In 1985, the McGrath Committee proposed reforms to the House that were considered to be the
most significant reforms to the House in Canada’s one–hundred plus year history. There were
three key reforms that altered the House rules and legislative procedures, which ultimately
affected how Members of Parliament conducted their business and what type of issues were
brought to the floor of the House. Given these broad reforms, it is compelling to investigate how
the McGrath Committee has influenced academics and their study of Canadian legislative
behaviour. Specifically, this study examines how literature relevant to the three key issues in the
McGrath Committee’s report have evolved over time. In addition, this study seeks to understand
how party institutions, as forces impacting parliamentary behaviour, are treated in the same
literature. This study reveals key insights into the discourse surrounding the literature since the
paper’s introduction in 1985 until the time of publishing. This study finds that there is, indeed, an
evolution in the examined body of literature, and this evolution concerns both the quantity of
literature and its substance.
Keywords: Canadian House of Commons reform, McGrath Committee, Canadian confidence
convention, legislative committees, parties, dissent
Table of Contents
Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 4
Chapter 1: Literature Salient to the McGrath Reform Categories during the Mulroney
Era, 1985 to 1992 ........................................................................................................................13
The Confidence Convention ............................................................................................. 14
Dissent in the House and Party Discipline ...................................................................... 17
Committees in the House ................................................................................................. 20
Discussion ........................................................................................................................ 24
Chapter 2: Literature Salient to the McGrath Reform Categories during the Jean Chrétien
and Paul Martin Liberal Governments, 1993 to 2005 ............................................................ 26
The Confidence Convention ............................................................................................. 27
Dissent in the House and Party Discipline ..................................................................... 30
Committees in the House ................................................................................................. 38
Discussion ........................................................................................................................ 44
Chapter 3: Literature Salient to the McGrath Reform Categories during the Stephen
Harper Era, 2006 to 2016 .......................................................................................................... 47
The Confidence Convention ............................................................................................. 48
Dissent in the House and Party Discipline ...................................................................... 54
Committees in the House ................................................................................................. 65
Discussion ........................................................................................................................ 69
Conclusion .................................................................................................................................. 72
Canadian federal legislative reform has captured the attention of academics in the
political science sphere throughout Canada’s one–hundred plus year history. Several legislative
reforms have punctuated the history of the Canadian legislature, and reforms occurred largely
because of changes to Canadian federalism and the increase of government responsibilities.
Subsequently, the role of the legislator in the House of Commons has transformed from one that
created policy initiatives to one that refined policies.1 The most substantive reforms made to the
House of Commons was proposed by the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of
Commons, informally known as the McGrath Committee.2 The McGrath Committee reforms
touched on all areas of the House where private members have the opportunity to help shape
policy. Given these sweeping reforms, academics have found the recommendations from the
McGrath Committee particularly important for the study of and changes to the role of the private
From December 1984 to June 1985, three reports were proposed in the Canadian federal
Parliament by the McGrath Committee.3 The McGrath reforms altered the House rules and
legislative procedures, which ultimately affected how Members of Parliament (MPs) conducted
their business and what type of issues were brought to the floor. The reforms proposed in the
reports primarily were concerned with restoring a meaningful legislative function for private
1 Canadian Parliament, “Report of the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons” (paper
presented to the House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, June 1985).
3 Jack Stillborn, “Parliamentary Reform and the House of Commons.” Parliamentary Information and
Research Service (2007): 6–7. http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/prb0743-e.pdf. It is
important to note that the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons was founded in 1982 with
Lefebvre as the chair of the committee and should be called the Lefebvre/McGrath Committee. However, for the
purpose of the core question,the committee will herein be referred to as the McGrath Committee because it is the
latest committee and the primary literature is the third report of the McGrath Committee.
members.4 The McGrath Committee focused on the environment of the legislature because the
private members’ role in policy making had been “seriously reduced,” according to the
committee.5 The third report suggested three main reform categories: reforming the use of, and
changing attitudes towards, the confidence convention; changing attitudes towards dissent and
party discipline; and reforming legislative committees.6 The recommendations of the McGrath
reports were considered largely successful because they were enacted in the House and
influenced scholars’ work on Canadian legislative behaviour.7 It is interesting to see how
literature on Canadian legislative behaviour has evolved since the McGrath Committee; the
McGrath Committee’s three main reforms help organize this Masters Research Paper.
Given these broad reforms, it is compelling to investigate how the McGrath Committee
has influenced scholars and the study of Canadian legislative behaviour. There are two questions
and two sets of analyses in this study. The first question this study examines is: since 1985, how
has the literature on the relationship between parliamentary behaviour and the three McGrath
reforms evolved over time? The second question to be addressed is: in the same body of
literature, are political party institutions, as a force impacting parliamentary behaviour, given the
same amount of consideration as parliamentary reforms? It is important to further deconstruct
these questions and the study. For the purpose of this paper, institutions can be defined as a
congeal set of rules formed from repetitious behaviour and tradition. The study examines the
4 Canadian Parliament, “Report of the Special Committee,” xi.
6 Bill Blaikie and Gary Levy, “Reform of the Commons Thirty Years After McGrath” (paper presented at
the annual conference for the Canadian Political Science Association,Ottawa, Ontario, June 2, 2015).
https://www.assocsrv.ca/cpsa-acsp/2015event/Blaikie-Levy.pdf. The McGrath Committee was also concerned with
the election of the speaker by secret ballot. However, the selection of the speaker is not salient to the core question
although there is research on the relationship between speaker selection and dissent. See Zachary Spicer and John L.
Nater, “Legislative Dissent without Reprisal? An Alternative View of Speaker Selection,” The Journal of
Legislative Studies 19(4) 2013: 505–525.
7 Blaikie and Levy, “Reform of the Commons,” 2.
Canadian federal Parliament from 1985 to early 2016. I chose the year 1985 as the starting point
because this was the year when the McGrath Committee tabled its reports, and the committee
argued that its recommended reforms were the most ambitious attempt to pursue major reform in
the one–hundred plus year history of the Canadian House of Commons.8 This study analyzes
works up to the latest publications on the topic in 2016. The first question focuses on the
evolution of the literature: has there been an evolution in the literature over time and, if so, how
the literature has evolved? When analyzing the evolution of the literature, this study pays
attention to changes in the legislative powers of the backbench MP and democratic
representation over time. The analysis of the second question employs the same literature that is
examined for the first question to investigate how Canadian federal political parties are treated.
To answer the core questions, it is important to note two key elements of this study as
well as contextualize the three reform categories of the McGrath Committee. First, since 1985
there have been subsequent reforms to the House that have impacted the three proposed reforms
of the McGrath Committee. These reforms are examined in the literature and are discussed when
necessary. Second, the two questions and analyses examine a set of literature predicated on an
institutional approach to studying parliamentary behaviour and acknowledge that parliamentary
behaviour can also be shaped by both preference–driven and sociological variables.9 These two
questions, and the three key McGrath reforms, are the focus of this study.
It is important to contextualize the McGrath Committee’s three reforms in order to
answer the core questions. The first category concerns the confidence convention. The McGrath
8 Canadian Parliament, “Report of the Special Committee,” xi.
9 Christopher Kam, Party Discipline and Parliamentary Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2009), 11; Daniel Diermeier, “Formal Models of Legislatures,” in The Oxford Handbook of Legislative
Studies,ed. by Shane Martin, Thomas Saalfeld, and Kaare W. Strøm (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 28–
50; Heirich Best and Lars Vogel, “Sociology of Legislators and Legislatures,” in The Oxford Handbook of
Legislative Studies,edited by Shane Martin, Thomas Saalfeld, and Kaare W. Strøm (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2014), 51–68.
Committee proposes two main areas of reform with regard to the confidence convention: the
frequency of its use; and the type of issues that can be deemed a vote of confidence.10 An
increase in the use of free votes would allow individual MPs to freely express their opinions
more often.11 In addition, the third report specifies that an attitudinal change is necessary to
liberate private members from parliamentary and party institutions.12 The frequency of use of the
free vote historically has been low, yet a change in the attitudes towards its use by both
governing parties and opposition parties would allow its use to become more frequent. This calls
for a relaxation on the type of issues confidence votes are attached to and a reduction in party
discipline. Furthermore, in order to advocate for the relaxation of party discipline, the McGrath
Committee argues for the positive effects of dissent.13
The second reform category – changing the attitudes towards dissent – can have positive
effects on the ability of an individual MP to represent her or his constituents, as argued in the
McGrath’s third report.14 The McGrath Committee states that dissent can have a “significant
influence on policy” because governments will “modify or withdraw certain measures.”15 There
are two aspects of attitudinal change towards dissention: the amount of dissent; and cross–party
pressures and cooperation.16 The McGrath report recommends that the private member should
not be afraid of party discipline or the costs of dissent for two reasons. First, the government
cannot ignore “a sizable body” of dissenters.17 The idea is that if there is a greater amount of
dissenting MPs, the punishments for dissent will not be as harsh as if there is a small amount of
10 Canadian Parliament, “Report of the Special Committee,” 10.
12 Ibid, 9.
13 Ibid, 10.
dissenting MPs. The second is that private members “could exert their own pressures” in their
party and across parties.18 A change of attitude is necessary for private members to influence
The third reform category, which captures recommendations aimed at the committee
system, aims to create an environment in which private members can become influential over
shaping policy.19 This set of reforms entail three main areas of recommendations regarding
legislative committees: their role; their structure; and the financing of standing committees.
