Whose Interests Matter? Representational Priorities among Members of Parliament in communities with high rates of COVID-19

Article 5 / 7 , Vol 45 No 3 (Autumn)

Whose Interests Matter? Representational Priorities among Members of Parliament in communities with high rates of COVID-19

Gabrielle Feldmann is a Master of Public Policy student at Simon Fraser University. She was a member of the Parliamentary Internship Programme in 2020-2021.

Through interviews with Members of Parliament (MPs) and an analysis of Statements by Members, this research paper examines the representational priorities and influences of Members of Parliament during the COVID-19 pandemic. It identifies four main representational priorities: the economy and businesses, people with service needs, vulnerable and marginalized populations, and health and long-term care. Through these four priority issues and constituencies, it demonstrates that MPs’ representational priorities are varied, and are influenced by riding characteristics, descriptive characteristics, and MPs’ previous experiences and priorities. It finds that representational priorities are largely resilient to the pandemic, but that the pandemic has led to the emergence of new priority constituencies for MPs.

Gabrielle Feldmann

Introduction

It is well-established that political representation requires balancing competing interests.1 However, this trade-off is often conceptualized as balancing homogenous local and national interests. The more nuanced reality of competing interests and constituencies at all levels is often obscured, despite significant implications for democracy. If local constituencies are given one representative at the national level, which interests within the local community are prioritized?

The COVID-19 pandemic provides a unique vantage point from which to examine this question. It has overwhelmingly dominated public life since early 2020, and has affected all communities across Canada. This focusing event can be used to examine which interests and constituencies political representatives prioritize when faced with the same broad challenge; this is especially interesting when considering the pandemic’s unequal impacts across neighbourhoods and sociodemographic lines. The same groups who have borne disproportionate health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic have been underrepresented in Parliament2, raising questions about how these groups’ interests have been prioritized during the pandemic.

The body of literature on Members of Parliament’s (MPs) representational activities indicates variation and agency across MPs based on riding context and descriptive characteristics3, highlighting the potential for representational prioritization. Political representation literature demonstrates that representatives prioritize certain interests and constituencies.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this research seeks to understand both the representational priorities of MPs and the factors influencing those priorities by employing interviews with MPs and analysis of Member’s Statements (SO31s) to do so. Given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racialized people in Canada, particular attention is paid to racialization as a descriptive characteristic.

Four major representational priorities were identified through this analysis: the economy, service needs, vulnerable and marginalized groups, and health. However, significant diversity in MPs’ priorities exists. By exploring the four priority areas, this research will highlight the factors that appear to shape representational priorities. This research aims to deepen the concept of political representation in Canada by explicitly introducing the concept of representational priorities to allow for greater exploration of how various interests are represented in Canadian politics.

Theory

Beginning with Pitkin’s dichotomy between descriptive and substantive representation and the trustee-delegate model4, political representation literature has focused primarily on the task of translating public preferences into legislation. Yet, legislative-focused conceptions of representation do not necessarily reflect the Canadian context, where party discipline severely constrains MPs’ ability to respond to local constituent preferences. This has led to broader definitions of representation in Canada; Koop, Bastedo, and Blidook’s Representational Connections Framework (RCF), distinguishes four types of representational connections: policy connections, service connections, symbolic connections, and party connections.5 Notably, this framework also identifies factors shaping MPs’ representational styles: their personal goals and backgrounds, constituency (riding) contexts, and experiential learning as an MP.6

The RCF is useful in expanding the definition of representation, and is central to informing the methodology of this research. It makes clear that there is significant variation in MPs’ representational activities and that MPs have agency in deciding their representational styles; these underlying assumptions suggest that MPs have agency to prioritize chosen constituencies. Though the RCF remains focused on how MPs represent constituents, it provides useful foundations for exploring which interests are represented.

The question of which interests are represented can be further explored through Rehfeld’s expanded trustee-delegate model, which identifies three dimensions of representation: a representative’s aims (who they seek to benefit), sources of judgement (how they determine their preferred constituency’s interests), and responsiveness (to local riding sanctions).7 Separating these dimensions is helpful because it highlights the underlying question of who representatives are seeking to benefit, who they listen to, and who they answer to. Rehfeld provides a useful framework to consider how representatives might go about prioritization of specific interests and issues.

