Lost on Division: Party Unity in the Canadian Parliament

By Jean-François Godbout

© 2020

Compared to other countries, Canada’s Parliament shows a high level of party unity when it comes to legislative voting. This was not always the case, however. One hundred years ago, this sort of party discipline was not as evident, leading scholars to wonder what explains the growing influence of political parties in the Canadian Parliament.

In Lost on Division, Jean-François Godbout analyses more than two million individual votes recorded in the House of Commons and the Senate since Confederation, demonstrating that the increase in partisanship is linked to changes in the content of the legislative agenda, itself a product of more restrictive parliamentary rules instituted after 1900. These rules reduced the independence of private members, polarized voting along partisan lines, and undermined Parliament’s ability to represent distinct regional interests, resulting in – among other things – the rise of third parties.

Bridging the scholarship on party politics, legislatures, and elections, Lost on Division builds a powerful case for bringing institutions back into our understanding of how party systems change. It represents a significant contribution to legislative studies, the political development literature, and the comparative study of parliaments.

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Product Details

  • Series: Political Development: Comparative Perspectives
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 312 pages
  • Illustrations: 79
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Bridging Canadian party politics and legislative studies, Lost on Division is the most authoritative study available on the development of parliamentary institutions in Canada.

Lost on Division: Party Unity in the Canadian Parliament

By Jean-François Godbout

© 2020

Compared to other countries, Canada’s Parliament shows a high level of party unity when it comes to legislative voting. This was not always the case, however. One hundred years ago, this sort of party discipline was not as evident, leading scholars to wonder what explains the growing influence of political parties in the Canadian Parliament.

In Lost on Division, Jean-François Godbout analyses more than two million individual votes recorded in the House of Commons and the Senate since Confederation, demonstrating that the increase in partisanship is linked to changes in the content of the legislative agenda, itself a product of more restrictive parliamentary rules instituted after 1900. These rules reduced the independence of private members, polarized voting along partisan lines, and undermined Parliament’s ability to represent distinct regional interests, resulting in – among other things – the rise of third parties.

Bridging the scholarship on party politics, legislatures, and elections, Lost on Division builds a powerful case for bringing institutions back into our understanding of how party systems change. It represents a significant contribution to legislative studies, the political development literature, and the comparative study of parliaments.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Political Development: Comparative Perspectives
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 312 pages
  • Illustrations: 79
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "The influence of parliament is waning, and everybody seems to agree that party discipline is the cause of the problem. Until Godbout, however, nobody had explored, empirically, whether, when, and by how much partisanship has increased in Canadian Parliament; nor, crucially, why it has happened. For those interested in Canadian politics, Lost on Division is the first study of legislative voting from Confederation to present, the first systematic test of the widely accepted argument that partisanship has increased in Canadian parliament, and the first comprehensive quantitative analysis of leading explanations for why partisanship has strengthened over time. Using anecdotes to connect data to real people in actual circumstances, Lost on Division is also an engaging read."


    Christopher Cochrane, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

    "Jean-François Godbout convincingly demonstrates the impact of institutional rules on legislative behaviour and election outcomes. Doing so with this depth of empirical data is itself a major achievement. Showing the related impact of such rules on party system development, however, is an impressive analytical step beyond. Godbout shows clearly why this has implications for how we understand party system development in Canada and why it raises important questions about our understanding of party development in other Westminster democracies."


    David Laycock, Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University

    "Lost on Division is an outstanding book that will have a significant empirical and theoretical influence on research in the field. The empirical contribution on parliamentary voting alone is substantial and caps off Jean-François Godbout’s many years of work in this area. His book will be a go-to source for discussions of Canadian party discipline and contributes to the party system literature as well, offering a bold and innovative interpretation of party system change."


    Jonathan Malloy, Department of Political Science, Carleton University

    "This is a masterful study of the rise, endurance, and consequences of party unity in Canada’s Parliament that combines prodigious empirical research with subtle historical interpretation. Lost on Division will excite readers interested in Canadian politics to be sure, but anyone interested in comparative political institutions and party systems will find it valuable. All in all, this is a superb book with which to launch the new UTP book series in Political Development: Comparative Perspectives."


    Robert Vipond, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto and co-editor, Political Development: Comparative Perspectives
  • Author Information

    Jean-François Godbout is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the Université de Montréal.
  • Table of contents

    1. Introduction 

    2. The Emergence of Parties in Parliament 

    3. Theories of Party Development 

    4. Legislative Records and Parliamentary Voting 

    5. How Do Members Vote? 

    6. How Do Parties Unite? 

    7. Louis Riel and the Catholic Sort 

    8. Western Discontent and Populism 

    9. Partisanship in the Senate 

    10. Conclusion 

    Bibliography

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