These reforms include less flexible substitutions of members, smaller numbers of committee
members, and an obligation for governments to respond to committee reports.20 These
recommendations are likely to increase the role of the private member by creating a more equal
ground to influence policy.21
Each chapter focuses on a specific time period. The organization of this study is based on
these three reform categories, and the analysis of the literature is based on the main areas of
reform within each reform category. Chapter 1 analyzes the evolution of the literature from 1985
to 1992. This chapter examines six sources of literature. Chapter 2 analyzes the evolution of the
literature from 1993 to 2005, examining ten sources in the literature, and Chapter 3 analyzes the
evolution of the literature from 2006 to 2016, examining 14 sources of literature. These dates
coincide with a clear division in governing parties over time since 1984.22 From 1984 to the end
of 1992 was the era of Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives; 1993 to 2005 features the
Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin Liberal governments, and 2006 to 2015 concerns the Stephen
19 Ibid, 27.
20 Ibid, 61–64.
21 Ibid, 27.
22 Steve Patten, “The Evolution of the Canadian Party System,” in Canadian Parties in Transition,3rd
edition,ed. by Alain Gagnon and A. Brian Tanguay (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), 55-82.
Harper Conservative government.23 Organizing the analysis below in this manner allows for a
comparison across these three shifts in party government, and this comparison will be set in the
discussion after the three chapters. All three chapters pay attention to whether the literature
focuses on parliamentary reform and how party institutions influence private members. For each
chapter, the study proceeds chronologically to demonstrate the evolution of the literature.
In order to answer both core questions, two paragraphs are dedicated for each author
throughout the three chapters. The first paragraph features a description of the author’s main
arguments and supporting evidence, as well as a justification of why each author’s study is
categorized in the section of the chapter. My justifications for the categorization of each author is
based on the author’s main argument. 24 Some authors write about more than one reform
category in their work, and therefore authors could be examined in more than one section. To be
clear, this means that these authors are categorized by the topic of their study, article, or book; if
the topic of their study addresses one of the three reform categories, then the author is classified
within that category. This is important for examining the evolution of the literature because at the
end of each chapter, I count how many authors study each reform category. By counting how
many authors study or examine each reform category, a comparison can be made across time,
and trends over time can be analyzed.
In the second paragraph for each author, the authors and their studies are categorized into
three camps: one emphasizing parliamentary barriers to individual MP autonomy; one
emphasizing that party institutions are barriers to individual MP autonomy; and one emphasizing
23 Ibid, 70; Lawrence LeDuc, “The End of the Harper Dynasty,” in Canadian Election Analysis,2015,
ed. by Alex Marland and Theirry Giasson (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015), 8-9.
24 Some authors are more descriptive than argumentative, and in these cases,I examine how the author
describes the reform category. If the description emphasizes one reform category over another,they are deemed to
be a part of that camp.
both parliamentary and party barriers equally. The scholars are organized into these three camps
because the McGrath report features reforms that target both parliamentary procedures and
party’s institutions. Both parliamentary rules and attitudes within parties are argued to be barriers
to individual MP autonomy in the McGrath reports. To categorize authors into these three camps,
I assume that the author’s main arguments are the focus of their study, article, or book. Some
authors definitively state their main argument or findings, and some authors are not as explicit.
This is important because I make assumptions on their categorization. By categorizing the
authors into these three camps, the temporal analysis can indicate shifts and changes in the
literature surrounding the core questions. As well, this study reveals the gaps in the literature
across all three reform categories. Gaps in the literature are due to the small number of authors
who contribute to the study of the relationship between parliamentary reform and MPs’
individual autonomy. Throughout the analyses, I portray how gaps in the literature may be
explained by the authors’ focus on parliamentary reforms and party institutions.
An exhaustive search method was used to extract the literature salient to the core
questions and to operationalize my study. From studying the primary literature, the McGrath
Committee’s third report, there were five main keywords and phrases used to locate further
research. These keywords and phrases include: Canadian House of Commons reform; McGrath
Committee; Canadian confidence convention; legislative committees; parties; and dissent. I
began my research in May of 2016 by doing a preliminary search through the UWO Library
catalogue, using these keywords and phrases, and found 17 peer reviewed books. I narrowed
these down by examining only those published between January of 1985 and April of 2016.
From these books, I searched their bibliographies to refine my research; I also found journal
articles and other academic studies, along with newspaper articles and government documents. I
then refocused my search from books to peer reviewed journal articles. I accessed Google
Scholar and the Web of Science. A search on the Web of Science yielded 21 results; I narrowed
my search by using the keywords as the topics and refining the search to include only English
language, peer–reviewed articles from 1985 to 2016 under “government law” and “public
administration” categories. The Web of Science does not compile a database for books, yet
Google Scholar and the UWO Library amply accomplish the search for books. This research
method extracted an exhaustive list of the scholarly literature salient to my study.
As well, this study also examines some non–scholarly literature, such as newspaper
articles, blogs from both sitting and ex–MPs, government documents and research, and research
organizations like Samara Canada. I accessed the websites of three major newspaper databases:
the Globe and Mail; the Toronto Star; and the Montreal Gazette. There were not many sources in
this search. A second resource was to access research from Samara Canada. Samara Canada has
a series on redesigning Parliament and conducted exit interviews with MPs, compiling these
interviews in 2009 and 2010. I also found sources and research in the Library of Parliament
website, specifically the Parliamentary Research and Information Service. Using non–scholarly
sources allows for a broad and holistic view of the literature on parliamentary reform. There are
30 studies from scholars discussed in my study, and I am confident that these 30 studies are a
good representation of the literature on Canadian legislative behaviour.
Given how many problems within parliament intersect, naturally there is a large set of
literature that indirectly engages with the McGrath reforms. I recognize that there is a large body
of literature, and my research strategy picks out the most relevant literature. I also recognize that
many scholars rewrite on the topic of parliamentary behaviour and topics that indirectly engage
with the McGrath reforms; however, the purpose of this study is not to compare the same
scholars over time but to compare a body of literature over time. I am confident that the literature
I employ is a full representation of scholars’ views on parliamentary behaviour and the McGrath
reforms. Now that the outline of the study is set and the research methodology is summarized,
the discussion turns to the first proposed reform in the McGrath Committee report: reforming the
use of the confidence convention.
Chapter 1: Literature Salient to the McGrath Reform Categories during the Brian
Mulroney Era, 1985 to 1992
This chapter analyzes literature from 1985 to 1992, and the body of work is divided into
three main reform categories. The first section examines literature germane to the confidence
convention, the second examines dissent, and the third examines committees. Each section
proceeds chronologically from 1985. As mentioned in the Introduction, there are two paragraphs
for each author or source. The first justifies the categorization of authors into one of the three
reform categories; some authors or sources examine a mixture of the reform categories or all
three. The second categorizes each author into one of three camps: one emphasizing
parliamentary barriers; one emphasizing party institutions as barriers; and one emphasizing both
sorts of barriers. This chapter examines four scholarly studies and two seminars and necessarily
is shorter than Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 owing to a shorter time period.
It is important to discuss the context of each era before presenting the corresponding
literature because the issues and leadership styles of differing governments may influence
legislative behaviour which in turn could impact the findings of this study. A couple of months
prior to the publication of the first McGrath reports, Mulroney won the 1984 election with
majority of seats in the House, and in 1988, Mulroney won another decisive electoral victory,
again with a majority.25 During the Mulroney era, there were three primary issues that concerned
the mainstream media and Mulroney’s government: the changes to the Canadian Constitution
and federalism; Quebec nationalism; and the free trade agreement.26 The Meech Lake Accord
and the NAFTA agreements are generally seen as Mulroney government’s major political
25 George Feaver, “Inventing Canada in the Mulroney Years,” Government and Opposition,28(4), 1993,
26 Ibid, 473.
initiatives.27 Mulroney’s leadership style is described as a type of “brokerage politics” because
Mulroney is accommodating to all interests.28 Mulroney’s majority government, the issues his
government dealt with, and his leadership style influence the evolution of the literature. The
confidence convention is the first point of discussion.
The Confidence Convention
The McGrath Committee stated that the confidence convention is the foundation of
“responsible government,” which “requires that cabinet be responsible for its actions to an
elected legislature.”29 The confidence convention is important to the McGrath Committee
because if the confidence of the House is lost, “it spells the end for the ministry unless the
government is granted a dissolution and is sustained by the electorate.”30 As argued in the
McGrath report, the confidence convention affects private members’ autonomy in the House by a
party’s willingness to allow private members to deviate from party policy positions. The
McGrath Committee recommended an increase in the amount of free votes used in the legislature
and a change of attitudes on the use of the confidence convention as a means to maintain party
discipline.31 The following literature examines the McGrath Committee’s understanding of the
confidence convention and its implications on Canadian legislative behaviour.
In 1987, C.E.S. Franks wrote a descriptive book called The Parliament of Canada and
contended that the underlying concern for “a lack of influence of the private member” had
28 Donald Savioe, Thatcher, Reagan,and Mulroney:In Search of a New Bureaucracy, (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 1994), 10.
