No One Is Listening: Incivility in the 42nd Parliament, and how to fix it

Michael Morden
October 25, 2017
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No One Is Listening: Incivility in the 42nd Parliament, and how to fix it
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Some Hon. Members: "Oh, oh!"

That's the gentle, colourless way that Hansard, Parliament's official written record, has often recorded heckling in the House of Commons for the last 150 years. But "Oh, oh" is an understatement.

In spring 2017, Samara Canada surveyed Members of the 42nd Parliament to explore the state of heckling and decorum from the perspective of those in the House. The survey reveals that incivility remains a problem. It also suggests that MPs have mixed feelings about heckling. They don’t like the state of debate in Parliament, but they don't want to get rid of heckling entirely either. This is still the case even though they know citizens don't like it.

This paradox suggests that heckling is deeply embedded in the culture of Parliament. And if MPs have continued heckling despite mounting pressure to stop, there may also be limits to how much the Speaker or party leaders can do to rein in this behaviour.

If parliamentarians are serious about achieving a more civil debate, they will need to experiment with new tools and approaches to drive culture change and foster a healthier and more respectful environment for themselves and for future MPs.

Read the full report here.

Key Findings



This is the third time Canadian MPs have been surveyed on their experiences of heckling. The survey included a variety of close-ended questions and allowed for some open-ended written responses. MPs had the option to answer the survey online or on hardcopy. Samara sent the surveys in the MPs’ preferred language to MP assistants’ email accounts and to the main MP accounts, with a link to PDF versions and Survey Monkey links. In-person follow-ups were conducted at 217 of the 338 MPs’ offices. All MPs were promised anonymity for their responses. Since 84 out of 338 MPs responded, this report should be considered illuminative, rather than definitive.

For the complete methodology, see page 24 of the report.

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