31

Working less and less hard for the money

Our MPs have worked less than they did in 2008. But only barely.


 

For the record, and perhaps contrary to appearances, our MPs have worked less than they did in 2008. But only barely.

To wit, some numbers I’d been meaning to run—total number of sitting days for the House of Commons by year. Presented now as a bit of a sidebar to Paul’s contention that we are presently without what would generally be considered a coherent government.

2008 93
2007 117
2006 97
2005 114
2004 101
2003 108
2002 125
2001 134
2000 92
1999 117
1998 122
1997 94
1996 122
1995 135
1994 147

(Hansard’s online calendars seem to end there. Anyone with older numbers is invited to send them along.)

The years 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008 were election years.

From 1994 through 2002, the Commons sat an average of 121 days per year. From 2003 through 2008, the Commons sat an average of 105 days.

By Prime Minister, the averages are as follows: Jean Chretien 119.6 days, Paul Martin 107.5 days, Stephen Harper 102.3 days.


 

Working less and less hard for the money

  1. Silly me, I saw the title and immediately thought it would be an article about labour unions (which have no business in today’s world anymore and should be abolished). Who needs extortive and criminal demands that wreck entire industries?

    Just look at the ongoing public transit strike in Ottawa …

    • Other things this article wasn’t about:

      Freeloading teenagers.
      Eels.
      Minnesota.

      • Pretty sure the eels are still working hard. Mark Everett just released an autobiography that was probably the most depressing thing I’ve ever read.

  2. Werner’s brain bones are twitching.

    …Blizzard’s a-comin’!

  3. I think it’s cause his hat was three sizes too small…

    • Not as helpful as one would hope. It’s listed by session and doesn’t break down the calendar years.

  4. Are MPs part of a union? I had similar reaction as Werner, thought this post was going to be about something to do with unions. That’s all unions agitate for anymore, less work for more money and benefits.

    I wish our MPs worked even less than they currently do, especially at Fed level. Canadian society pretty much runs itself now and there is little need for MPs to meddle in every little thing, which is what they do now so it appears they are doing something useful. Make MPs part time position and maybe they will go out and get proper jobs and leave the rest of us alone.

  5. our MPs have worked less than they did in 2008.

    Right, because when parliament isn’t sitting, our MPs all go to the beach.

    Sorry Aaron, but I’m not with you on this. There is no real connection between the days parliament sits, the amount of work MPs do, and whether or not we have a “coherent” government.

    Whether we have a coherent government is a function of decisions made by the executive — the PM and cabinet — which has little to do with whether parliament is in session or not.

    How much work non-government MPs do is a function, of well, how much work they do. Some work very hard, some work less so. Again, not really a function of whether the House is sitting.

    So what is the relevance of how many days parliament sits? It matters because it suggests that what we have is a poorly functioning system of accountability — the House can only hold the government to account when it is session. That is what you should be focusing on, not the Wellsian fugue about North Somalia.

    • It matters because it suggests that what we have is a poorly functioning system of accountability — the House can only hold the government to account when it is session.

      That’d be a great blog post. You should write it and invite readers to comment on it.

    • Which is why, as Paul Wells contends today, we have a failing state under a do-nothing government, with the prime example being that the House doesn’t need to sit for much of the work to be done, and yet we’re still in the ditch.

      With respect to constituency work, you may well be right Andrew. But there certainly isn’t any legislating going on, let alone attendance to other matters of importance (e.g. Listeria), which I believe are also major chunks of the job description.

      Thus, less work, on the whole, is being done for the money.

    • I completely agree with Andrew re accountability.

      While I don’t disagree with your statement “Whether we have a coherent government is a function of decisions made by the executive — the PM and cabinet — which has little to do with whether parliament is in session or not” I do think it overlooks some aspect of the working of our democracy, esp under minority government.

      In addition to being central to parliamentary accountability, the House and its committees is also where policy directions are to be debated, policies, budgets and programs are scrutinized and perhaps improved, etc. All of this is also arrested alongside accountability when Parliament does not sit.

      But I think you are overlooking the vitality of our democracy and

      • hit post to quick. that last line should have been:

        That in addition to specifically accountability, I think you may be overlooking the vitality of our democracy, as it also ceases debate.

        • But I suppose it’s naive of me to expect that a properly functioning government wouldn’t require that MPs intervene in their constituents’ interactions in order to get things done. Thereby allowing the MPs to ponder and research national problems instead of waiting for the PMO to tell them what to think.

