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Comparative Politics

B05(b) - Challenges to Westminster Democracies

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 01:30pm to 03:00pm | Location: SWING 109

Chair/Président/Présidente : Kelly Blidook (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Marcus Closen (University of Manitoba)

Representation in Single-Member Constituencies: Kelly Blidook (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Royce Koop (University of Manitoba)
Abstract: In this paper we explore the different ways that MPs in parliamentary democracies go about the process of representation and aim to draw out patterns that inform our understanding of what representation is. We use ethnographic observation of MPs in four Westminster-style parliamentary democracies (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom) to understand core behaviours associated with representation of single-member geographical constituencies. We further build on earlier work looking at the adaptability and agency of such members. While we observe variation among all MPs, in this paper we aim to draw out lesser understood elements of commonality among MPs that help us refine our model of representation. We present preliminary observations about the influences that shape these MPs’ behaviours and speak to both the freedoms and constraints affecting MPs’ agency. In considering both the underlying motivations and the actions of MPs, we use assessments of members’ preferred styles to demonstrate a general model of representation by MPs.


Unelected Upper Chambers and their Miscontents: Issues with Reform Proposals: Marcus Closen (University of Manitoba), Royce Koop (University of Manitoba)
Abstract: The Senate of Canada and the House of Lords are criticized near constantly, proposals for reform becoming a pastime for members of the public who think there must be some better system. The Senate and the House of Lords do important work which cannot be under-estimate. Proposals for their reform are rife with issues which do not account for the massive amount of change that would be required for their abolition, and do not have any plan for response to what Meg Russell has described as the “constitutional earthquake” that would follow their abolition. This paper explores the place of these chambers and the issues with proposals for their reform in the contemporary political landscape.


Climbing the Greasy Pole: Political Advising and Career Trajectories in Industrialized Democracies: Feodor Snagovsky (Australian National University), Marija Taflaga (Australian National University), Matthew Kerby (Australian National University)
Abstract: How does political advising shape legislative career paths of ambitious actors? Prior research has shown political staff are important gatekeepers and policy actors in their own right. Anecdotal evidence also suggests political advising serves as an increasingly important stepping-stone into a parliamentary career. However, most previous studies of political advising and political candidature only look at legislators who have previous experience as political advisors, thereby selecting on the dependent variable. Using elite survey data from 20 countries and an original longitudinal dataset of political staff in Canada and Australia, this study investigates how political advising impacts the subsequent political careers of advisors in institutionalized democracies. In so doing, this study asks: (1) does political advising experience increase the likelihood a candidate will be elected to political office? (2) If elected, do previous political staffers have different types of parliamentary careers? (3) Are former political staffers more likely to be appointed to the ministry, or to be appointed more quickly?