Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Don Desserud (University of Prince Edward Island)
From LEADS to LEAPSS – Rethinking Party Discipline in Westminster Democracies: Paul Thomas (Carleton University) Abstract: This paper challenges the LEADS (Loyalty Elicited through Advancement, Discipline, and Socialization) model of party cohesion in Westminster parliamentary democracies advanced by Christopher Kam (2009). High levels of party cohesion among elected representatives, especially in formal votes on legislation, are regularly seen as a barrier to representative democracy in Canada and elsewhere, with legislators supporting their parties’ positions over constituency interests. While some cohesion is to be expected due to shared values and ideology among members of the same party, legislators also face strong incentives to defect on party positions that are unpopular with their electors. Parties therefore employ a number of tools to actively cultivate and enforce cohesion among their members. Kam (2009) identifies three such tools – advancement, discipline/sanctions, and socialization – that parties use for this purpose. However, this model ignores the role that legislators’ participation in the making of party or government decisions plays in securing loyalty. In particular, such participation, even if largely symbolic, gives members a sense of ownership over party positions, making them more likely to support and defend those position in public. Drawing on evidence from the national parliaments in Canada and the UK and Canada’s provincial legislatures, this paper proposes to expand Kam’s model from LEADS to LEAPSS – Loyalty Elicited through Advancement, Participation, Sanctions, and Socialization. Doing so provides a more thorough account of party cohesion and helps to explain variation in cohesion between cases.
Debates Over Old-age Pensions in the Canadian Parliament Since 1900: Florence Vallée-Dubois (Université de Montréal) Abstract: The issue of old-age pensions has often marked Canadian parliamentary debates. While the first pension program emerged from a multi-partisan coalition in 1927, following legislations on this subject have produced numerous divisions in the House of Commons. Pensions not only divided Parliament between government and opposition, but also created divisions within parties (Bryden 1974). Furthermore, while Liberal and Conservative MPs sometimes agreed on how to reform pensions (Battle 1997), their positions often went against the orientations taken by third parties. In other instances, members of the Liberal and New Democratic parties seemed to agree on how to amend existing programs (Babich and Béland 2009). Clearly, pensions have been a source of conflict within Parliament. It is therefore a fascinating topic for researchers interested in parliamentary divisions and party issue positions.
This research addresses the following questions: How did old-age pensions divide MPs since the beginning of the 20th century? How did political debates on this topic change throughout time? To answer these questions, this research relies on topic modeling to analyze debates from the Hansard since 1900 (more than three million speeches obtained from Lipad). This method allows us to identify the content and framing of pension debates, and to understand how this question divided parties over time.
Studying how MPs take position on the issue of pensions should give us insights on how social welfare questions have been politicized in Canada. This project will also contribute to the literature on party politics, and how issues shape parties’ positions and strategic behavior.