29 Canadian Parliament, “Report of the Special Committee,” 5.
30 Ibid, 6.
31 Ibid, 62.
continued “despite the passage of time and the many changes” and reforms to the House.32 The
McGrath Committee’s report states that “private members must again become instruments
through which citizens can contribute to shaping laws,” as Franks notes.33 Franks explains that
the McGrath Committee “felt that too many issues were now considered questions of
confidence.”34 Franks criticizes the McGrath Committee’s proposal to increase free votes
because, and as he argues, the McGrath Committee “ignores the fundamental” problem that a
“change from tight discipline to free votes would mean a substantial shift in power from parties
to individual MPs.”35 This is a problem, according to Franks, because governments could use
free votes to their advantage on issues that the government is indifferent to the outcomes,
therefore taking no responsibility for outcomes.36 Because of the nature of his arguments, Franks
is categorized as reviewing the confidence convention influencing individual MPs.
According to Franks, parties influence the autonomy of individual MPs more often than
parliamentary institutions. Franks argues that the “dominance of parties over […] all aspects of
parliamentary life” is an “overwhelming obstacle for real reform.”37 The McGrath reforms
salient to the confidence convention are hindered by parties’ ability to enforce discipline, and
because Franks is critical of the dominance of the political party, he maintains that it is
“impossible to make the changes” outlined in the McGrath reports.38 For this reason, he predicts
the future of parliamentary reform will be concerned with the “lack of influence of the private
member.”39 Therefore, Franks is categorized as belonging to the Party Camp, where parties are
32 C. E. S. Franks, “Chapter 6: Procedures,” in The Parliament of Canada, ed. by C.E.S. Franks (Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1987), 4.
34 Ibid, 139.
36 Ibid, 140.
38 Ibid, 141.
39 Ibid, 4.
viewed as the driving force of legislative behaviour, and Franks’ arguments influenced further
scholarship by Jonathan Lemco.
In 1988, Lemco wrote an article titled “The Fusion of Power, Party Discipline, and the
Canadian Parliament: A Critical Assessment” that was concerned with the relative power of
backbench MPs to shape policies.40 Lemco described how the McGrath reports proposed reforms
surrounding the confidence convention, and argued that the lack of free votes in the legislature
create a high levels of party discipline.41 This article presents a theoretical argument that
suggests that an increase in free votes would produce a relaxation of party discipline. Lemco
explains that the frequency of the use of free votes are limited; the free vote had only been
implemented on six occasions up to 1973, and party discipline has remained stringent because of
the infrequent use of free votes in the legislature.42 Therefore, Lemco can be categorized as
reviewing both the confidence convention and party discipline.
Although Lemco argued that the confidence convention theoretically has the potential to
shift the tradition of strong party discipline in Canadian federal parties, the main argument in his
article is that there is a difference in each party’s attitudes towards the McGrath Committee’s
proposals on free votes.43 Since the McGrath Committee’s third report was published, Lemco
stated that governments have advocated for an increase in the use of free votes in the House.44
The examples Lemco presented include Joe Clarke’s promise that his “leadership would allow
free votes on all but the most major policy points.”45 This example is related to Prime Minister
40 Jonathan Lemco, “The Fusion of Power, Party Discipline, and the Canadian Parliament: A Critical
Assessment,” Presidential StudiesQuarterly 18(2) 1988: 282.
41 Ibid, 284.
42 Ibid, 295; Eugene Forsey, “Government Defeats in the House of Commons,” in Freedom and Order:
Collected Essays, ed. by Eugene Forsey (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1974) 123-128.
43 Lemco, “The Fusion of Power,” 282.
44 Ibid, 282.
45 Ibid, 295.
Mulroney’s announcement that “he would consider a one–year experiment based on the McGrath
recommendations.”46 Lemco compared the Liberals and the NDP to the Conservatives. The
Liberals, he stated, held the position that the McGrath suggestions are “an attempt to increase the
governing party’s control of the House, and the NDP stated that the McGrath recommendations
with free votes “will make no difference” because there is “no political will.”47 Therefore,
Lemco emphasized that party discipline impacts caucus members more than reforms to the
confidence convention and an increase in the use of free votes. So Lemco also belongs to the
camp emphasizing that party institutions are barriers.
In this short section, two scholars are examined and analyzed: Franks and Lemco. Both
scholars are counted as studying the confidence convention. When examining the confidence
convention, both scholars are categorized into the camp that emphasizes that parties are the
dominating force controlling individual MPs. The arguments presented in their works are telling
of their position on the McGrath reforms: that the reforms are not enough to quell the power of
parties and to increase the role of the individual MP. It is also interesting to note that there is a
small gap in the literature between 1988 and 1997. In Chapter 2, the literature continues to 1997,
and this five year difference may be explained by a change in government, where the Mulroney
era ended in 1992. Furthermore, from 1985 to 1992 there were only two scholars writing on the
topic of the confidence convention. The small amount of literature reflects a minimal concern
among academics at this time. Next, the discussion turns to dissent in the House and party
Dissent in the House and Party Discipline
47 Ibid, 297.
The McGrath Committee defined dissent as occasions, during voting in the House, where
MPs do not vote according to party policy preferences, and they argued that dissent can have
positive effects “on the institution of Parliament and its members.”48 For the McGrath
Committee, party discipline and dissent are important institutions that are necessary to change
because they hinder the autonomy of the individual private member.49 Party institutions affect
private members by restricting how they vote in the House, and according to the McGrath
Committee, this is a problem because private members cannot vote in favour of policies that may
aid their constituents. Because the McGrath Committee could not formally make reforms to party
institution, they recommended that parties change their attitudes towards dissent and party
discipline.50 The following literature examines dissent and party discipline in the House.
On December 2nd, 1992, the Canadian Study of Parliament Group (CSPG) held a seminar
in Ottawa called Year 7: A Review of the McGrath Committee Reforms. The first session of the
seminar consisted of the procedural reforms to the House and had three panelists: W.F. Dawson,
from the University of Western Ontario; Franks, from Queen’s University; and Paul Thomas
from the University of Manitoba.51 The panelists in the seminar disagreed with each other and
explicitly stated so. This seminar is a review of the McGrath Committee and focuses on all
aspects of the reforms, so therefore, it is considered to examine all three reform categories. I
include this seminar in this section on dissent because all three panelists were concerned with
private members’ business as a means to provide the private member with more autonomy, and
to quell party discipline.
48 Canadian Parliament, “Report of the Special Committee,” 10.
51 Canadian Study of Parliament Group, “Year 7: A Review of the McGrath Committee Reforms,”
(seminar presented by the Canadian Study of Parliament Group to government general proceedings,Ottawa,
Ontario, December 2, 1992), 4. http://cspg-gcep.ca/pdf/1992_12-b.pdf. The second session regarded the future of
The three panelists made critical arguments against the McGrath reforms and did not
agree about the success of the reforms, yet all three scholars suggested that party discipline is the
main force restricting private members. Dawson suggested that “party voting” still exists,
particularly in the election of the Speaker.52 Because of this, dissent on speaker selection is
minimal, so Dawson can be categorized into the camp that emphasizes party discipline over
parliamentary reform. Franks maintained that “change” has occurred since the McGrath
Committee’s work on “freeing up the private member from party discipline.”53 This suggests that
Franks advocated the same position as Dawson. Thomas argued that the “conditions outside of
the institution (parliament) play a much bigger role” in shaping legislative behaviour than the
institution itself.54 Thomas remains neutral during this seminar because he does not argue
whether parliamentary institutions or party discipline are the main influence on private members.
In 1992, Michael Atkinson and David Docherty wrote an article called “Moving Right
Along: Roots of Amateurism in the Canadian House of Commons.”55 In this article, Atkinson
and Docherty studied the nature of parliamentary careers, the life–expectancy of MPs’ careers,
and the determinants of turnover. Atkinson and Docherty found that “for many MPs ‘the job will
only become attractive once they are permitted more freedom of expression and greater
responsibility for legislative outcomes.’”56 From this finding, the authors argued that “a major
reduction in the force of party discipline” would accomplish this goal.57 Atkinson and Docherty
can be categorized as studying the effects of party discipline because of their findings and their
54 Ibid, 19.
55 Michael Atkinson and David Docherty, “Moving Right Along: The Roots of Amateurism in the
Canadian House of Commons,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 25(2) 1992: 295-318.
56 Ibid, 317.
Atkinson and Docherty treat parties as a force that drive MPs’ careers because their main
arguments suggest that party discipline is a major causal mechanism vis–á–vis to the frustration
of MPs’ ambition. However, Atkinson and Docherty also argue that the parliamentary factors
play a key role in MPs’ career longevity. As the authors state, the research reported in their
article supports “those who believe that changes to Parliament’s opportunity structure will help
lengthen legislative careers.”58 Therefore, Atkinson and Docherty can be categorized into the
camp that emphasizes both parliamentary and party barriers to individual MP autonomy.
To summarize, in this section there is an analysis of a seminar hosted by CSPG and a
study by scholars Atkinson and Docherty. The seminar consisted of panelists that reviewed the
McGrath committee reforms and are counted as examining all three reform categories yet
emphasize discipline. Two panelists, Dawson and Franks, are categorized into the camp that
emphasizes how parties shape legislative behaviour, and one panelist, Thomas, is categorized as
advocating neither the Parliamentary Camp nor the Party Camp. Through their study of
legislative careers, Atkinson and Docherty are counted as examining the effects of party
discipline and are also counted as emphasizing both parliament and parties as barriers to MPs’
autonomy. It is also interesting to note that there is a gap in the literature between 1985 and
1992.59 The small amount of literature available during this time period is similar to the amount
of literature on the topic of the confidence convention. Next, the discussion turns to the
committee system in the House.
