Pandemic Parliaments: Canadian Legislatures in a Time of Crisis

Research paper by Erica Rayment, Jason VandenBeukel

Indexed on: 26 Aug '20Published on: 01 Jun '20Published in: Canadian journal of political science. Revue canadienne de science politique


Canadian legislatures’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have raised questions about whether and how parliaments should continue to meet during the pandemic (Reid, 2020; Thomas, 2020a). The purpose of this research note is twofold: (1) to document how Canadian legislatures have changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) to assess the effect of these responses on legislatures’ ability to fulfill their core functions. Through an analysis of parliamentary records from all elected federal, provincial and territorial legislatures in Canada, we find that the role of parliaments as sites of citizen representation has suffered the most, whereas the scrutinizing and legislative functions of parliaments have tended to be preserved, albeit in a significantly truncated form. We argue that patterns in legislatures' varied responses to the pandemic reveal which aspects of parliamentary functioning these bodies de facto prioritize and which are at risk of being eroded.