First-ever survey shows 71% of Canadians want legal restrictions on powers of party leaders to control politicians in their party – only 20% disagree

Same high level of support for change across the country from almost every type of Canadian

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 10, 2013

NEWS RELEASE


NOTE: This news release was covered by the Globe and Mail and by the Edmonton Journal and in 8 talk radio interviews and news pieces across Canada on June 10-11, 2013.


OTTAWA – Today, the national educational foundation Your Canada, Your Constitution (YCYC) released the results of the first-ever national survey of 1,007 Canadians on the question of restricting the powers of political party leaders to control politicians in their party. The results show that a large majority of Canadians (71%) want legal restrictions on party leader powers to give more freedom and power to politicians in each party, while only 20% do not want these legal restrictions (9% did not answer).

“Will political party leaders across Canada respond to this support by a large majority of Canadians and pass new laws that, as most countries in the world already have, give politicians in their parties more power and freedom?” asked Duff Conacher, Coordinator of YCYC. “Given the survey results, any political leader who takes steps to pass these laws will clearly be applauded by a large majority of Canadians.”

Environics was commissioned by YCYC to conduct the data collection from May 9-12, 2013. The survey asked 1,007 Canadians ages 18 or older whether they supported or opposed passing new laws to restrict the powers of political party leaders to choose their party’s election candidates, choose which politicians in their party sit on committees, and penalize politicians who don’t vote with their party.

Broken down by region, the result was more or less 72% support across Canada (with B.C. a bit lower at 67%). Broken down by category of person surveyed, it was also more or less 72% or so across the board — male and female; of every age from 18 to over 65; employed, self-employed or retired; student; English or French; high-school education or university educated; single or married or divorced or widowed; small family or large; rich or middle class — with only a few variations (unemployed people and people with low incomes and people with less than high school education all were about 55%-60% in support (25%-32% opposed) while homemakers were lowest with only 49% support (42% opposed). See the results here.

Over the past 40 years, political party leaders have slowly but surely changed rules and practices to increase their control over politicians in their party. Experts have concluded that political party leaders in Canada have more powers than party leaders in every other democracy worldwide. During his successful Liberal leadership campaign, Justin Trudeau promised, among other democratic reforms, to open nominations in all ridings and not appoint candidates, and free MPs to vote against Cabinet unless the bill is an election platform, budget or Charter of Rights measure. However, he did not promise to change any laws to require himself and all party leaders to do these things.

In most countries in the world, including Britain, Australia and New Zealand, political party leaders do not have legal or other powers to control how politicians in their party vote, let alone to decide whether they can be a candidate in the next election.

In another YCYC-VCVC survey released in January, 84% of Canadians supported enacting new rules to define and restrict when the Prime Minister and premiers can open and close parliament; what measures can be included in bills such as budgets; whether a government has lost a vote that should cause an election; whether an election should be called just because a Prime Minister or premier wants an election, and; which political party, or parties, will be the government after an election.

About the poll: The data was gathered from May 9 through May 12, 2013 through Environics national omnibus survey. Results are based on a sample of 1,007 Canadians, and the corresponding margin of error is ±3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

 
 

Survey Question

Currently, leaders of political parties in Canada have some powers over politicians in their party. They can choose their party’s election candidates, choose which politicians in their party sit on committees, and they can also penalize politicians who don’t vote with their party in parliament. Some people have proposed new laws to restrict the powers of political party leaders and to give more power and freedom to politicians in each party. Would you strongly support, support, oppose or strongly oppose passing such laws?