Importantly, the heterogeneity of interests at both the local and national levels cannot be ignored. There is evidence that the powerful win in representatives’ prioritizations; in the U.S., low-income constituents have less influence over politics8, while organized interest groups can sway representatives to deviate from constituent interests.9 Unsurprisingly, this dynamic is observed along racial lines; Harden notes that “the wealthy and whites get their policy views represented more than do the poor and minorities”.10

In the context of international literature, it is worth examining how MPs prioritize constituent communities, particularly those who structurally hold less power. This is especially relevant considering the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on marginalized communities; questions of whether these communities’ interests are being adequately represented have significant ramifications for their immediate well-being and for the broader dynamics of political representation.

Within this context, the literature suggests that both descriptive representation and riding characteristics may have an impact in determining whether marginalized communities’ – particularly racialized communities – interests are represented. Racialized MPs have been shown to actively champion the interests of racialized groups, and these constituencies’ interests are generally supported by MPs who have a significant racialized population within their riding.11 Yet, some literature suggests that substantive policy representation is not impacted by racialized representatives12, though descriptive representation may still matter in symbolic13 and service14 contexts.

Based on the existing literature, variations in MPs’ representational priorities can be expected. It is also clear that racialized and otherwise marginalized constituencies are often de-prioritized by representatives, but that descriptive and riding characteristics may influence whether these constituencies’ interests are championed. Given the trends in the literature and the lack of research on representational priorities in Canada, this work will begin to fill an important gap by uncovering the representational priorities of MPs during the pandemic.

Methodology

MP Case Selection

This research uses the COVID-19 pandemic as a focusing event to examine how MPs’ representational priorities vary within a similar context. Given this scope, focus is on MPs who represent cities that have consistently experienced high COVID-19 cases at the time of writing.

Since Canada does not have a uniform mechanism of reporting COVID-19 data, case selection requires a degree of extrapolation. The focus of this research was on cities in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta, the provinces with the highest total case counts throughout the pandemic and the highest rates of COVID-19 throughout much of the pandemic.15 16 Twenty-four MPs from the six cities of Montreal, Toronto, Peel, Hamilton, Calgary, and Edmonton were used as a sample for this research. These cities were the sites of significant local epidemics within the provinces, providing the clearest cases of communities where the pandemic has been a focusing event since March 2020 until the time of writing.

MPs selected from these cities represent the three major national political parties. The sample of MPs was restricted to private members because it was not feasible to gather data on Ministers through the chosen methodology. While the exclusion of MPs from certain provinces and rural regions of the country limits this research, the selected MPs represent sufficient diversity across parties, descriptive and riding characteristics, to identify differences in representational priorities.

It is widely recognized that the pandemic disproportionately impacted certain neighbourhoods, notably those with higher proportions of low-income, racialized, and frontline worker residents.17 To capture this variation, two groups of MPs were selected within these cities; ‘Target’ MPs, who represent neighbourhoods with high case counts and high proportions of racialized residents, and ‘Control’ MPs, who represent neighbourhoods with relatively lower case counts and lower proportions of racialized residents. These groupings often divide along income lines; Target ridings are reliably lower-income than Control ridings. MPs representing split ridings, which included both neighbourhoods that were highly impacted and those relatively minimally-impacted, were included in the Target group in order to examine how they represented their most vulnerable constituents. These MPs represent less homogenous constituencies and interests, and must prioritize between them. Ridings within cities were selected based on a combination of local public health data, published demographic information, and news reports highlighting the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in certain communities.

To the degree possible, MPs represent a diversity of descriptive characteristics. Nine MPs are women, a slightly higher proportion of women than the broader population of MPs. However, gender is not a focus of this study. Twelve MPs are racialized, which is significantly higher than the proportion of racialized MPs in the current parliament. This reflects the ridings selected, as racialized MPs more often represent racialized communities that are hard-hit by the pandemic. Descriptive variations were difficult to achieve in all cases; since racialized MPs are more likely to represent ridings with higher proportions of racialized constituents, only one racialized MP is included in the sample of control MPs. A breakdown of MPs by party, target grouping, and race are provided in Table 1.

