Monday, April 18, 2011

New report: Former Members of Parliament cite their own parties as a source of frustration

TORONTO, April 18, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A new report on Canadian politics, entitled " It's My Party: Parliamentary Dysfunction Reconsidered," highlights the frustrations that former MPs feel about the way politics is practiced in Parliament.

The report is issued by Samara, a Canadian charitable organization that conducted an unprecedented series of exit interviews with 65 former Members of Parliament, who served an average of 10.3 years and left office between 2006 and 2008. The report - the third in a series of four - highlights the collective reflections and advice of these MPs, who represented all political parties and all regions of the country.

The report outlines how the MPs expressed embarrassment at the public displays of politics in the House of Commons, saying that little constructive work takes place there. Instead, the MPs said their most important work was done away from the media spotlight, in the less publicized venues of committees and caucus meetings.

When asked why this was the case, the former MPs pointed to the way in which their own political parties managed themselves, their members and their work as being at the core of their frustration with Parliament. The MPs said that decisions from party leadership were often viewed as opaque, arbitrary and even unprofessional. Furthermore, those decisions often ran counter to MPs' stated motivations for entering public life in the first place: the desire to practice politics differently.

Notably, these comments were consistent across all parties represented in the House and did not single out any one party specifically.

"Democracy relies on citizen engagement to thrive, but if the public face of politics embarrasses our MPs, is it any wonder that citizens turn away?" said Michael MacMillan, Samara's co-founder and chair.

"If parties play a role in the current challenges facing Canadian politics, then they also have a role to play in helping to overcome them," added Alison Loat, Samara's co-founder and executive director. "It may well be time to discuss ways to revitalize our political parties, recognizing this process is integral to ensuring the health of Canadian democracy."

This report is part of an ongoing series of publications derived from the MP exit interviews conducted by Samara, in partnership with the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians. The first report, " The Accidental Citizen?," outlined the MPs' backgrounds and paths to politics. The second, " Welcome to Parliament: A Job With No Description," documented the disparate and often conflicting views the MPs expressed as to the essential purpose of their job and what they were elected to accomplish. They also acknowledged feeling unprepared for their roles as Parliamentarians, and said they received little training or orientation. The final report, to be released later this year, will summarize the MPs' advice for strengthening our democracy.

About Samara

Samara is a charitable organization whose programs seek to strengthen Canada's democracy. Co-founded by Michael MacMillan and Alison Loat, Samara was created out of a belief that public service and public leadership matter to Canada's future. Samara's work focuses on three areas: political leadership, public affairs journalism and citizen participation in public life.

Samara is also developing a Democracy Index to measure the health of Canadian democracy. This will serve as a report card, looking at a broad set of indicators that can help assess how Canadian democracy is working. The results will be released annually to encourage discussion and focus attention on the continued strengthening of Canada's democracy.

Samara is looking for volunteers to assist in its work. If interested, please visit for more information on how to contribute.

You can also follow Samara on Twitter, join the Facebook group, and check out their podcasts in the iTunes Store.