59 This is not to say that dissent and party discipline have not been studied in the past; yet,during this
seven–yearperiod, literature on the study of dissent and party discipline was only available in 1992. Alan Kornberg,
Canadian Legislative Behaviour: A Study of the 25th
Parliament (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,1967);
Allan Kornberg and Norman Thomas, “The Political Socialization of National Legislative Elites in the United States
and Canada,” The Journal of Politics 27(4) 1965: 761–775.
Committees in the House
The McGrath Committee contended that the role, structure, and financing of the House
committee system had weakened private members’ ability to influence policy outcomes.60 The
committee system in the House is an important area where private members can voice their
opinion and make suggestions on how to proceed with policy recommendations.61 The
committee system’s structure historically determined which recommendations and policies
should be tabled in the House.62 The McGrath Committee proposed numerous reforms to change
the state of the committee system in the House. The three main recommendations included: a
reduction of the number of committee members for each committee; that committees must reflect
the organization of the House; and that committees should be given a wider authority on
reviewing draft legislation.63 The following literature examines the committee system in the
House as regards the McGrath Committee’s recommendations.
On October 20th and 21st, 1986, the CSPG conducted a seminar on liberating the private
member. In the second session of the seminar concerning legislative committees, there were
three panelists: Franks from Queen's University; Jean-Robert Gauthier, MP; and Robert Marleau,
Clerk Assistant in the House of Commons.64 This session solely concerned the committee
reforms proposed by the McGrath report. Franks stated that a problem arose from government
control over committees: majority governments control the majority of roles played in
committees. All three panelists were critical of the McGrath Committee’s recommendations,
arguing that the recommendations had “logistical problems” with the number of members a
60 Canadian Parliament, “Report of the Special Committee,” 16.
62 Ibid, 14-16.
63 Ibid, 63.
64 Keith Penner, “Liberating the Private Member” (paper presented at the Canadian Study of Parliament
Group seminar on Liberating the Public Member, Ottawa, Ontario, October 20-21, 1986). http://cspg-
committee should have, the financing of committees, and the selection of the chair.65 Because the
main topic of the second session of the seminar is a critique of the McGrath recommendations on
committee reform, all three panelists are counted studying the post–McGrath committee system.
The three panelists’ main contention is that, under the McGrath recommendations,
committees are subjected to government control. Franks argues that by changing the number of
committee members to seven would produce a committee system that lacks opposition
representation; governments would have five members, with two seats designated for opposition
parties.66 Gauthier contends that the governing party usually has more control over committees,
yet when government members have a majority of members in a committee, many of the
government members are not heard.67 The reforms, as maintained by the two panelists, have
implications on party representation; however, the main concern is that the committee reforms,
not parties, are the primary force limiting individual MPs’ autonomy. Therefore, these two
panelists are considered to be examining parliamentary reform as the main force restricting
In 1991 – which is a sharp jump from 1986 – Sharon Sutherland wrote Responsible
Government and Ministerial Responsibility: Every Reform Is Its Own Problem. Examining the
McGrath reports, she argued that “flawed reforms may well make government less accessible to
the influence of elected ministers.”68 Sutherland’s study analyzes how ministerial responsibility
has been diminished by the recent reforms to the committee system in the Canadian Parliament.
She states that committees in the House were “even more fundamentally irresponsible” due to
68 S. L. Sutherland, “Responsible Government and Ministerial Responsibility: Every Reform Is Its Own
Problem,” Canadian Journal ofPolitical Science 24(1) 1991: 92.
the McGrath reforms.69 Therefore, the critical nature of Sutherland’s article conveys that the
topic she is primarily concerned with is the committee system in the House.
Parties are not examined in Sutherland’s article. Her main argument is that the
parliamentary reforms suggested by the McGrath Committee are insufficient for responsible
government, which is defined as the government’s ability to maintain the confidence of the
elected MPs and, “thus […] to the electorate.”70 Yet under the “new regime,” post–McGrath,
Sutherland contends that committees cannot provide “unitary focal points for public questions
and potential redress in the House;” that is to say, committees cannot provide a means for
individual MPs to meaningfully address electorate needs.71 Further to this, Sutherland states that
committees “barely worked” from the beginning of the 1988 election to the second session of the
34th Parliament because they were influenced by the volatility of elections.72 This means the
outcome of an election dictates how many members are in committees from a single party. The
arguments Sutherland presents focus on how the parliamentary reforms shape the power of
individual MPs, and therefore, Sutherland can be counted in the camp emphasizing
In this section, there is an analysis of a seminar hosted by CSPG and a study by
Sutherland. The seminar consisted of panelists that reviewed the liberation of the private member
and the McGrath reforms, and all the panelists are categorized into the camp that emphasizes
parliamentary control over party control. This is compelling because Franks is categorized into
the Party Camp on the topic of the confidence convention, yet on the topic of committees, he
does not examine parties as a controlling force to private members. Sutherland is counted as
69 Ibid, 119.
70 Ibid, 92.
71 Ibid, 119.
72 Ibid, 118.
examining committees and is also counted as emphasizing that parliamentary reforms are the
most important force influencing MPs behaviour. It is also interesting to note that there is a gap
in the literature from 1986 to 1991. From 1985 to 1992, there were only two scholars writing on
the topic of the committees, and the amount of literature reflects academics’ interest on the topic.
This chapter analyzes the literature salient to the three reform categories outlined by the
McGrath Committee between 1985 and 1992. There are two main findings in this chapter. The
first finding is that there are six sources that examine the three reform categories, of which two
were seminars hosted by CSPG. Most of these sources specifically reference the McGrath
reforms; Atkinson and Docherty’s study does not. It is interesting to note that there are gaps in
the literature, and these gaps portrays the trend in the academic popularity of these topics. This
shows that the evolution of the literature during this time period is minimal which could
potentially be caused by a lack of interest. The study of the effects of parliamentary institutions
and party institution on the private members’ autonomy in the House has been infrequently
examined during this time period, and academics had little interest in the topic during the
The second finding is that four out of six of the sources are counted as treating parties as
the main barrier to MPs’ autonomy. The scholars examining the confidence convention and
dissent are counted in the Party Camp, and although scholars examining committees do argue
that the governing party usually controls committee work, they also argue that this is a function
of the parliamentary system. The evolution of the literature on the confidence convention,
dissent, and committees seems to be minimal during this seven–year period, and I observe that
the same scholars are writing on or debating these topics, specifically Franks. This could also be
a function of an increase of academic interest on the changing face of Canadian federalism
during this period and the 1982 Constitution Act. The Mulroney government faced issues
concerning federalism, Quebec nationalism, and economic transformation, which could be a
potential reason as to why so few scholars had studied legislative behaviour with respect to
parliamentary and party institutions.73 This may be because academics were focused on other
major issues of the time. This chapter is important for setting a basis of comparison for the next
two chapters and examining the evolution of this body of literature. With the Mulroney era now
summarized, the study shifts to the discussion of the Chrétien and Martin Liberal governments.
73 Raymond Benjamin Blake, Transforming the Nation:Canada and Brian Mulroney,(Montreal:
McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007), 10.
Chapter 2: Literature Salient to the McGrath Reform Categories during the Jean Chrétien
and Paul Martin Liberal Governments, 1993 to 2005
The McGrath Committee’s reforms have, so far, been specifically mentioned in the
literature, and the evolution of the literature has been slow up to 1992. It is interesting to
examine the time period between 1993 and 2005 to compare the amount of literature on
parliamentary and party effects on private members’ autonomy in the House. Another interesting
comparison of the literature is to analyze the change in the substance of the literature and
theorize potential causes of those changes. There is an analysis of the literature on the three
reform categories taken from McGrath’s third report in this chapter. This chapter is sectioned by
the three reform categories. The first section examines literature salient to the confidence
convention; the second examines literature on dissent, and the third examines literature on
committees. Each section proceeds chronologically beginning in 1993. As with Chapter 1 there
are two paragraphs for each author or source. The first justifies the categorization of authors into
one of the three reform categories. The second categorizes each author into one of three camps:
one emphasizing parliamentary barriers; one emphasizing that party institutions are barriers; and
one emphasizing both. At the end of each section, there is a paragraph discussing the analysis of
the authors, and at the end of the chapter, there is a discussion of the findings. There are ten
scholars and sources examined in this chapter. I examine two scholars studying the confidence
convention, five studying dissent and party discipline, and three studying House committees.
The Chrétien and Martin Liberal governments lasted from 1993 to 2005. Chrétien won
177 seats in the 1993 election and, having a majority government, Chrétien dealt with the issue
of maintaining the confidence of the House and loyalty within his party.74 Chrétien won two
more elections: his second election in 1997, again, with a majority; and a majority in 2000.75
Chrétien’s leadership style demanded loyalty, and he had strict policies on party discipline even
though his government had a majority in the House which generally would allow a relaxation of
party discipline.76 Parliamentary reforms are Chrétien’s legacy, and this is generally understood
to be a function of his leadership style.77 Chrétien’s majority turned into a minority government
when Martin won the Canadian federal general election in 2004.78 This change of prime
ministers contributes to the literature on private members’ autonomy in the House. This study
begins with a discussion of the confidence convention.
The Confidence Convention
In regard to the McGrath recommendations on the reforms of the confidence convention,
see Chapter 1. The reforms salient to the confidence convention, again, are examined throughout
this section, beginning with Franks. In 1997, Franks wrote an article called “Free Votes in the
House of Commons: A Problematic Reform.” Franks argued that the magnitude of free votes in
Canada was limited, and only on “rare” occasions do free votes actually take place.79 Because
free votes are rare in Canada, their use is “restricted to matters of morality” and where the
dividing forces cross party lines.80 To support his argument, Franks examined the issue of
74 Lois Harder and Steve Patten, The Chrétien Legacy: Politics and Public Policy in Canada,(Montreal:
McGill University Press,2006), xx.