          The downside , of course, is the risk that the Dean Del Mastros of the world might actually get the the idea that they can have ideas.

          And then, it would require that the public service stop parroting the private sector’s concept that the most efficient way to provide service is to deny service.

  6. Perhaps this means that the power to determine when and for how long Parliament sits should be in the hands of Parliament, and not the executive.

    Perhaps a bigger problem is that our parliament didn’t sit for upwards of eight months.

  7. Hey, notice how the years with the smallest number of sitting days (1997, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008) have something else in common? Elections, maybe?

    Really. This is a non-story.

    But how about doing a similar analysis of the provinces? Now that might be a story worth telling…

    • “Hey, notice how the years with the smallest number of sitting days (1997, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008) have something else in common? Elections, maybe?”

      Yes, yes we did. Because Aaron called our attention to it –

      “The years 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008 were election years.”

      • Ok. Foot-in-my-mouth for missing that sentence, but the point remains – if you take into account the days spent on election campaigns, the average number of sitting days each year is about the same. And if you consider the election as “work”, then you might say they’ve been “working” harder in recent years. How about offering up a comparison of how many bills were passed by each Palriament each year as a comparison instead?

        • Unless someone goes back further to show that the 94, 95 numbers are typical of earlier times, these data show that the number of sitting days has remained constant. (but depend strongly on whether an election was held)

        • I actually agree that worrying about the number of days sat, as a way of measuring value and how hard they are working is not very illuminating. Forgive me, but equally unhelpful, by itself, would be the number of bills passed.

          Too many variables factor into how much is achieved for a single measurable to tell a story on its own. You would have to look at the very many different jobs an average MP or provincial member is supposed to do and find multiple measurables for each, average them over time, etc…

          Ombudsman, committee member, legislator, holder-of-gov’t-to-account, policy debater/developer; the average member is asked to do many jobs. Do they have the tools to do them? Is the legislature designed to allow them to do them?

          So, you are correct; the post is a little narrow in its scope. Even Andrew Potter’s excellent suggestion that accountability should be assessed is, however, also too narrow for the reasons I have listed.

          • to the list of jobs, I obviously forgot the part of the job description that covers the round of church basements, community celebrations, town hall meetings, ribbon cuttings, etc.. a member does in their home constituency.

    • See my opinion above. Without looking at the numbers, I would first ask what roles my members play and whether they are playing them to determine if they are relevant or not. The numbers only tell a part of the story, and a very superficial one at that.

      At the provincial level, my big question would be whether or not they have the capacity to play all of their roles? With a smaller base number to work from and fewer resources, in most cases, than their federal counterparts, can provincial members do everything I listed elsewhere in this post? Heck, I’ll bet many government parties have fewer than a half dozen members who aren’t cabinet ministers. How do they do committees with numbers like that? Are they reviewing legislation properly, holding bureaucrats and ministers to account, or assisting with the development of policy if they are stretched too thin?

      Are provincial legislaures relevant? In today’s society, they should be more relevant than the federal level.

    • Wow! 17 total sitting days for the BC legislature in 1991!!! That’s unforgiveable. Yes, it was a scandal-plagued government, and there was a changeover in there as well (from Vander Zalm to Johnson), but still, 17 days?!?!?

      And life is surely grand for a PEI MLA …

  8. There’s sitting time and productive sitting time. Harper made sure the committees weren’t productive. QP wasn’t productive – he made sure of that.

  9. Is that Stockwell Day operating the vacuum ??

    • Nah! He doesn’t have his wet suit on.

  10. I am all for bashing incompetent MPs, but it is not fair to judge their work load by the number of days sitting. I know for a fact that they meet and work when Parliament isn’t sitting. Often, they work 10-12, even 16 hour days. When you divide # of hours worked by salary, I am not sure you’d dismiss at those numbers.
    That said, sure, some of them are overpaid. Like in all workplaces, it is not always fair.

  11. What you call “working”, about 99% of the time for the average MP, consists of sitting in a chair watching a couple of people pretending to violently disagree about which new rackets should be hung on the taxpayers’ necks. That and giving out little Canada pins to groups of high school students from their riding who happen to be visiting.

    • based on what wealth of knowledge and experience, pray tell?

Sign in to comment.