In the spring of 2018, the Samara Centre for Democracy continued its annual tradition of surveying current Members of Parliament. Previous Samara Centre surveys focused on examining specific aspects of parliamentary life—like decorum during House of Commons debates—but this time, we collaborated with Members of the all-party Democracy Caucus to survey MPs about what can be done to strengthen Canada’s parliamentary democracy.
In the first section of the survey, MPs were asked to evaluate the performance of the House of Commons and its Members on several elements, including Parliament’s transparency to the public, the productivity and independence of committees, and the state of debates. They also had the chance to identify where they felt they had the most influence on policy and legislation, and where they faced the greatest obstacles to performing their job. The second section measured MPs’ support for a dozen parliamentary reform proposals that had been identified by Members in the Democracy Caucus to improve the functioning of Parliament.
The results provide a unique look at how MPs think the 42nd Parliament is functioning.
- Debate Debacle: MPs across political parties are dissatisfied with the state of debate in the House. This dissatisfaction likely affects their approach to other aspects of their work—such as collaboration between parties—as well as their opinion towards certain reforms.
- Secret Sauce: According to MPs, their most worthwhile work is done behind closed doors (such as during caucus meetings, while speaking with ministers, and in informal interactions with colleagues), or in settings that don’t typically draw large public audiences (such as committees).
- Mixed Messages: MPs share strong dissatisfaction with certain aspects of Parliament, but this doesn’t lead to a strong consensus on which parliamentary reforms to seek. Not one of the reforms tested in this survey had the support of a majority of MPs from each major party.
- Reforms (Re)Visited: Among the reform proposals that were tested, the greatest cross-partisan support existed for modifying how committee chairs were elected. This proposal had support from a promising number of MPs from all major parties, signalling that reforms which increase the prominence and influence of committees might find traction.