78 Stephen Azzi and Norman Hillmer, “Paul Martin,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, accessed July 7, 2016,
79 C. E. S. Franks, “Free Votes in the House of Commons: A Problematic Reform,” Policy Options
80 Ibid, 34.
abortion, which is one of the most divisive issues where free votes were used.81 In 1988, the
Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Criminal Code surrounding abortion regulations,
specifically dating to the 1969 provisions, were unconstitutional, and this left Canada with no
law on abortion.82 Throughout 1988, the Mulroney government proposed potential abortion
policies.83 Five amendments were made to the initial policy on abortion, yet not one of the five
amendments gained a majority of votes.84 Franks stated the government declared that the vote
was free and that because of the use of the free vote there are no abortion policies in Canada.
Because Franks argued that an increase in the use of the free vote in the House creates a problem
for passing bills, this article can be counted as examining the confidence convention.
Franks can be considered as emphasizing how both parliamentary and party institutions
influence the autonomy of private members. Franks maintained that the free vote in Canada has a
positive relationship with party cohesion, yet there are differences between parties and their use
of the free vote. In the case of abortion, the vote was not free for the NDP because it was a
matter of “party policy.”85 The NDP remained cohesive because there was no “substantial cross–
party voting,” yet the Liberals and Conservatives allowed free votes which resulted in cross–
party voting .86 There is a negative relationship between the increase in frequency of the use of
free votes on certain issues and party cohesion, and parties behave differently when using the
free vote on certain issues. Although Franks examined the 1988 abortion policy proposals in the
House, he made arguments about the nature of the legislature at the time he was writing in 1997,
contending that policies are not produced because of an increase in the use of free votes.
Because of his arguments, Franks is counted as emphasizing how both parliamentary and party
institutions affect legislative behaviour.
In 1999, Jennifer Smith, in her article “Democracy and the House of Commons at the
Millennium,” argued that “reforms that are made to any particular element [of Parliament] are
bound to affect” responsible government.87 J. Smith identified two main “camps” of reformers:
“the cautious reformers” and the “radical reformers.”88 Both reformers want to “reinvigorate the
role of ordinary members of Parliament,” and they “also want to maintain responsible
government, the central convention of which is the requirement that the government be
supported by the majority of the members of the legislature.”89 J. Smith argued that the “radical
reformers […] are far-reaching and would have the effect of undermining responsible
government.”90 She defined the radical reformers as the Reform Party.91 To conduct her study, J.
Smith examined and described examples of incremental reforms made recently, particularly in
the 1980s, including the confidence convention, changes to attitudes surrounding party
discipline, and committee reforms.92 However, J. Smith’s main concern was how reformers
overlooked the fundamental aspects of responsible government and the confidence convention,
and therefore, J. Smith is counted as studying the confidence convention in this study.
As well, J. Smith can be categorized as emphasizing parliamentary reforms, specifically
the confidence convention, over parties or party discipline. The reason for this categorization is
because J. Smith contended that party discipline cannot be examined in “isolation” from
87 Jennifer Smith, “Democracy and the Canadian House of Commons at the Millennium,” Canadian
Public Administration 42(4) 1999: 399.
88 Ibid, 400. There are two scholars with the last name Smith in this study:Jennifer Smith; and David E.
Smith. I refer to Jennifer Smith as J. Smith, and David E. Smith as D.E. Smith to avoid confusion.
92 Ibid, 401–402.
responsible government, and she also stated that party discipline “must be viewed in relation to
the parliamentary structure.”93 To support this view, she analyzed the Reform Party and showed
that the Reform Party, since its advent, has launched a campaign to promote “change in the
House.”94 She stated that these changes were proposed to “liberate the MP from the thrall of
party discipline.”95 However, these reforms “are far-reaching and would have the effect of
undermining responsible government.”96 Therefore, J. Smith is categorized as subscribing to the
To conclude, in this section there is an examination of two scholars: Franks and J. Smith.
Franks emphasizes how both parliamentary reforms and party institutions influence legislative
behaviour. This categorization is not surprising, however, because during the Mulroney era,
Franks’ work and argumentative position is categorized as examining party institutions which
dictate the level of private members’ autonomy. Smith is categorized into the camp that
emphasizes parliamentary reforms over party institutions. These findings portray the slow
evolution of literature salient to reforms of the confidence convention. Next, the discussion
continues with the literature on dissent in the House and party discipline.
Dissent in the House and Party Discipline
In respect to the McGrath recommendations on the reforms of dissent and party
discipline, see Chapter 1. The reforms salient to dissent and party discipline are examined
throughout this section, beginning with David Docherty. In 1997, Docherty wrote Mr. Smith
Goes to Ottawa, and in his book, Docherty outlines the socialization process of new MPs in the
94 Ibid, 417–418.
95 Ibid, 399.
Canadian Parliament, explaining that throughout an MP’s legislative career, she or he will
experience strong party discipline.97 The main argument Docherty makes concerning
socialization and legislative behaviour is that the bonds new MPs make with their fellow party
members is a “first but important stage in developing the partisan cohesion.”98 Of particular
importance to dissent and party discipline is Docherty’s “Chapter 6: Coming to Terms with
Parliament: Views on Leadership and Party Discipline”.99 Docherty compares data on interviews
with MPs from both the 34th and 35th parliaments, finding that “men and women seeking office
in 1993 held a much more sceptical view of party discipline” than those in the Mulroney era.100
Although Docherty’s book examines the parliamentary careers through both the confidence
convention and committees while specifically mentioning the McGrath reforms, the observations
and arguments Docherty makes suggest that he is writing on party discipline and the
determinants of dissent. The questions Docherty asks MPs during the 34th and 35 parliaments
specifically question how they perceive party discipline, and therefore, he is counted and
categorized as studying party discipline.
Docherty argues that it is up to the party to assimilate MPs on appropriate behaviour in
the parliament, and each party holds different standards on party discipline.101 As Docherty
observes, not only do parties assimilate new members differently, but they also may not have a
large pool of veteran MPs to guide new party members.102 This was the case for both the Bloc
Québécois (BQ) and the Reform Party during the 35th parliament, and members of these two
97 David Docherty, Mr. Smith Goes to Ottawa: Life in the House of Commons (Vancouver: UBC Press,
98 Ibid, 83.
99 Ibid, 136.
100 Ibid, 137.
102 Ibid, 83.
parties had to branch out and ask for advice from Liberal and NDP veterans.103 Parties and intra–
party socialization are “key variables in determining how much freedom members have” to act
within the legislature.104 Beside the occasional ask for advice from a veteran of a different party,
“there is little cross–party socialization,” and this contributes to the competitive nature of
parliament.105 Docherty is categorized as emphasizing how parties shape individual MP
autonomy over parliamentary reforms.
In 1998, Tom Flanagan wrote a book called Game Theory and Canadian Politics, which
studied the Canadian Parliament through formal modelling and rational choice theory.106 In
Flanagan’s “Chapter 8: The Staying Power of the Status Quo”, Flanagan presented his formal
model that outlined the rules under which legislatures operate in Canada, and these rules and
procedures produce a determinate outcome – “a structure–induced equilibrium” – that favours
the status quo.107 He applied his formal model to the subsequent proposed legislation on abortion
after the 1988 Morgentaler court case. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Criminal
Code surrounding abortion regulations, specifically dating to the 1969 provisions, were
unconstitutional, leaving Canada with no law on abortion.108 In this case, there were five
amendments made throughout the process, yet all five amendments were voted against because,
as Flanagan argued, there was no unity in the House due to the process of the legislature.109
Through the application of his formal model on the process of the legislature, Flanagan’s chapter
can be categorized as studying the legislative process and its effects on policy outcomes.
103 Ibid, 88–89.
104 Ibid, 261.
105 Ibid, 252.
107 Tom Flanagan, “Chapter 8: The Staying Power of the Status Quo.” in Game Theory and Canadian
Politics,(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), 138.
108 Ibid, 120–121.
Flanagan can be counted in the camp that emphasizes parliamentary procedures over
party institutions. Party institutions are not considered in Flanagan’s study, and instead, Flanagan
argues that the reason there was no enactment of legislation is because the legislature is formed
to only enact legislation that is widely accepted; thus, the process of enacting legislation
maintains the status quo.110 Based on these findings, Flanagan is categorized into the
Parliamentary Camp, maintaining that the legislative process prefers the status quo.
In October 2000, William Cross wrote an article for CSPG called “Members of
Parliament, Voters, and Democracy in the Canadian House of Commons.”111 In this article,
Cross is concerned with the question of how to make the House more responsive to the needs of
the electorate.112 Cross argued that there is little evidence to support the claim that MPs, if given
the opportunity, “will work to reflect their constituents’ views in order to improve their re–
election chances.”113 Cross’ supporting evidence is from the 1993 Chrétien government, where
Warren Allmand, a long-time MP and former cabinet minister, was removed from his position as
Chair of the Commons’ Justice Committee for voting against the government’s 1995 budget.114
Many senior MPs in the Liberal Party during the 35th government were demoted due to Chrétien
enforcing “party discipline” and punishment to “those who dare break party ranks on important
issues.”115 Cross’ work is categorized as examining party discipline.
