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Unity in Diversity? The Development of Political Parties in the Parliament of Canada, 1867–2011

  • Jean-François Godbout and Bjørn Høyland


What explains the development of legislative party voting unity? Evidence from the United States and Britain indicate that partisan sorting, cohort replacement effects, electoral incentives, and agenda control contributed to enhancing party cohesion during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Here, these mechanisms are evaluated by analysing a dataset containing all the recorded votes from the Canadian House of Commons, 1867–2011. Overall, we find that partisan sorting and the government’s ability to control the agenda are central to the consolidation of parties over time. Our results underscore the need to integrate institutional rules and legislative agendas into models of parliamentary voting behaviour and suggest that strict party discipline can lead to the development of a multi-party system in the legislative arena.



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Department of Political Science, University of Montreal (email:; Department of Political Science, University of Oslo (email: An earlier version of this article was entitled ‘Parties and Voting in Parliament’. The authors would like to thank the following research assistants for their help in completing this project: Eve Bourgeois, Monika Smaz and Alison Smith. Support for this research was provided in part by Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant no. 410-2009-2907) and the Norwegian Research Council (grant no. 222442). A supplementary online appendix and replication data and code are available at Data replication sets are available at Online appendices are available at 10.1017/S0007123415000368



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