PhD Oral Exam - Jocelyn McGrandle, Political Science
A Canadian Parliamentary Paradox: Party Cooperation and Legislative Influence in House of Commons Committees
This event is free
School of Graduate Studies
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The prevailing literature in Canadian parliamentary politics focuses on the increasing polarization of Canadian political parties and the dominance of single parties when in majority settings, yet anecdotal evidence through politicians’ comments to journalists and think tanks indicates that cooperation exists. Similarly, parliamentary committees are rarely discussed as effective arbiters in the parliamentary process, but again, anecdotal evidence, particularly media attention on committee procedures during potential political scandals such as the recent SNC-Lavalin and We Charity examples, indicates that committees are important sources of influence and cooperation in the Canadian political system. This dissertation addresses this paradox in the academic literature on Canadian parliamentary politics by examining House of Commons standing and legislative committee amendments to government bills from 2004–2019. This measures two things: the influence of committees on government legislation and the level of cooperation in committees through the passing of successful amendments. In coding all aforementioned amendments and subsequently analysing them, this study has determined that, across the board, in minority and majority settings, under Liberal and Conservative governments, committees make substantial changes to government bills, indicating that committees are an influential actor in the political process in Canada. Additionally, cooperation does indeed occur in committees, even in majority governments, in the sense that opposition party members do get their amendments passed, and those amendments are sometimes substantial. Further systemic characteristics impacting committee cooperation were uncovered: the success of amendments is impacted by issue area, the party in power, unemployment levels, type of committee examining legislation and when a bill is sent to committee. This study thus concludes that committees are, in fact, a source of systematic influence on government legislation as well as party cooperation within the House of Commons, thus providing a challenge to some of the prevailing literature that highlights the dominance of the executive. Committees thus deserve more attention in studies of the Canadian parliamentary system.