Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Paul Thomas (Carleton University)
Is the State Budget Out of Control? : MPs Budget Control Between Passion, Interest and Disaffection: Anthony Weber (Université Laval) Abstract: From the Magna Carta (1215) to the French Revolution, not to mention the American war of independence based on the principle of "No taxation without representation,” the claims of tax consent and those of the control of State expenses are intimately linked to the rise of parliaments. But what is the importance of the budgetary control function in the deputies' mandate today? We note that existing research focuses more on their ability to control public finances, without really telling us if they do it, and why they do it. Yet there is no guarantee that this activity is carried out in a systematic way: the context of rationalized parliamentarism and the multitude of parliamentary responsibilities that compete with it are the challenges that this control function faces. So how do deputies conceive and exercise control of the state budget today? We will answer this question by drawing up a typology of MPs, using the motivational role approach of Donald Searing (1994), putting the MP's motivation, perceptions and behavior at the center of our analysis. For this, we will rely on two sets of data. Firstly, a corpus of thirty-two semi-directive interviews conducted with deputies from the finance committees of the French, Luxembourg and Quebec parliaments. Secondly, we will rely on the analysis of their control activities during the examination of public finance laws, and during the execution of public finance laws. This typology will reveal the internal coherence behind the behavior of MPs, who have varied and heterogeneous characteristics.
It's Coming from Inside the House (of Commons): How Agenda Control Influences Government Accountability and Shapes Interest Group Lobbying: Vincent Hopkins (Simon Fraser University) Abstract: Majoritarian parliaments are notorious for producing "elective dictatorships" -- single-party governments that exploit their informational advantage over the legislature. In theory, legislators can reduce this asymmetry with information from third-party groups. In practice, researchers argue strong parties restrict access to such information for all but the most powerful legislators. I develop a theoretical model in which an elected official's access to outside information is conditional not just on her parliamentary power but also on the diffusion of legislative agenda control among political parties. Using a new dataset of 41,500 lobbying communications from Canada, I find government leaders communicate with interest groups more frequently than do members of the opposition or government backbench. This gap diminishes when control of the legislative agenda diffuses to opposition parties, such as during minority government. Minority government also increases legislators' centrality in parliamentary lobbying networks. Lastly, I find evidence of partisan clustering in lobbying networks but only during majority government. I conclude strong legislative parties may weaken accountability by restricting access to outside information, but this is highly conditional on the governing party's control over the agenda.
Do Ministers’ Social Identities influence Spending? The Influence of Class and Gender on Social Spending: Sophie Borwein (University of Toronto) Abstract: Scholarship shows legislators’ backgrounds shape their policy preferences and voting behaviour (Carnes 2012; Poggione 2004). However, much of this literature studies the US context, given the challenge of examining individual legislator preferences within parliamentary systems characterized by high party control (though see e.g. Lovenduski & Norris 2001; O’Grady 2018). Rather than study legislative voting, I use a new dataset of the occupational and personal characteristics of Canadian ministers in provincial (Westminster-style) governments to examine the relationship between policymakers’ backgrounds and spending in areas of social policy and redistribution. I focus on the backgrounds of cabinet ministers not legislators, as Canadian policymaking is generally considered to be executive-centred (White 2005). I examine both social class (occupation) and gender, two aspects of identity previously hypothesized to be salient for determining attitudes toward redistribution and social spending.
I hypothesize that having a higher proportion of ministers from working class and public-sector backgrounds in cabinet is associated with higher levels of social spending and redistribution. Results are similar for the proportion of women in cabinet. I further hypothesize a match between ministers’ backgrounds and specific types of social spending. I expect that spending on health and education will be associated with having more ministers who worked at the frontlines of these fields (e.g. doctors, teachers or guidance counsellors), while working in administrative roles in these areas (hospital administration or education administration) will have little impact on spending.