Tragedy in the Commons

Tragedy in the Commons

Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada's Failing Democracy

Book - 2014
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In Tragedy in the Commons , Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan, founders of the non-partisan think tank Samara, draw on an astonishing eighty exit interviews with former Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum to unearth surprising observations about the practice of politics in Canada.
Though Canada is at the top of international rankings of democracies, Canadians themselves increasingly don't see politics as a way to solve society's problems. Small wonder. In the news, they see grandstanding in the House of Commons and MPs pursuing agendas that don't always make sense to the people who elected them.
But elected officials make critical choices about how this wildly diverse country functions today and how it will thrive in the future. They direct billions of dollars in public funding and craft the laws that have allowed Canada to lead the way internationally. Even with so much at stake, citizens-- voters --are turning away. How did one of the world's most functional democracies go so very wrong?
In Tragedy in the Commons , MPs describe arriving at their political careers almost by accident; few say they aspired to be in politics before it "happened" to them. In addition, almost without fail, each MP describes the tremendous influence of their political party: from the manipulation of the nomination process to enforced voting in the House and in committees, the unseen hand of the party dominates every aspect of the MP's existence.
Loat and MacMillan ask: Just what do we want Members of Parliament to be doing? To whom are they accountable? And should parties be trusted with the enormous power they wield with such little oversight or citizen involvement?
With unprecedented access to the perspective and experience of Canada's public leaders, Tragedy in the Commons concludes by offering solutions for improving the way politics works in Canada, and how all Canadians can reinvigorate a democracy that has lost its way, its purpose and the support of the public it is meant to serve.

Publisher: Toronto :, Random House Canada,, 2014, ©2014
ISBN: 9780307361295
Branch Call Number: 328.71072 LOA NVD
Characteristics: 274 pages ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: MacMillan, C. Michael


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Jun 09, 2017

Finished reading 'Tragedy in the Commons'.. An insightful accounting of 'exit interviews' with former MP's. I discovered a bit of how our parliamentary system actually works (it's not how it seems on the televised 'Question period', which comes across as childish shouting matches). I was a bit surprised at how many MP's actually became politicians with the goal of helping their constituents learning from the mistakes of previous governments and making Canada a better place for everyone (didn't always work the way they wanted and/or expected). Some of it was a bit disheartening (lots of legislation gets bogged down in morass and partisanship). Nevertheless, after watching the fiasco/ train wreck occurring on a daily basis in the USA, I'm so glad that our government operates the way it does...AND I continue to hope for improvement, especially with better representation of ALL of the people of Canada, and much more transparency and integrity of all our elected officials. I'd like to see the Senate totally revamped, but I don't think that's going to happen in my lifetime. All in all a good ( but not terribly exciting) informative read.

Jan 20, 2015

This book shows why politicians are held in such low regard by Canadians. Most politicians claim to dislike their occupation, not only denying that they ever wanted to be one, but denigrating other politicians while at the same time denying that they do so. Few rookie MPs have ever researched what their job entails before they are elected, and are abandoned by overly competitive colleagues when they arrive in Ottawa. Political parties have almost no legal framework so their power has accelerated without controls to achieve almost total control of our democratic institutions. Few MPs feel able to change anything because they are picked off one by one if they try. And so on. A saddening read but necessary for any understanding of federal politics.

Nov 24, 2014


Should be read in connection with A Party of One.

Commons problems start with the party system.

Sep 28, 2014

Come on. No need to read this book! Coporate influence breeds corruption at all levels of any government. The simple answer is for all Canadian voters to just vote for proportinal representation.

Jul 26, 2014

If you are even mildly interested in Canadian politics this is a MUST read. The compilation of honest, forthright MP exit interviews give insight into jobs we think we know. Some information will reinforce your ideas but I guarantee you will be surprised and dismayed. For a political book it is remarkably apolitical. But it offers solutions to many identified problems. Canada's future as a democracy is not assured. This book will encourage you to think carefully before the next election.

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