Table 1: Distribution of MPs in SO31 Analysis by Party, Race, and Target Group

Data Collection and Analysis

Statements by Members

SO31s provide a useful window into MPs’ representational priorities. They can be made by all private members on “virtually any matter of international, national, provincial or local concern”.18 Since SO31s can only be one minute long, and only 15 MPs can deliver SO31s each sitting day, MPs must prioritize a constituency or issue to raise.

SO31s of 24 MPs from the three national parties were analysed from March 2020 to May 2021. A conventional approach to content analysis was used, in which codes were derived from the data and categories were developed and refined during data analysis. The aim of this analysis was to describe the issues and constituencies discussed by MPs without the existence of previous theory; this approach to content analysis was most appropriate because it relies on the data to define categories, rather than imposing preconceived theoretical categories that may not capture the breadth of themes.19

SO31s were coded into three themes and a variety of sub-themes, enumerated in Table 2. ‘Equity’-related statements recognize structural or systemic problems faced by equity-seeking groups, and are unlinked to an MPs’ partisan affiliation and represent a symbolic connection to an equity-seeking group. Likewise, statements within the ‘Recognition’ theme indicate a symbolic connection; instead of focusing on equity, these statements recognize those within an MPs’ own riding or a broader constituency. SO31s falling under the ‘Partisan Agenda’ category may cover the same subjects as those in the first two categories (such as racism, businesses, or frontline workers), but rather than forming a symbolic connection, their primary angle is partisan.

Table 2: SO31 Coding Themes

Interviews

Interviews were conducted in Spring 2021 during the third wave of the pandemic, using a semi-structured format. A total of six MPs were interviewed: three Liberals from the Greater Toronto Area, two Conservatives from Calgary, and one New Democrat from Hamilton20. MPs were offered anonymity during these interviews to allow them to speak freely about their experiences. Questions were designed to identify the issues and constituencies prioritized by the MP throughout the pandemic, their representational activities, and how their personal experiences with the pandemic had shaped their priorities.

The interviews were analysed using a combination of conventional and directed content analysis. Similar to SO31s, coding themes about MPs’ priorities were developed through transcript analysis. Inspiration was taken from Koop, Bastedo, and Blidook’s RCF, and several categories reflect those in the RCF; however, the data from interviews and SO31s provided a somewhat different set of influencing factors.

Limitations

A small sample size was necessary to conduct this research within the constraints of the Parliamentary Internship Programme, and as a result, this research cannot fully represent all MPs’ representational priorities. The exclusion of rural MPs was necessary to meaningfully compare amongst MPs in Canada’s epicentres, however it does limit the generalizability of the findings.

Additionally, while the pandemic provides a unique context through which to examine MPs’ representational priorities, it does create several constraints. Restricted House of Commons operations in Spring 2020 limits the sample of SO31s early in the pandemic, and priorities described in this research represent a snapshot in time during a crisis. Because of these limitations, further research on representational priorities will help to fully develop the literature on this subject in Canada.

Findings

MPs demonstrated a broad range of representational priorities even within the context of the pandemic. Four common themes are detailed in this section; their incidence in SO31s is illustrated in Table 3. Across all interviews, MPs noted that the pandemic exacerbated pre-existing challenges in their ridings. Likewise, MPs’ priority issues and constituencies largely remained the same; shifts in representational activities addressed the changing needs and issues of existing priority constituents. In rare cases, it appears that catalyst events can create new priority constituencies for MPs, though the resiliency of these priorities is unclear.

Table 3: Incidence of SO31 Theme

Economic and Business Constituents

The economy was a key priority for MPs during the pandemic, with businesses prioritized more than individual constituents. This was observed across representational activities; MPs spoke about businesses symbolically and in partisan critiques in SO31s; in interviews, they described spending significant time providing services to businesses and advocating for policy on their behalf.

Prioritization of Businesses

Businesses were a pre-existing constituency for some MPs, while for others, this constituency emerged during the pandemic. When asked about the impacts of the pandemic, those with pre-existing connections focused primarily on the impacts to the local economy and business community, emphasizing these as an indicator of their communities’ well-being. Given that they already viewed businesses as a key constituency, these MPs sought to represent them through all types of representational activities during the pandemic, often engaging in proactive outreach to understand how they could support businesses.