Cross can be counted as an advocate of party reforms as a means to increase the
individual MP’s autonomy. Cross argued that parliamentary reforms are not sufficient to increase
110 Ibid, 138.
111 William Cross, “Members of Parliament, Voters, and Democracy in the Canadian House of
Commons,” Canadian Study of Parliament Group 2000: 3-16. http://cspg-gcep.ca/pdf/Bill_Cross-e.pdf.
112 Ibid, 1.
113 Ibid, 9; Carty, Cross, and Young, Rebuilding Canadian Party Politics,148. Carty et al. make the
claim that “voter sentiment has not, however, led to substantialchange in the role of the MP in Parliament.”
115 Ibid, 8.
the role of the individual MP. Cross explained that “individual MPs today have no mandate from
their voters to deviate from their party’s policy positions”, and to overcome this, parties need to
reform their candidate selection methods.116 That is to say that MPs have no motivation to cater
to their constituency’s needs, and electoral pressures are not the main concern when MPs make
legislative decisions. One of the closing statements to the article is that brokerage parties “have
little interest in having members nominated on the basis of their individual policy
preferences.”117 This is shown through the actions of the 1993 Chrétien government. Chrétien’s
government announced that they wanted the 35th government’s “incumbents re–nominated
without facing any opposition.”118 The case of Ontario’s Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke MP, Len
Hopkins, faced considerable opposition. Ontario campaign chair David Smith opened and closed
riding nominations on the same day and gave notification to local associations “30 minutes after”
closing nominations.119 Cross’ supporting evidence here shows that the nomination process does
not cater to local needs, and catering to constituency needs is not an MP’s priority, according to
Cross.120 Therefore, Cross is counted in the Party Camp.
Kam wrote his article “Do Ideological Preferences Explain Parliamentary Behaviour?
Evidence from Great Britain and Canada” in 2002. In this article, Kam answered the question:
“Are parliamentary parties cohesive because leaders successfully impose discipline on their MPs
or because MPs prefer – hence support – the same policies as their leaders do?”121 Kam
specifically studied bill C–41 in order to answer the question. Bill C–41 was brought before the
116 Ibid, 1.
117 Ibid, 16.
118 Ibid, 12.
120 This also reflects how the amendments to the Canadian Elections Act of 1970 that gave power to the
prime minister to sign off on all nominations.
121 Christopher Kam, “Do Ideological Preferences Explain Parliamentary Behaviour? Evidence from
Great Britain and Canada,” Journal of Legislative Studies 7(4) 2002: 89.
House in 1995 under the Liberal government, which sought controversial reforms to the
Canadian criminal code, specifically hate–crimes against homosexuals.122 The main study is to
find if ideological preferences affect legislative behaviour, yet the findings indicate that
ideological preferences “only partially explain” dissent and, as Kam contended, party discipline
can explain a greater degree of variance in his model. Therefore, Kam is categorized as studying
Kam can be counted as emphasizing that parties control MPs decisions in the legislature,
and governing parties use discipline as a mechanism to maintain confidence in the House. Kam
found that “MPs’ ideological preferences affect their behaviour,” yet he also admitted that the
amount of variance observed in the Canadian case in 1995 under bill C–41 showed that there are
more variables that can help explain the case, and ideologies can explain a small portion.123 The
Prime Minister and the Justice Minister refused to allow a free vote.124 There were three
amendments, yet one amendment is salient to Kam’s study, and this amendment proposed to
completely delete the clauses that “defined groups against which hate crimes might be
committed.”125 This is important because after controlling for the party variable, Kam found
statistical significance in ideology as a causal mechanism to party dissent and party cohesion.126
Kam also found that the party variable produced a stronger statistical significance in his
regression than did the ideology variable, meaning that party variables can explain a greater
amount of variance in dissent in the House than can ideology.127 When voting on the
amendments to bill C–41, “22 percent” of Liberal MPs voted against their party, while only 4.3
122 Debates of the House of Commons of Canada (Hansard), (Ottawa: The Queen’s Printer, 1994), 5871.
123 Ibid, 115.
125 Debates of the House of Commons of Canada, 13 June 1995, 13769.
126 Kam, “Do Ideological Preferences Explain,” 111.
127 Ibid, 113.
percent of Reform MPs voted against the majority of their party.128 These findings indicate that
ideology plays a role in individual legislative behaviour, yet parties play a larger role as a
motivating factor to MPs’ voting behaviour.129 Therefore, this study does not dichotomize the
Parliamentary Camp versus the Party Camp, yet the main findings are that parties play a larger
role in influencing legislative outcomes.
In 2003, another scholar, Jonathan Malloy, produced an article called “High Discipline,
Low Cohesion? The Uncertain Patterns of Canadian Parliamentary Party Groups”, describing the
parties’ high use of “discipline” and their “limited ideological cohesion”.130 The trends of high
discipline are historically prevalent as argued, yet this trend has also been challenged by the
emergence of a multiparty system in the 1990s, namely the advent of the Reform Party and the
BQ. The main argument in this paper is that Canadian parties are generally well disciplined but
“lack strong cohesion,” specifically in “ideological ways”.131 To argue this, Malloy analyzes the
“Reform/Canadian Alliance Party” and how it has departed from the traditional trend of high
discipline. He begins his analysis by explaining the state of ideological cohesion within the
parties, stating that Canadian parties are “ideological chameleons”.132 Malloy means that
ideological heterogeneity within the parties is a common factor of Canadian parties.133 This state
of ideological cohesion plays a direct role in the amount of discipline Malloy finds within the
parties. Therefore, Malloy can be counted as studying party discipline.
130 Jonathan Malloy, “High Discipline, Low Cohesion? The Uncertain Patterns of Canadian
Parliamentary Party Groups,” The Journal of Legislative Studies 9(4) 2003: 116.
132 Ibid, 121.
133 Ibid; R. K. Carty et al., Rebuilding Canadian Party Politics (Vancouver: UBC Press); J. Jenson.and J.
Brodie, Crisis, Challenge and Change:Party and Class in Canada (Toronto: Methuen,1980); Harold C. Clarke,
Absent Mandate:Interpreting Change in Canadian Elections,3rd edn. (Toronto: Gage Educational Pub. Co, 1996).
Malloy does not consider parliamentary reforms as a driving force hindering private
member autonomy and instead considers the impact of parties and parties’ use of discipline. The
extent and amount of discipline, according to Malloy, varies across the parties. Malloy maintains
that party discipline is “quite high” within the House because the level of dissent is very low.134
The main finding of the study is that the amount of discipline across the parties is not equal. The
Reform/Alliance MPs were more likely to vote against their party, and the BQ were more likely
to vote with their party.135 These two parties had virtually identical numbers of members in the
Parliament from 1993 to 1997,136 yet there were “259 dissenting Reform votes over 58 divisions
in that period, but only 21 BQ dissenting votes in nine divisions.”137 The Liberal Party, with 177
MPs, had “five–times as much dissent” as Reform during 1993 to 1997; however, most of the
dissention was because the party whip was relaxed on “32 of the Liberal divisions and 782 of
private members’ bills,” according to Malloy.138 The importance of these findings throughout the
article is that “Canadian parties are generally tightly disciplined, although some more than
others.”139 Malloy stated that Kam’s work is consistent and supports his own arguments and that
“party discipline is more important in determining legislators’ behaviour than MPs’ individual
ideological preferences”.140 Because Malloy focused on parties and their use of discipline, he is
categorized as following the Party Camp.
134 Ibid, 117.
135 Ibid, 120.
136 Reform had 52 while BQ had 54.
137 Ibid, 121; Joseph Wearing, “Guns, Gays, and Gadflies: Party Dissent in the House of Commons
Under Mulroney and Chrétien,” (paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Political Science
Association,Ottawa, Ontario, 1998). Malloy actually recycled Wearing’s data for his own analysis on the variations
of ideological preference across the parties.
140 Ibid, 122; Kam, “Do Ideological Preferences Explain Parliamentary Behaviour? Evidence from Great
Britain and Canada,” 2002.
In this section, there has been an examination of five scholars: Docherty, Flanagan,
Cross, Kam, and Malloy. Four out of five of the scholars are categorized into the camp that
emphasizes that party institutions are the main force hindering individual MPs’ autonomy in the
House; Flanagan emphasizes that the parliamentary processes are the driving force of legislative
outcomes. This section finds that there is an increase in the amount of scholars and literature
interested in dissent and party discipline. This is an interesting finding because a comparison to
the Mulroney era shows that the literature has evolved; there are no large gaps in the literature
during this period as opposed to the gaps in the literature salient to the confidence convention.
The scholars point to various explanations for this increased interest in the subject of dissent.
Docherty, Kam, and Malloy point to the change in both government and the party system in
1993. The Chrétien government, as Docherty showed, had different party discipline than the
Mulroney government before it, which could be the cause of an increase in the amount of
scholarly literature on dissent.141 Malloy maintained that the multiparty system allows for an
interesting comparison of discipline across parties. This indicates that the literature salient to
changing the attitudes of dissent and party discipline as a means to overcome the suppression of
private members has, indeed, evolved in amount and substance. With the literature on dissent
and party discipline now summarized, the discussion now turns to the committee system in the
Committees in the House
As regards the McGrath recommendations on the reforms of the committee system in the
House, see Chapter 1. The reforms salient to the committee system in the House are discussed
141 David Docherty, Mr. Smith Goes to Ottawa: Life in the House of Commons (Vancouver: UBC Press,
throughout this section, and Malloy is the first scholar examined in this section. In 1996, Malloy
wrote an article called “Reconciling Expectation and Reality in House of Commons Committees:
The Case of the 1989 GST Inquiry”, and in this article he explored the committee system,
specifically the financial committee, as it relates to the Goods and Service Tax proposed during
the Mulroney era.142 Malloy began his article by describing some MPs’ belief that the House
“should play a more direct role in policy making.”143 Malloy described that “in 1985-86, a
number of reforms were made to the Commons committee system, following the
recommendations of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons.”144
Malloy stated that changes were made to the committee system during the McGrath reforms,
specifically the splitting of the committee “system into (permanent) standing and (temporary)
legislative committees”.145 Therefore, Malloy can be categorized as examining the committee
system and the division in the types of committees.
