The Real House Lives

The Real House Lives

The Real House Lives

In our representative democracy, parties are essential. They bring diverse voices together to forge a cohesive vision and effect policy change. They support citizens to make sense of complicated issues during an election.

The Samara Centre interviewed 54 former MPs who served in the 41st Parliament from 2011 to 2015. These MPs reported that parties had unquestionably the greatest influence on their time in office, greater than the influence of Parliament or their constituencies. They also reported that their parties were a source of community and support but also enormous frustration.

While Parliament has always been and should remain a partisan space, there are institutional and cultural problems with party politics that have real consequences for the health of our democracy. Fixing them requires further deep examination of the party as a whole, from the grassroots to the leadership. 

This report is the third in a series of three that makes a case for MPs who are independent, empowered, thoughtful, and engaged in three environments: Parliament, the constituency, and the party. 

Read the report below or download the PDF.

Key Findings

Key Findings


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 46 of the report.

For more information about the methodology, please contact us.

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Real House Lives

Real House Lives front cover

New for 2020!

Bringing together our second volume of MP exit interview reports, Real House Lives uses the stories and experiences of former parliamentarians to understand what’s going wrong with our national politics, and to put forward a vision of democratic representation that is independent, thoughtful, engaged, and empowered. It follows MPs through their lives and work, exploring how this vision of political leadership can be realized through a stronger Parliament, better local democratic engagement, and healthier political parties.

The highly-anticipated sequel to Tragedy in the Commons, this book is for anyone who has ever imagined offering their career and life to public service. It’s a how-to guide, an inspirational account, and perhaps a warning.

Click here to learn more.


MP Exit Interviews: Volume II

With the exit cohort from the 41st Parliament accumulating over 400 years of collective parliamentary experience, we revisited the exit interview process in 2017 with new questions, new themes, and new results. Like last time, we travelled across the country and spoke with over 50 former MPs from across the political spectrum. This research is being captured in a series of three reports that make a case for MPs who are independent and empowered, thoughtful and engaged in three environments: Parliament, the constituency, and the party.

Report One: Flip the Script proposes ways to empower MPs to directly influence law and policy, and carefully scrutinize the Government on Parliament Hill
Report Two: Beyond the Barbecue offers a new vision for what the job of the MP should be in the constituency
Report Three: The Real House Lives focuses on political parties and how to strengthen the role of MPs in an age of extreme partisanship.

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

mp exit II strip
Flip the Script cover
btbbq cover block


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