MPs less experienced, less educated: report
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, May 4, 2009 1:14PM EDT
OTTAWA - The latest crop of MPs is less educated, less experienced and more white, a new study concludes.
The report by the Public Policy Forum says almost one-quarter of MPs were newly elected in October and two-thirds have less than five years experience.
Just three per cent of MPs have more than 15 years under their belts, and most of them are Liberals.
The study also found that ethnic diversity and the number of foreign-born MPs decreased slightly after the last campaign when more Conservatives were elected.
About two-thirds of MPs have university degrees -- far fewer than in the U.S. where 93 per cent of representatives have at least one degree.
Wealth may have something to do with it: it costs almost $800,000 to run for a House seat in the U.S., compared to about $62,000 in Canada.
Successive minority governments in Ottawa since 2004 have contributed to the high turnover and influx of fresh political blood, especially from the now governing Conservatives.
Most MPs, about 61 per cent, now hail from business backgrounds -- not the stereotypical lawyer-turned-politician scenario, says the study.
It's different in the U.S. where 71 per cent of Congress representatives made the leap from another political job at state or local levels.
Some may argue that a revolving door to the House of Commons keeps the system fresh with new ideas and is itself proof of democratic access. But there's a possible downside to the resulting disconnect with tradition, says David Mitchell, president of the Public Policy Forum.
"We have very few career politicians currently in our Parliament and most of our MPs are new in terms of their experience. They're still learning the ropes. And that might in part explain the partisanship and rancour that we see in the House of Commons today."
Mitchell cites "an unprecedented level of partisan acrimony and a high degree of distrust between elected representatives and the federal public service."
"With 75 per cent of our politicians knowing only these dynamics of minority Parliament, has our political culture been altered? Is this a positive development?
"I think some important questions are raised."