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Legislative Voting in the Canadian Parliament

  • Jean-François Godbout (a1) and Bjørn Høyland (a2)


Abstract. We analyze legislative voting in the 35th (1994–1997), 38th (2004–2005), and 39th (2006–2008) Canadian Parliaments. Using Poole's (2005) optimal classification algorithm, we locate MPs and their parties in a two-dimensional geometric model. The first dimension represents the division between governing and opposition parties that has been found in similar parliamentary systems. The second dimension captures the opposition between the Bloc Québécois and the rest of the legislature. We find a clear separation between the Reform party (and later the Conservative party) and the Bloc Québécois in the 35th and 38th Parliaments, with the Liberal and the New Democratic parties occupying the centre. However, in the 39th Parliament, the ordering changes with the Conservatives and the New Democrats near the centre, and Liberal and Bloc MPs occupying the extremes. We explain this change by the capacity of the governing party to control the legislative agenda and the recent minority governments in the House of Commons.

Résumé. Nous analysons le vote législatif au trente-cinquième (1994–1997), au trente-huitième (2004–2005) et au trente-neuvième (2006–2008) Parlement canadien. En utilisant la méthode de classification optimale développée par Poole (2005), nous situons les députés de la Chambre des communes et leurs partis dans un modèle géométrique comprenant deux dimensions. La première dimension représente le conflit entre le gouvernement et les partis d'opposition que l'on retrouve également dans d'autres systèmes parlementaires, alors que la seconde dimension correspond à l'opposition régionale qui existe entre le Bloc Québécois et les partis fédéraux. Nous constatons une nette polarité entre le Parti réformiste (et plus tard le Parti conservateur) et le Bloc Québécois au trente-cinquième et au trente-huitième Parlement, alors que le Parti libéral et le Nouveau Parti démocratique se trouvent au centre. Cependant, au trente-neuvième Parlement, nous observons un changement dans la polarité régionale, puisque ce sont maintenant les Libéraux et les Bloquistes qui occupent les deux extrémités, alors que les Conservateurs et les Néodémocrates se situent au centre. Nous expliquons ces mouvements par la capacité du gouvernement de contrôler l'agenda législatif et par les récents gouvernements minoritaires à la Chambre des communes.


Corresponding author

Jean-François Godbout, Département de science politique, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal QC H3C 3J7;
Bjørn Høyland, Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, PO Box 1097 Blindern NO-0317;


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