For other MPs, businesses were a newly-important constituency during the pandemic. Those MPs who hadn’t indicated pre-existing connections to businesses highlighted the influx of demands for support from businesses during the pandemic and shifted resources in their offices to prioritize businesses. New connections with business constituents were also policy-oriented; MPs also noted that business owners “were calling every day to try to advocate for their businesses in the support that they wanted to see roll out of the government”, and these MPs also advocated for businesses at the policy level.

MPs with pre-existing connections emphasized businesses as a greater overall element of their pandemic representation, often focusing overwhelmingly on businesses when describing their policy and symbolic connections. In contrast, MPs without pre-existing connections emphasized other issues and constituencies as more important; businesses were prioritized because of the sheer volume of service requests.

Table 4: Percentage of SO31s on Economic and
Business Concerns by MP Grouping
Table 5: Percentage of SO31s on Economic
and Business Concerns by Party

Descriptive and Riding Influences

MPs interviewed from the control group were more likely to engage actively with businesses and to identify them as a pre-pandemic constituency. This trend was also visible in SO31s; control MPs spoke more often about businesses, as illustrated in Table 4. Notably, this also included the target MPs who represented mixed communities; they engaged significantly with business owners in wealthier parts of their riding, demonstrating representational priorities that aligned with their colleagues from control ridings.

There was a stronger focus on businesses by Conservative MPs. Forty percent of all SO31s delivered by Conservatives focused on businesses, as illustrated in Table 5. They often emphasized entire industries as a constituency; it was more common for Liberal MPs to focus on small businesses in their own ridings. The NDP were an exception. The NDP MP interviewed was a former business-owner, but did not mention businesses at all in describing his pandemic representation. None of the NDP MPs included in the sample mentioned businesses in their SO31s, suggesting a consistent approach to prioritization of businesses by the NDP.

This emphasis on economic issues may be explained by the federal government’s role in providing financial support. It is unclear why MPs prioritized businesses over individuals in need of income support, but this may be a result of the differences in supports initially rolled out; the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the support for individuals, was rolled out quickly and with broad eligibility, while Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), supports for businesses, initially had limited eligibility and support that was generally seen as inadequate.21

Nonetheless, both the interviews and SO31s reveal that businesses were the primary economic constituency, but that this was influenced by MPs’ previous experience, the context of their ridings, and by descriptive representation (particularly political party). Each of these findings are significant in demonstrating the diversity of representational priorities and the relevance of influencing factors in shaping MPs’ priorities.

Constituents with Service Needs

Those with service needs emerged as a new priority during the pandemic, illustrating the adaptability of representational priorities. Prior to the pandemic, service needs are often dealt with one-on-one and may not be prioritized as a broader representational strategy.22 However, during the pandemic, those with service needs emerged as a key constituency for MPs. A significant increase in service requests at the beginning of the pandemic set the stage for this prioritization. Many MPs shared that they were overwhelmed by the level of service requests from constituents; a shift towards service was also documented in early pandemic research on MPs’ representational activities.23

Service-to-Policy Pipeline

This influx of service requests occurred as support programs were rapidly changing, creating a window of opportunity for MPs to shape policy. In these conditions, MPs nearly universally described newly prioritizing those with service needs as a constituency, forming a direct service-needs-to-policy-advocacy pipeline, in which service needs directly informed their policy work. One Liberal MP explained:

We would be taking calls from local people as to what [a] program should look like or what should be changed and which ways they should be changed. We were then feeding that information in [to the government] daily. I also don’t think I had in my previous term ever seen so much caucus involvement. Of course, caucus is always involved in voicing their opinions, but the amount of direct feedback going into the offices of cabinet Ministers and to Ministers directly [was unprecedented].

Service-to-policy connections were equally emphasized by opposition MPs, who also described providing direct feedback to the government and using constituent service needs to inform partisan strategies.

