Beyond the Barbecue: Reimagining Constituency Work for Local Democratic Engagement

July 25, 2018
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Beyond the Barbecue: Reimagining Constituency Work for Local Democratic Engagement
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Members of Parliament are meant to be the representatives of constituents in Ottawa. They exist to connect citizens to national democratic institutions, and to allow Canadians’ voices to be heard in federal decisions. But the role that MPs play in the constituency has transformed over time, becoming more focused on service delivery and events, than consultation and legislation. Even as MPs spend more time in the riding, Canadians see national institutions as increasingly remote. It’s time to dramatically reassess how MPs spend their time in their constituencies.

Constituency work wasn’t always part of the job. Today’s MPs spend less time in Ottawa and more time in their local communities than previous generations of MPs. They are more visible and more accessible than ever before—and yet public trust and satisfaction with politicians is much lower than it was in the past when MPs left the community for months at a time to live in Ottawa. And still MPs are not functioning as a crucial link between constituents and Ottawa.

Instead, this means that constituency offices should be reimagined as civic hubs and outposts of Parliament, rather than service centres. This vision is achievable, but it requires institutional change and political buy-in. This report proposes taking two major steps in this direction: First, to reduce the casework burden on MPs and their staff. And second, to allow MPs and their staff to focus on public engagement and consultation.

This report is the second in a series of three that makes a case for MPs who are independent, empowered, thoughtful, and engaged in three environments: Parliament, the constituency, and the party.

*This PDF was created in 2018, and may contain inactive links and/or outdated references.

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