Beyond the Barbecue

Beyond the Barbecue

Beyond the Barbecue

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 will make a case for MPs who are independent and empowered, thoughtful and engaged in three environments: Parliament, the constituency, and the party. 

Read the report below or click here to open the PDF.

 

Key Findings


What MPs said

Methodology

In early 2017, Samara contacted former Members of Parliament who retired or lost their seat after the 41st Parliament (2011 to 2015). As with the first MP Exit Interviews project, we chose to speak to former, rather than current, MPs because we felt they would be less constrained by the demands of office and, having stepped away, would have had time to reflect on their years in public life.

We interviewed 54 former MPs, ensuring that they came from all the major national political parties and most regions of the country. The distribution of interviewed MPs broadly reflects the makeup of the outgoing cohort of MPs in 2015. The Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians (CAFP) was our partner in this project and provided the initial letter of introduction and invitation to the former MPs on our behalf.

For the complete methodology, see page 34 of the report.

For more information about the methodology, please email Research Director Mike Morden at [email protected].

 

MP Exit Interviews: Volume I


In 2009 and 2010, a group from Samara partnered with the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians to conduct Canada's first-ever series of exit interviews with 65 former Members of Parliament, including 21 cabinet ministers and one prime minister. These men and women, who together represented all political parties and all regions of the country, generously gave their time, allowing us to record the interviews and use the information to advance public understanding of Canadian politics and political culture. 

From these interviews emerged four reports that follow the arc of an MP's experience, from the decision to run, through their committee assignments, interactions with fellow MPs and their party, all the way to their reflections on their time in office and their advice and recommendations.

Report One: The Accidental Citizen? details the MPs' backgrounds and paths to politics
Report Two: Welcome to Parliament describes the MPs' initial orientation and the varied ways they defined their role
Report Three: "It's My Party" summarizes how MPs spent their time in Parliament and their relationship with their political parties
Report Four: The Outsiders' Manifesto reveals the MPs' advice to future Parliamentarians and offers recommendations for change

Click on the covers below to read each of the reports.

MP Exit Interviews Volume I
The Accidental Citizen?
Welcome to Parliament
"It's My Party"
The Outsiders' Manifesto