services struggle to identify and access them.

I would put this book on the reading list of anyone interested in political behaviour and attitudes in Canada. I also think its findings on service quality deserve the attention of today’s policymakers, who for the most part continue to design and manage government using the dated playbook that produced the under-performing public services Gidengil brings to light.

Citation: Clarke, A. (2021). Take a Number: How Citizens’ Encounters with Government Shape Political Engagement. Elisabeth Gidengil, Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020, pp. 248. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 1-3. doi:10.1017/S0008423921000809