The Constituency Project Ten Years On

Article 11 / 14 , Vol 37 No 2 (Summer)

The Constituency Project Ten Years On

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.

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Parliamentary Bookshelf Vol 37 No 2

Article 12 / 14 , Vol 37 No 2 (Summer)

Parliamentary Bookshelf

Gendered News: Media Coverage and Electoral Politics in Canada by Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, UBC Press, Vancouver, 2013, 246p.

In early February, Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland rose to ask her first question in the House of Commons. For most new MPs, that initiation is usually a proud, if intimidating, milestone. For Freeland, who had won a tough Toronto by-election in November, it was a test of fortitude. The former business journalist was asking about the prospects for Canada’s economic recovery when the Conservative heckling commenced. The Speaker interceded twice but the mostly male voices jeered more loudly. On her third try, Freeland finished a truncated query. Shortly after a federal minister replied with a stock answer, Vancouver Observer journalist D. Matthew Millar offered his advice: “Put on your “big girl” voice for [for Question Period],” he tweeted, “the Hon. Members water glasses are shattering.”[sic]

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