Whipped: Party Discipline in Canada by Alex Marland, UBC Press: Vancouver, 2020, 480 pages
Alex Marland’s newest book, Whipped: Party Discipline in Canada, takes a fresh look at the phenomenon of party discipline in Canada’s parliaments. The book focuses mainly on the post-2000 Internet age, and even delves into the dynamics of recent events such as the 2019 SNC-Lavalin affair and partisan operations under the COVID-19 crisis. It is a fresh addition to the study of Canadian politics, written in a clear and accessible tone yet rife with diligent detail and sharp analysis.
Parliamentary Practice in British Columbia, Fifth Edition. Editor: Kate Ryan-Lloyd, Acting Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Assistant Editors: Artour Sogomonian, Procedural Clerk; Susan Sourial, Clerk Assistant, Committees and Interparliamentary Relations; and Ron Wall, Manager, Committee Research Services.
Government Information in Canada: Access and Stewardship. Amanda Wakaruk & Sam-chin Li, Editors. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 376pp.
Last summer when Nova Scotia hosted the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Canadian Region) annual conference I worked the information desk. There were times when we weren’t very busy, so I started to read Government Information in Canada: Access and Stewardship edited by Amanda Wakaruk and Sam-Chin Li. As an information professional, the subject area was of great interest to me and I ended up reading it avidly at the desk. Some delegates asked me what I was reading so intently, and I think I may have disappointed them when I showed them the cover. But, they shoudn’t have been.
The Canadian Kingdom: 150 Years of Constitutional Monarchy, D. Michael Jackson, ed., Dundurn Press, Toronto, 2018, 248 pp
As a monarchist, The Canadian Kingdom had already been on my radar before I was asked to write this review. When provided this opportunity, I knew that I would have to consciously acknowledge this bias in order to provide an effective review. Coincidentally, the day after I was asked to write the review, I received an invitation to attend a book launch hosted by Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell. I suppose my monarchical tendencies are more broadly known than I realized.
Representation in Action: Canadian MPs in the Constituencies, by Royce Koop, Heather Bastedo and Kelly Blidook, (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018), 235 pp.
There is no doubt that Canadians take the work of their Members of Parliament for granted and there is a reason for this: almost all MPs are elected because of the label they represent, not because of their personal qualities or politics. Parliamentary representation has rarely worked out in practice the way it was supposed to in theory. The democratic ideal was that electoral districts would choose one of their own to represent the region without compromise within a unifying assembly. Instead, political parties have used their own organizing and ideation powers and quickly overcame whatever an individual might offer (exceptions do exist, but they are extremely rare). Members of Parliament are seen as practically anonymous and interchangeable, utterly dependent on the party and programme they represented during the previous electoral contest.
The Senate and the People of Canada – A Counterintuitive Approach to Reform of the Senate of Canada, James T. McHugh, Lexington Books, Lanham, Maryland, 2017, 296 p.
James McHugh’s addition to the parliamentary bookshelf is extremely ambitious in scope. It undertakes to provide a comprehensive survey and assessment of historical, philosophical, methodological, constitutional, institutional and political considerations relevant to Senate reform – and that’s just in Part I. In Part II, McHugh proposes a Senate closely modelled on the British House of Lords. He provides draft constitutional amendments that would accomplish this along with detailed supportive argument. Part III examines non-constitutional options and recent history, including the Trudeau reforms of 2016, and concludes by calling for reform that would enable Canada’s appointed upper House to achieve its full potential.
Religion and Canadian Party Politics, David Rayside, Jerald Sabin and Paul E.J. Thomas, UBC Press, Vancouver, 2017, 429 pp.
In this monograph, the authors demonstrate that religious faith continues to be a relevant factor in Canadian party politics. They identify three major axes of religious contention: the historic division between Protestants and Catholics (especially English-speaking Protestants and French-speaking Catholics); the more recent division between moral conservatives and political and social progressives (especially over the issues of LGBT rights and the legality of abortion); and finally, the division between those willing to recognize minority religious practices and institutions in Canada (especially those of Canada’s growing Muslim population) and those who fear that such recognition would undermine Canadian values. The authors then provide multiple case studies – federal, provincial and territorial – to illustrate how these axes of contention are evident in Canadian party politics, primarily over the past 30 years.