Malloy treated parties and party institutions as a source that shapes the effectiveness of
committees. Malloy stated that both “governments and parties could relax their hold on
committee members” and actively seek out areas where committees can play a role in the policy-
making process.146 Through the examination of the case study of the committee of finance’s
inquiry in the 1989 “government’s GST technical papers”, Malloy found a gap between MPs’
expectations and the reality of Parliament” and showed that this gap formulated from the
attitudes of governments and parties.147 The main argument in Malloy’s article was that the new
committee system, post–McGrath, constricted the contribution of committees towards policy
142 Jonathan Malloy, “Reconciling Expectation and Reality in House of Commons Committees: The Case
of the 1989 GST Inquiry,” Canadian Public Administration 39(3) 1996: 314–335.
143 Ibid, 314.
144 Ibid, 319.
145 Ibid, 319–320.
146 Ibid, 314.
147 Ibid, 331.
making because of the “government and party dominance”.148 Malloy concluded by referring to
the McGrath Committee’s principle that “attitudinal changes” to both parliamentary reforms and
party institutions were necessary and achievable to increase the role of parliamentary committees
in policy making.149 Therefore, Malloy’s argument considered parliamentary reforms and party
institutions as sources hindering individual MP autonomy, and he contended that MPs’
perception of the inefficiency of committees could be remedied through a shift in attitudes.
In 2002, Jack Stillborn wrote The Roles of the Member of Parliament in Canada: Are
They Changing? for the Parliament Information and Research Service at the Library of
Parliament.150 In his piece, Stillborn studied the changes to the role of the individual MP and
Parliament in facilitating the roles of MPs. Stillborn began his study with an examination of the
traditional understanding of MPs’ roles, stating that the traditional role of the MP consisted
mainly of catering to constituents and their needs by representing them and proposing bills on
their behalf in the House.151 However, this role changed, as Stillborn maintained, due to the
changing nature of the Parliament since 1867.152 Stillborn described the evolution of reforms in
the House, beginning with the McGrath Committee’s recommendations and the reforms that
were subsequently produced through these recommendations, specifically focusing on
committees.153 There are four main activities that Stillborn outlined in his piece: law making
activities, surveillance activities, constituency services, and party responsibilities.154 Although he
150 Jack Stillborn, “The Roles of the Member of Parliament in Canada: Are They Changing,” Parliament
Information and Research Service (2002). http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/prb0204-
152 Ibid; R. H. S. Crossman, “Introduction,” in The English Constitution, ed. by Walter Bagehot (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1966), 30; C. E. S. Franks, The Parliament of Canada,143.
outlined these four types of activities, the reforms have focused on the “enhancement of the
contribution of MPs to policy and legislation” through which committee reforms may be the
greatest area of reform because “virtually all legislation is considered in detail by standing
committees”.155 Therefore, Stillborn is considered to have studied committee reform and its
contribution to the role of the individual MP, by being focused on only one particular element:
the process of readings and investigations concerning legislation.
Stillborn considered parties as a major problem to the committee structure because they
impede MPs’ abilities to contribute to policy outcomes based on their own conscience and the
needs of their constituents. Party discipline, as argued, was a barrier to meaningful discussions
and debate about policy outcomes within committees.156 Stillborn stated:
Even where committees are involved in legislation before second reading, party
discipline applies within committees, and limits the independence with which Members
can contribute once the Government has committed itself to legislation or a legislative
This statement is important to Stillborn’s main argument that reforms which focus on the
traditional role of the MP have both positive and negative effects on how MPs act within
committees. Paradoxically, the contribution of the individual MP is dictated by the attempt to
revert back to the traditional role of MPs – to free the individual MP “may merely establish new
processes that will ultimately be subject to the same constraints that continue to apply to policy
and legislative roles”.158 This indicates that Stillborn was both optimistic and sceptical of reforms
surrounding committees and the enhancement of the role of the individual MP. Stillborn
suggested that party discipline was the main culprit deterring individual MPs in committee work,
yet he did not suggest that parties could change this type of behaviour, and therefore, Stillborn is
included in the Party Camp.
In 2003, Thomas wrote an article called “The Past, Present and Future of Officers of
Parliament”, and in this article, he analyzed the officers of Parliament as an institution “holding
responsible ministers and bureaucracy accountable”.159 This is a sharp change in substance
compared to Stillborn because Thomas argued that the central issue his article dealt with was
how to “balance” both the independence and accountability of these offices; he also examined
the relationship between committee oversights of the officers of Parliament. Thomas began his
examination of this relationship by showing how there was a “lack of clarity surrounding the
term officers of Parliament”.160 Thomas reported that the McGrath Committee, in their third
report, “referred to the clerk and the sergeant-at-arms as ‘House of Commons Officers’”.161 This
is important for Thomas’ study because he stated there was a lack of clarity in the McGrath
reports on the role of the offices of Parliament, and this lack of clarity contributed to the failure
of the McGrath report’s recommendation on the oversight of parliamentary offices.162 The
McGrath Committee recommended that committees review government nominations to fill
parliamentary office positions.163 Each year the officers of Parliament must file a report, and
these reports are examined by the “appropriate committee”, yet Thomas’ main concern was that
most reports never underwent thorough review because of the “weakness of the committee
system”, specifically with “tight government control” and “partisan divisions”.164 Thomas stated
that the main objective of his paper was to examine the little known roles of the offices of
159 Paul Thomas, “The Past, Present and Future of Officers of Parliament,” Canadian Public
Administration 46(3) 2003: 287.
160 Ibid, 295.
161 Ibid; Canadian Parliament, “Report of the Special Committee,” 33.
162 Ibid, 296
164 Ibid, 302.
Parliament and their relationship with committee work, and thus, his work could be considered to
be studying committees.
Thomas described parties as a factor shaping the balance of independence and
accountability for offices of Parliament, yet he contended that partisanship was a concern for
committees to oversee officers of Parliaments’ reports. Thomas stated that the future of the
officers of Parliament may be enhanced by his own recommendations to the House committee
system. Before Thomas recommended reforms, he outlined factors that could “influence the
future of the institution”; one of these factors is “the attitudes of government towards procedural
reform in Parliament”.165 This language is similar to the language used in the McGrath reports,
and Thomas’ main recommendation for improving the oversight of offices of Parliament was
that “governments should allow members of Parliament more freedom” to conduct investigative
work in committees.166 To do this, committees must become less partisan.167 Thomas argued that
these organizations could be improved through a change in attitudes towards the freedom of
individual MPs within committees. Because Thomas recommended reforms and changes to both
parliamentary procedures and party attitudes, he could be considered a part of both the
Parliament Camp and the Party Camp.
In this section, there has been an examination of three scholars: Malloy, Stillborn, and
Thomas. All three scholars argued that party institutions and partisanship play a crucial role in
the effectiveness of committees while performing their role and function within Parliament.
Malloy and Thomas offered suggestions and recommendations for reforms, and they argued that
the effectiveness of committees can increase if parties and governments shift their attitudes on
165 Ibid, 306.
the freedom of the individual MP’s role within committees. These reforms were targeted at the
role and structure of committees. Stillborn did not offer ideas for reform, and he maintained that
if the reforms continued to reach for the traditional role of the MP, then this could lead to both
positive and negative externalities of Parliament’s ability to include MPs’ policy preferences.
This section finds that there is continuity in the amount of literature and scholarly work on the
subject of the relationship between committee reform and individual MP autonomy. However,
the substance of the literature has changed since the Mulroney era. The authors of the Liberal
government era maintain that parties play a large role in the success of reforms, and this deviates
from the Mulroney era where scholars largely focused their attention on parliamentary
procedures. This indicates that the substance of the literature regarding the reform of committees
as a means to overcome the suppression of private members has evolved over time.
This chapter analyzes the literature germane to the three reform categories outlined by the
McGrath Committee in the period 1993 to 2005. There are three main findings in this chapter.
The first finding is that there are ten sources – nine scholars because Malloy is discussed twice –
that are examined, and among these ten sources five were salient to dissent and party discipline,
while three were salient to committees and two to the confidence convention. Out of these ten,
only four specifically mention the McGrath reforms or the reforms of 1985–1986: Docherty,
Malloy, Stillborn, and Thomas. The literature is moving away from specifically mentioning the
McGrath reforms: 100 percent of the scholars examined in Chapter 1 mention the McGrath
reforms compared to only forty percent from 1993 to 2005 specifically. This could be a function
of the advent of the multiparty system where reforms from the Chrétien government and the
party platform of the Reform Party became major political issues at the national stage, as
suggested by Malloy.168 The multiparty system could be a potential cause for the continuity and
change in the amount of literature salient to each of the three reform categories.