The impact of MP advocacy is best highlighted through issues that remained out of the public eye. In interviews, several MPs described being confronted with highly specific service issues, such as income supports for non-permanent residents or immigration pathways for frontline workers. These MPs described success working behind the scenes to advocate for policy change as a direct result of constituent service requests. These smaller examples indicate that early pandemic programmatic changes were not only made in response to public attention; they highlight the important role of MP advocacy during this period to translate service needs into policy changes.

Despite this new and powerful prioritization of those with service needs, this constituency remained a relatively private representational priority for MPs; unlike the business constituency, individuals with service needs were generally not profiled in MPs’ SO31s. MPs did not appear to take public credit for this advocacy work, and it remains to be seen whether a service-to-policy pipeline will be part of MPs’ representational strategies beyond the pandemic. However, the emergence of those with service needs as a priority constituency during the pandemic – even if temporarily – demonstrates the responsiveness of MPs to the contexts within their ridings and the adaptability of representational priorities.

Entanglement of Service Connections

Beyond service-to-policy connections, interviews also revealed an ‘entanglement’ of service connections, in which MPs became active in addressing constituent service needs outside of federal jurisdiction. MPs with high proportions of low-income constituents described becoming especially involved with landlord-tenant issues and evictions, while those representing COVID hotspot neighbourhoods described becoming heavily involved in the local vaccine rollout.

This entanglement of service connections has persisted past the initial crisis point, which suggests that this trend could persist beyond the pandemic. Notably, several MPs described developing greater ties with other levels of government over the course of the pandemic, which may also signal persistent entanglement. MPs’ willingness to be of service beyond federal jurisdiction demonstrates MPs’ clear prioritization of those with service needs as a key constituency.

MPs emphasized a desire to continue helping constituents however possible and remain relevant in their lives. This has significant potential implications for the concept of representation at the federal level, though it remains to be seen how this might impact service connections beyond the pandemic and or how it may impact constituents’ expectations of service delivery from their MPs.

Vulnerable and Marginalized Constituents

Vulnerable groups who bore the economic, social, and health impacts of the pandemic also emerged as a priority constituency for some MPs. This constituency is defined broadly, since MPs described vulnerability along varied vectors across ridings and intersecting vectors within them. The most frequently mentioned vulnerable groups were frontline workers, racialized, and low-income constituents.

Riding Influences

While each of the MPs selected for this research represented cities with high rates of COVID-19, not all represented hard-hit communities, so the degree of vulnerability in their ridings varied. In interviews, nearly all MPs identified the heavy service needs of these constituencies; these needs were particularly significant in target ridings.

Though most MPs described a heavy service burden from vulnerable groups, policy connections with these constituencies varied; target MPs more frequently advocated on behalf of this constituency to effect policy change. The SO31 analysis quantifies these trends; there was a greater public and symbolic focus on these constituencies by MPs from target ridings through a focus on equity concerns. This is illustrated in Table 6.

Notably, MPs from mixed ridings were included in the target group but demonstrated patterns in their SO31s more closely resembling the control group. These mixed MPs’ SO31s focused on the wealthier parts of their ridings, recognizing individuals who had made contributions to their communities, celebrating students’ achievements during the pandemic, and generally aligning themselves symbolically with wealthier constituents rather than highlighting the challenges faced by harder-hit constituents.

Table 6: Equity-Related SO31s by MP Grouping
Table 7: Equity-Related SO31s among Target MPs

Descriptive Influences

However, descriptive characteristics appear to be a greater predictor of prioritization of vulnerable constituencies. In Toronto, the two racialized Liberal MPs interviewed described advocating for the interests of recent immigrants and frontline workers in policy changes, despite one representing a control riding. The white Liberal MP interviewed did not describe the same policy advocacy, despite representing a mixed target riding with a significant population of recent immigrants and frontline workers. Likewise, in the SO31 analysis, racialized MPs drove the focus on equity in both target and control groups, especially on issues of racism. This gap for target MPs can be seen in Table 7. This illustrates the importance of descriptive representation, especially for constituencies whose interests may otherwise be overlooked. It suggests that while riding characteristics may be important in determining MPs’ service representational priorities, descriptive characteristics may be more important in ensuring the policy needs of vulnerable constituencies are prioritized.

