Whipped - Macleans.ca


A new documentary about party discipline


Whipped, a new documentary from Sean Holman about party discipline in British Columbia’s legislature, is now available for streaming via CPAC.

Jeff Jedras attended a screening of Whipped and offers his thoughts on the riddle of party discipline.

So yes, being a maverick can have a cost. But parliamentarians need to ask themselves, would the freedom be worth the cost? They’re only whipped if they want to be. This isn’t about legislative change to grant parliamentarians freedom – they have the freedom today, if they’re willing to risk the consequences of exercising it. And I suspect they’d find strength – and freedom – in numbers.

While I don’t think legislative reforms are necessary, I do support moves to allow more freedom for parliamentarians. For example, a system of open nominations would make it more difficult for party leaders to hold their nominations over their heads. Parties should restrict whipped votes to matters of confidence and core platform planks. And the media, punditry and politicians should no longer paint a parliamentarian deferring from the official party line as a maverick repudiation of the leadership. Disagreement and debate should be welcomed and celebrated as normal and not worthy of hyperventilation. A big part of the problem here is one of perception – any difference of policy opinion is labelled by press and pundits as disloyalty and weak leadership, so leaders clamp down to prevent any such displays and the resulting bad press. Parliament should be about debate.



  1. Though I’m Canadian, I’ve been living in the US for over a decade and as a result, spent more time following US politics than Canadian politics.

    I’m still trying to understand the nuances of Canadian politics in that there aren’t more “mavericks.” I wonder — is this because of the rule that the leader of the party has to sign the candidate’s ticket (or something like that), so that they can run under the banner of the party?

    • For sure that is a factor.

      Also a likely factor is that you don’t have the separation of legislative & executive branches that you have in the US. Here they come from the same group of 308.

    • The riding nomination is one factor. More importantly is the parliamentary system. : the executive branch derives its democratic legitimacy from the legislative. The executive is accountable to the legislative at all times and could lose its ability and right to govern at any time through a vote of non-confidence by members of the house of commons. We do not elect a government. We elect parliamentarians who decide who will govern.