Changing the workplace of Parliament Hill would change everything

September 19, 2023
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Changing the workplace of Parliament Hill would change everything
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In recent years, it’s been widely accepted that a healthy workplace culture is key to the productivity and mental and emotional wellness of workers. But does this also apply to federally-elected officials?

A recently published opinion piece in the Globe and Mail co-written by Sabreena Delhon, Executive Director of The Samara Centre for Democracy and Hannah Sung of Media Girlfriends, makes the case for why Canadians ought to care about the workplace conditions and culture of elected Members of Parliament. Pointing to extensive interviews which Delhon and Sung conducted with two dozen former MPs as part of the chart-topping podcast series Humans of the House, the two authors reveal that parliamentary life is far from glamorous, is often a grind, stressful and even filled with abuse. The authors go further in warning, unless there is substantive improvement to these conditions, the very foundation of democracy could be undermined. 

“A safer and more effective parliamentary workplace is a critical step for making Canadian democracy more responsive and representative.”

It’s not unusual for anyone tuning into a parliamentary session on CPAC (the cable public affairs channel) to see MPs exchanging verbal jabs, yelling, and even hurling insults across the aisle. Yet, this behaviour, according to Delhon and Sung, is harmful and despite being normalised has contributed to a toxic organisational culture that puts people at risk. Worse yet, the authors argue such cultural norms have a ripple effect that extends beyond the walls of the House of Commons and actually undermine a representative democracy.

While this is just one example of the problematic culture in federal politics, the authors also shed light on what is working and the advancements made to ensure work is a healthier place to be for our elected officials on the hill. This includes mandatory training introduced in 2021 for both MPs and staff on workplace conduct, the introduction of parental leave for MPs, and hybrid sittings to reduce travel time.

“If the House wants to attract and retain high-quality individuals with varied training and innovative problem-solving abilities, it needs to be a safer, more psychologically supportive workplace.”

Read the full piece in the Globe and Mail and tune into #HumansOfTheHouse podcast series (a collaboration between the Samara Centre for Democracy and Media Girlfriends) for more insight into the real lives of Members of Parliament as they speak candidly about being elected, serving their communities, leaving office, and everything in-between.

The Samara Centre for Democracy is a non-partisan registered charity dedicated to realising a resilient democracy with an engaged public and responsive institutions. Our research and programs make us a go-to resource for active citizens, educators, public leaders and the media. Consider donating to our work at the Samara Centre for Democracy. Click here to learn more.  

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