The analysis also revealed a partisan difference in responding to vulnerable constituents. In interviews, Conservative MPs identified structural challenges for vulnerable constituents laid bare by the pandemic but expressed concern that the pandemic would be used opportunistically by the government to drive a progressive agenda. There were also no SO31s about race from Conservative MPs, despite the inclusion of a proportionate number of racialized MPs in the sample. Liberal and NDP MPs, meanwhile, referenced the pandemic when addressing structural issues.

Health and Long-Term Care Constituents

The final theme of health illustrates both the adaptability of representational priorities and the continued relevance of jurisdiction. With the exception of long-term care residents, pandemic-related health issues were consistently less of a priority than other issues and constituencies.

Broad Health-Related Connections

MPs did not engage in policy representation on healthcare, likely because of jurisdiction. Yet, MPs demonstrated adaptability to changing constituent priorities by addressing the new context by highlighting health in symbolic, partisan, and service connections. Focus was on broad health issues impacting the entire population, suggesting this was an attempt to respond to existing priority constituencies. MPs did not speak about health issues impacting a smaller subset of their constituents, such as those who had caught the virus, except in ridings with extremely high case counts, where experience with the virus was more common. Overall, health was a relatively minor focus compared to other priorities, as illustrated in Table 8.

Table 8: Number of Health-Related SO31s

In interviews, MPs expressed frustration at the pandemic for diverting constituent attention to health and away from federal priorities. As one MP lamented, “There’s a challenge [in] getting people’s focus and concentration on substantive policy issues that don’t relate to ‘where is my vaccine? How do I get it in my arm?’”, explaining that this had affected his ability to advance more federally-relevant priorities. This limited and reluctant focus on health highlights how MPs adapt to reflect constituent needs, but that jurisdictional lines may limit the priority of these issues for MPs.

Long-Term Care

The exception was MPs’ prioritization of long-term care residents as a new constituency. MPs emphasized long-term care residents as the most impacted constituent group during the interviews, which was notable considering that interviews were conducted during the height of the third wave, a period of greater community spread and fewer long-term care outbreaks. There was strong common condemnation of the country for failing seniors, reflected in one Liberal MP’s statement:

Another thing that’s come into sharp relief has been this issue of the abject failure – and I use those words quite deliberately – of all three levels of government with respect to seniors in care. […] Prior to the pandemic, I don’t think you could say that I was a seniors advocate. But because of the pandemic, I’ve become [one] a lot more. [We] need to address the situation using the levers that we can as the federal government.

The call for action in this statement is echoed across all parties; there was a common appetite for federal action in this policy area, despite long-term care being under provincial jurisdiction.

This convergence around a previously deprioritized constituency is significant, especially considering MPs’ reluctant focus on other health-related issues and the jurisdictional lines that would otherwise exclude this constituency from federal priorities. It illustrates that MPs are not only responsive to their key constituencies but can also be responsive to the needs of emerging constituencies, especially in response to catalyst events and policy failures. It remains to be seen whether this newfound priority constituency will remain after the pandemic, and whether federal policy action will materialize.

Conclusion

This examination of MPs’ representational priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed significant diversity in representational priorities and the agency and adaptability of MPs in shaping these priorities. This closely echoes the findings of Koop, Bastedo, and Blidook and builds on their Representational Connections Framework by demonstrating that similar influencing factors to those that influence representational connections also influence representational priorities.

This research shows that riding characteristics, descriptive characteristics, and MPs’ previous experiences shape their representational priorities. MPs’ representational priorities were resilient; MPs shifted to address the new issues facing their priority constituencies and appeared to emphasize the issues facing constituencies with which they had previous connections. They are also adaptive to changing interests and needs within their ridings, including prioritizing entirely new constituencies. However, while responsive to contextual factors, the diversity of MPs’ representational priorities – like the diversity of their representational activities – demonstrate MPs’ agency in representation.

These findings underscore the theoretical importance of representational priorities and highlights this as an important avenue for continued study. The concept has significant implications for who is represented at the political level in Canada, including which voices are heard, what issues are included on the agenda, and how issues are framed, debated, and addressed. Overall, it represents an exciting new avenue for exploration that has the potential to contribute significantly to conceptions of political representation in Canada.