The second finding is that there is continuity in the amount of literature germane to both
the confidence convention and committees, while there was a drastic increase in the amount of
literature dedicated to dissent and party discipline in the House. The main concern in the dissent
category is the comparison between the 34th and 35th governments, and Docherty shows that
there is a difference between governments in the attitudes they hold towards party discipline.169
Docherty also suggests that this could be a function of the arrival of the multiparty system
because the Reform Party advocated major changes to the House, including reforms that would
shape party discipline, in their party platform during the 1993 election.
As mentioned in Chapter 1, there is a gap in the literature from 1988 to 1997. In addition,
one of the same scholars writes back on the topic of the confidence convention, suggesting that
reform to the confidence convention has not been a popular area of study. This indicates that the
evolution of the literature salient to the reform of the confidence convention as a means to quell
party discipline has not changed. From 1993 to 2005, there has been a small amount of
contribution to studying the confidence convention, yet the studies that are examined in this
section suggest that the confidence convention has not changed under the Mulroney era.
The third finding is that there is a change in the substance of the literature from the
Mulroney era to the Chrétien and Martin governments. Eight out of ten of the authors examined
argue that party institutions are the main source hindering individual MPs’ autonomy and
suggest that changes to party institutions can help alleviate the hindrance. There is also
168 Malloy, “High Discipline, Low Cohesion,” 121.
169 Docherty, Mr. Smith Goes to Ottawa, 137.
continuity in the rhetoric used in the McGrath reports. J. Smith, Malloy, and Thomas all argued
that a change in parties’ attitudes toward dissent, party discipline, and the freedom of MPs’
autonomy is necessary for parliamentary reforms to be successful.170 Even though there are
examinations of new reforms, particularly from the Reform Party platforms of 1993, the
literature continues to maintain that a shift in the attitudes within parties is necessary for
meaningful change to occur within the House. Now that there is a summary of the literature of
the Chrétien and Martin Liberal governments, this study now turns to the literature in the Harper
170 Smith, “Democracy and the Canadian House of Commons,” 399.
Chapter 3: Literature Salient to the McGrath Reform Categories during the Stephen
Harper Era, 2006 to 2016
Thus far, this study shows that the literature on the three key McGrath reforms has
increased in amount and has evolved in substance. Because of the stark difference in attitudes
between the Mulroney government and the Chrétien and Martin Liberal governments, it is
interesting to compare these governments to the Harper government. The literature on the
McGrath Committee reforms has changed over time, and this change is, theoretically, caused by
the advent of the multiparty system, the changes in leadership styles, and the issues that
governments have faced. This chapter analyzes how the literature has evolved and theorizes
about potential causes of change or continuity. This chapter is sectioned by the three reform
categories. The first section examines literature salient to the confidence convention; the second
examines literature on dissent, and the third examines literature on committees. Each section
proceeds chronologically with literature closest in year to 2006. There are two paragraphs for
each author or source. The first justifies the categorization of authors into one of the three reform
categories. The second categorizes each author into one of three camps: one emphasizing
parliamentary barriers; one emphasizing that party institutions are barriers; and one emphasizing
both. At the end of each section, there is a paragraph discussing the analysis of the authors, and
at the end of the chapter, there is a discussion of the findings. There are 14 scholars and sources
examined in this chapter. I examine four scholars studying the confidence convention, eight
studies on dissent and party discipline, and two studies on House committees.
The context of the Harper era is relevant to the analysis of each study. A change of
government brings with it a change of leadership style and how the party will handle issues.
Harper won three consecutive elections: a minority in 2006; a minority in 2008; and a majority in
2011.171 Harper is generally characterized as having been a controlling political leader, and his
government is described as having maintained a centralization of power, where the legislature
was controlled by Harper and the ministry.172 This characterization of Harper’s leadership style
shaped legislative behaviour and the level of autonomy of private members. Every government
faces different politics problems; the Harper government faced the economic crisis of 2008 and
subsequent oil price crashes since 2008. From this, an Economic Action Plan was created to
quell the recession.173 The evolution of the literature can be attributed to Harper’s leadership
style and the problems that faced the Harper government. Now that the Harper era is
summarized, this study now shifts to the discussion on the confidence convention.
The Confidence Convention
Chapter 1 outlines the main McGrath reforms concerning the confidence convention in
the House. The reforms salient to the confidence convention in the House are discussed
throughout this section, and Howard Chodos is the first scholar examined in this section. In
2006, Chodos, an analyst for the Parliamentary Information and Research Service, published an
article called Party Discipline and Free Votes.174 In this article, Chodos described the confidence
convention as an institution that allowed “virtually every vote” to be a “test of the government’s
right to govern”.175 The McGrath proposal was enacted and stipulated that only certain issues
should be salient to the confidence convention, which in turn would “permit a relaxation of party
171 Alex Marland, Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control
(UBC Press, 2016), 5.
173 Ibid, 23.
174 Howard Chodos et al., “Party Discipline and Free Votes” (paper prepared for the Parliamentary
Library of the Canadian Federal Government, Ottawa, Ontario, July 13, 2006). http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/
discipline and provide more occasions for free votes”.176 The embodiment of this
recommendation took form during the Martin government because, in February 2004, there was
the implementation of the “three–line vote system” to ensure power to individual MPs.177
Chodos explained the use and frequency of the free vote and, therefore, can be counted as having
described the new use of the confidence convention.
Chodos explained that strict party institutions and party discipline can be quelled by a
relaxation of the types of issues free votes can be used on. From the Martin government, the
“three–line vote system” was established to provide individual MPs more power in forming
policy outcomes.178 One–line voting allows freedom to all MPs; two–line voting allows private
members to deviate from party lines, yet cabinet members must vote in accordance with party
lines; three–line votes are votes where every party caucus member must vote in accordance with
party lines. The free vote can be implemented by party leaders when the issue is likely to be a
divisive force and occurs when a “party frees its members from the usual expectation that they
will vote according to party lines”.179 However, not all parties allow a free vote on the same bill;
for example, in June 2005 the NDP did not allow a free vote on bill C–41, a bill on same–sex
marriage, when other party leaders did allow a free vote for their party.180 The three–line voting
system used in the Canadian Parliament restricts MPs’ voting decisions. Chodos remained
optimistic about Parliament’s future in regard to the effect of free votes on individual MPs’
influence on policy outcomes. He stated that “the government explained that most votes would
be either one-line or two-line free votes, meaning that support by government members would
not be taken for granted”.181 This, as argued, will result in the necessity of ministers to earn the
“support of Members through hard work and consensus building”.182 Chodos can be categorized
in the Parliamentary Camp because he emphasized how free votes could be used as a means to
relax party discipline.
In 2006, Donald Desserud wrote an article for the CSPG called “The Confidence
Convention under the Canadian Parliamentary System”, which described the implications of the
confidence convention of Canadian government.183 Desserud examined the 38th Parliament and
the use of the confidence convention in three votes – dated on May 10, November 21, and
November 28, 2005.184 Prime Minister Paul Martin was defeated on all three of these votes yet
only conceded a failure on the last vote of confidence. As Desserud explained, for Martin to act
on the third failed vote of confidence speaks to the nature and use of the confidence convention,
and Desserud can be categorized as having studied the confidence convention.
Desserud clarified the use of the confidence convention in the 38th Parliament and argued
the confidence convention has two important features. First, motions of non–confidence are
usually moved by the leader of the opposition, which in this case was Stephen Harper.185 Second,
the governments maintained party discipline and cohesion through the use of the confidence
convention.186 To show this, Desserud stated that MPs did not deviate from their party’s policy
position, and all parties voted in their own blocs.187 The confidence convention is exercised by
party elites to maintain party cohesion while voting in the legislature; the confidence convention
183 Donald Desserud, “The Confidence Convention underthe Canadian Parliamentary System,”
Canadian Study of Parliament Group 2006: 3–30. http://cspg-gcep.ca/pdf/Parliamentary_Perspectives_7_2006-
184 Ibid, 4.
185 Ibid, 9. Non–confidence motions can also be moved by otherparty leaders and executives.
186 Ibid, 14.
187 Ibid, 7.
is a mechanism for organizing the House. As a traditional and unwritten institution within the
Canadian legislature, the confidence convention restricts MPs from acting on their individual
preferences, and so shapes legislative behaviour, according to Desserud. Desserud argued that
“confidence is a political rather than legal event, a practical recognition of the ability, or lack
thereof, of a government to have its legislation passed in the House of Commons”.188 The
confidence convention, and its two features, play the largest role in demarcating and organizing
the House, yet the Martin government did not recognize the confidence convention’s traditional
authority.189 The confidence convention cannot be “reduced to a specific vote, but must be seen
instead as an on-going process”.190 Desserud’s study of the use of the confidence convention in
relation to the Martin Liberal minority government can be considered a part of the Parliamentary
Camp as it examined the features of its use.
In 2007, David E. Smith wrote a book called The People’s House of Commons: Theories
of Democracy in Contention, and in this book, he examined three theories of democracy that the
Canadian House is modelled upon: parliamentary democracy; constitutional democracy; and
electoral democracy.191 D.E. Smith maintained that these three theories of democracy influence
the use of the confidence convention and the understanding of responsible government.192
Responsible government, as argued, performs its duty to unify the country, and the confidence
convention is a traditional way of maintaining responsible government.193 D.E. Smith focused on
the representative qualities of the House, specifically relating to how responsible government
manifests within its institutions.
188 Ibid, 16.
191 David E. Smith, The People’s House of Commons: Theories of Democracy in Contention, (University
of Toronto Press, 2007).
192 Ibid, 30.
193 Ibid, 25.