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Canadian Politics

A03(a) - Canadian House of Commons

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 10:30am to 12:00pm | Location: SWING 205

Chair/Président/Présidente : Meghan Snider (University of Toronto)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Geneviève Tellier (University of Ottawa)

Bringing the Crown Back In? Conceptual Blinders in Canadian Political Science: Phil Henderson (University of Victoria)
Abstract: In The Invisible Crown (1995), David E. Smith argues that the Crown is Canada’s most enduring, yet “least understood” political institution. Yet Canadianist scholars continue to either ignore the existence of the Crown or treat it almost wholly as vestigial. Despite this inattention Canada remains a site wherein understanding the ongoing political importance of the Crown is paramount. Throughout what is presently called Canada, many Indigenous nations signed - or were forced to sign - treaties with the Crown acting on behalf of the settler populations. Today most Canadians assume that responsibility for those treaties is wholly in the Canadian government’s jurisdiction. But many Indigenous nations and leaders assert that they maintain a direct and distinct relationship with the Crown in the person of the monarch; or, at the very least, to the Crown’s Canadian representative, the Governor General. The indifference of both Canadians and Canadianists to the Crown is in stark relief as the Canadian state attempts to enter into a formalized period of “reconciliation” with Indigenous nations. In this paper, I reflect on the strengths and the inadequacies of how the Crown is conceptualized within Canadian political science. I suggest that, if Canadianists are to have something to contribute to the evolving public conversation with Indigenous nations, it is of vital importance that they grapple with the Crown’s continued role as something much more than vestigial, arcane, or mystified.


Concealed Dissent in the Canadian House of Commons: Carla Caruana (Western University), David Chartash (Yale School of Medicine), Ludovic Rheault (University of Toronto), Laura Stephenson (Western University)
Abstract: An empirical regularity observed in Westminster systems is the tendency of government and opposition to form cohesive blocs, typically voting against each other. However, traditional metrics based on roll-call vote data may obscure signs of dissidence that result from the conflicting incentives of Members of Parliament (MPs) to appeal to their constituents and pursue their personal agendas. This paper relies upon measures of party cohesion based on network analysis, which we apply to both parliamentary votes and digitized transcripts of floor debates in the Canadian House of Commons. Unlike party-level measures of cohesion such as the Rice Index or the Agreement Index, network-based indicators allow us to identify which individuals diverge from their party group. We use this methodology to compare the tendency of specific types of MPs - cabinet members, backbenchers, and incumbents not running for reelection - to defect from the party line, both in terms of discourse and voting behaviour. In particular, we test whether dissension is more likely to occur before the launch of elections. By showing how and when divisions within parties tend to manifest themselves, our results shed light on a misunderstood dimension of conflict in Westminster democracies.


Are Canadian Intergovernmental Relations Patterns Autonomous from the Federal Parliament? How the Configuration of Provincial Representation in the Federal Parliament Affects Canadian Intergovernmental Patterns.: Patrick Desjardins (York University)
Abstract: The importance of intergovernmental executive negotiation and bargaining in Canadian policy making—what is commonly understood as executive federalism—has become widely established in the study of Canadian politics (Simeon, Robinson & Wallner 2014). The counter intuitive claim of such work has been to argue that policy making takes place between executive elites with a minimum of either Parliamentary or democratic influence (Simeon & Cameron 2002, Wallner 2017). Often portraying the intergovernmental realm as an autonomous domain of executive voluntarism, the question of how the broader institution of Parliament either constrains or enables such political decision making is, nevertheless, often left under-theorized by such approaches. By emphasizing the importance of the configuration of provincial representation within Parliament, this paper aims to demonstrate the latter’s influence upon the intergovernmental process. Two factors are identified: the relative share of seats between provinces in the House of Commons and the Senate; and the over or under representation of a province, relative to its population, within Parliament. By comparing two different periods of federalism and their complimentary parliamentary configurations to each other, in this case what Simeon and Robinson (1990) variously describe as classical federalism and collaborative federalism, the paper aims to establish the influence that Parliamentary politics, organization and dynamics can exert on the pattern of intergovernmental relations in Canada. In short, the more disperse and unbalanced the parliamentary representation between the provinces, the more Canada’s intergovernmental pattern has become decentralized.

414.Desjardins.pdf