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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For years, there have been calls for more civility in the Canadian House of Commons. The 42nd Parliament has witnessed some important changes to reduce heckling and improve decorum, including interventions from the Speaker of the House and public commitments from the party leaders to foster a more respectful debate. 

In spring 2017, Samara Canada surveyed Members of Parliament (MPs) to explore the state of 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, because they recognize that it plays a role in holding each other to account. 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.

Key Findings:

  • A majority of MPs (53%) say heckling is a problem.
  • Just 16% of MPs see heckling as beneficial, but two thirds of respondents admit to heckling themselves.
  • Three quarters of MPs believe the public thinks badly of heckling.
  • While 72% of MPs say they heckle to correct a perceived untruth, only 15% agree that heckling increases accountability in the House.
  • 36% of MPs see heckling as a form of harassment.
  • Rookie MPs dislike heckling most strongly - 60% say it’s a problem, and half would abolish it.

*This report was published over a year ago. Some information may no longer be current.

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