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Opinion

How do political parties get politicians to stay on message?

By Alex Marland      

How can Canadian politicians navigate party discipline? That was the theme of a well-attended public forum held in St. John’s on Feb. 6. Sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada (Atlantic) and Memorial University of Newfoundland, and moderated by Michael Morden of The Samara Centre for Democracy, the captivated audience engaged with a lively political panel. Panellists included Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, Independent MHA Paul Lane, former Newfoundland MP Ryan Cleary and former Ontario MP Jane Philpott. The evening began with Alex Marland, a professor of political science at Memorial University, providing a sneak peak of Whipped: Party Discipline in Canada, a book that will be published by UBC Press later this year. Below are his edited opening remarks from the 'Navigating Party Discipline' event.

Independent Newfoundland and Labrador MHA Paul Lane, Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, and former MPs Jane Philpott and Ryan Cleary, pictured on Feb. 6, 2020, at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Photograph courtesy of Alex Marland

ST. JOHN’S, N.L.—I’m a professor of political science, and I study how Canadian political parties try to both coordinate and control communication. How is it exactly that they try to get party politicians to stay on message?

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