Why are more Canadian MPs cooperating across party lines? (Yes, you read that correctly)
On February 12, 2015, I presented at the Bell Chair Graduate Conference at Carleton University on my dissertation research into the growth of informal “All-Party Groups” (APGs) at the Canadian Parliament. Some of these groups, such as the Canada-India Parliamentary Association, focus on relations between Canada and other countries. Others, such as the All-Party Aerospace Caucus, deal with specific policy issues. Both types often receive support from outside stakeholders, such as foreign embassies, business associations, or charities.
Since 2006, the number of APGs at the Canadian Parliament has nearly doubled to over 100. Based on extensive interviews with MPs, Senators, lobbyists, journalists, and parliamentary staff, I demonstrate that this growth results from a convergence of interests between MPs and lobbyists.
MPs use APGs as a way to connect with their constituents on policy issues to build their visibility in their ridings. The groups also give them the chance to influence policy, and are a way for MPs to feel like they are making a useful contribution to deal with a particular problem. At the same time, the lobbyists and stakeholders who support APGs find that the groups offer a non-partisan channel to connect with parliamentarians and distribute information, with the goal of ultimately shaping policy outcomes.
I was very fortunate to have Dr. Gary Levy as the panel discussant. As luck would have it, Dr. Levy published the first – and only – peer reviewed article to examine APGs that focus on relations with other countries. I am very grateful for the insightful feedback that he provided, and to the Bell Chair for organizing the conference.