Ten years ago an enterprising Ph.D candidate at the London School of Economics spent four months touring nearly 100 of Canada’s federal constituency offices — what he calls perhaps “the country’s most dramatic if accidental parliamentary reform” — in an attempt to better understand a political culture where voter participation and trust in government were on the decline. In this article Peter MacLeod reflects on some of the subtle insights he picked up during his journey and looks to future innovations. He concludes by asking if, in the digital age, new generations of MPs will be more inclined to think of their offices and local budgets in terms of open platforms for community building and learning.
In 2004, I returned to Canada after two years spent tracking the New Labour experiment from my post as a researcher at the London think tank, Demos. Though post-9/11, these were still heady, pre-recession days where the British government was on a spending tear, London was booming, and Anthony Gidden’s call for Third Way politics still felt fresh.