MPs adapted to constituent priorities by shifting to health-related service representation, although it was
outside of federal jurisdiction. This included helping constituents find COVID-19 vaccination appointments,
like at this mass vaccine clinic in Toronto.

Notes

Acknowledgements: This research project was conducted as part of the Parliamentary Internship Programme. It would not have been possible without the support of Dr. Paul Thomas, the Director of the Parliamentary Internship Programme; research funding for the Programme from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for providing research funding to the Programme; guidance on researching political representation from Dr. Kelly Blidook; and the MPs who participated in research interviews. A special thanks to these generous research supporters.

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Pitkin, H. F. The concept of representation (1. paperback ed., [Nachdr.]). Univ. of California Press, 1967.

Koop, R., Bastedo, H., & Blidook, K. Representation in action: Canadian MPs in the constituencies. UBC Press, 2018.

Koop, Blidook, and Bastedo.

Rehfeld, A. “Representation Rethought: On Trustees, Delegates, and Gyroscopes in the Study of Political Representation and Democracy. American Political Science Review, 103(2), 2009, pp/ 214–230. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055409090261

Flavin, P., & Franko, W. “Government’s Unequal Attentiveness to Citizens’ Political Priorities: Government’s unequal attentiveness to citizens’ political priorities.” Policy Studies Journal, 45(4), 2017, pp. 659–687. https://doi.org/10.1111/psj.12184

Giger, N., & Klüver, H. “Voting Against Your Constituents? How Lobbying Affects Representation.” American Journal of Political Science, 60(1), 2016, pp. 190–205. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12183

10 Harden, J. J. “Multidimensional Responsiveness: The Determinants of Legislators’ Representational Priorities: Multidimensional Responsiveness.” Legislative Studies Quarterly, 38(2), 2013, pp. 155–184. https://doi.org/10.1111/lsq.12009

11 Saalfeld, T., & Bischof, D. Minority-Ethnic MPs and the Substantive Representation of Minority Interests in the House of Commons, 2005-2011. Parliamentary Affairs, 66(2), 2013, pp. 305–328. https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gss084

12 Bowen, D. C., & Clark, C. J. Revisiting Descriptive Representation in Congress: Assessing the Effect of Race on the Constituent–Legislator Relationship. Political Research Quarterly, 67(3), 2014, pp. 695–707. https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912914531658

13 Bird, K. Toward an Integrated Perspective of Minority Representation: Views from Canada. Politics & Gender, 8(04), 2012, pp. 529–535. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X12000554

14 Bowen and Clark.

15 Government of Canada. COVID-19 daily epidemiology update. April 19, 2020. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html?stat=rate&measure=total&map=pt#a2

16 Manitoba and Saskatchewan surpassed Ontario in total case rate in the Spring of 2021, after cases were selected for this research. Despite their exclusion from this research, the focus on communities that have been epicentres throughout the pandemic provides a solid basis for analysis of the impact of the pandemic on representational priorities among MPs representing hard-hit communities.

17 Subedi, R., Greenberg, L., & Turcotte, M. (2020, October 28). COVID-19 mortality rates in Canada’s ethno-cultural neighbourhoods. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2020001/article/00079-eng.htm

18 Bosc, M., & Gagnon, A. House of Commons procedure and practice (Third). House of Commons, 2017.

19 Hsieh, H.-F., & Shannon, S. E. “Three approaches to qualitative content analysis.” Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 2005, pp. 1277–1288. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732305276687

20 The NDP MP interviewed offered to waive anonymity and consented to full attribution during his interview. He will not be named in this research, however considering this consent, identifying characteristics such as race, city, and previous occupation may be used in this paper where they are relevant. It may be possible to identify this MP through these characteristics.

21 McGregor, J. “Emergency Programs to Support Pandemic-Struck Businesses Less Popular than Expected.” CBC News, ·June 12, 2020.

22 Koop, Blidook, and Bastedo.

23 Koop, R., Blidook, K., & Fuga, L. A. “Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected MPs’ Representational Activities?” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 53(2), 2020, pp. 287–291. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0008423920000566

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