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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The implications of elections on actions of senators and members of parliament in Canada Attanasio, Kyle J.


Elections are traditionally characterized as mechanisms capable of aligning the interests of representatives with those of voters. The absence of elections for the Canadian Senate has drawn criticism precisely because there is no mechanism to ensure the accountability of senators to the electorate. That said, the constant requirement incumbent on MPs to respond to one’s constituents has positive and negative implications, as does senators’ freedom from the constraints of re-election. In this paper, I show how MPs and senators operate under different conventions of party discipline and have a propensity to advance different types of private members’ bills. In the Commons, the drive for re-election and the demands of party discipline motivate MPs to advance locally or regionally focused policy. In contrast, the absence of elections and greater independence from party allows senators to view policy through a more pan-Canadian lens than MPs. Thus, my data casts the absence of elections in a more optimistic light, showing that freedom from the constraints of re-election actually allows senators to serve as valuable complements to MPs. The necessities of modem democracy dictates that the people must have a hand in choosing who represents them, yet shifting to an elected Senate may not accord with the collective needs of the country.

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