TORONTO, September 14, 2011 - With Parliament set to resume next week, a new report on Canadian politics entitled The Outsiders’ Manifesto: Surviving and Thriving as a Member of Parliament reveals former MPs’ advice to new Parliamentarians—from what needs to change in Question Period to how to more effectively engage citizens—and recounts their proudest moments in politics.
The report is issued by Samara, a charitable organization that conducted
Canada’s first-ever series of exit interviews with 65 former Members of Parliament, including 21 cabinet ministers and one prime minister. The report highlights the collective reflections of these MPs, who together represented all political parties and all regions of the country.
The MPs’ advice largely focused on improving the culture and practice of politics and building opportunities for citizens to become better engaged. Specifically, the MPs recommended:
· Professionalizing the management of MPs and the work of Parliament through:
− Changes to Parliament to increase efficiency and reduce political party interference in House and committee work; and
− Sustaining an MP training program from orientation to mentorship.
· Improving citizens’ engagement with politics through:
− More regular and concrete ways to engage with constituents and share best practices for doing so;
− Better civics education; and
− Improved mechanisms for citizens to contribute to legislation.
The MPs suggested incoming MPs avoid getting caught up in the so-called “
Ottawa bubble.” Critical of the ways politics are practiced, they remembered their best work as happening around the edges of political life – working outside Parliament’s agenda or that of their own party.
“This echoes a common theme across the interviews, where the MPs—who Canadians no doubt view as consummate insiders—describe themselves as ‘outsiders’ to the political system,” said Michael MacMillan, Samara's co-founder and chair.
“While the MPs’ stories suggest that, for an enterprising person, politics can be a great way to make a difference, by perpetuating the ‘outsider’ narrative they also undermine and undervalue their own job,” said Alison Loat, Samara's co-founder and executive director. "At a time when
Canada is facing some very serious public challenges, it’s time for Parliamentarians to consider themselves as part of, and responsible for, the quality of our political system."
This report is the final of a four-part 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. The third, “It’s My Party”: Parliamentary Dysfunction Reconsidered, explored how the MPs described their time in
Ottawa and their complicated relationship with their political parties.
Samara is a charitable organization whose programs work to strengthen
Canada's democracy. Founded in 2009, Samara was created out of a belief that public service and public leadership matter to
Canada's future, and its work focuses on three areas: political leadership, public affairs journalism and citizen participation in public life.
Samara is 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
Samara is looking for volunteers to assist in its work. If interested, please visit www.samaracanada.com for more information on how to contribute.