Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Michael M. Atkinson
There is no simple, single explanatory model which will explain why a given national legislative assembly is fixed at a particular size. A number of research tools are required to fully understand decisions regarding legislature size. This thesis contributes to our understanding of legislature size by outlining three approaches and then applying the research tools of these approaches to the problem of legislature size in Canada.
The first approach is based on the assumption that any study of legislature size must include an exploration of the constitutional and legal context within which decisions are made. In Canada, where specific constitutional formulae have bound legislators to fix the size of the House at specific levels after each decennial census, it would be foolhardy to study legislature size without a solid understanding of these institutional constraints.
The second approach suggests that it is essential, when studying legislature size, to recognize the substantial influence which population size typically exerts on legislature size. Comparative empirical analysis demonstrates that the size of nations' populations explains in the range of 80 per dent of the variance in legislature size between nations. Thus, the influence of population size must be fully explored.
The third approach employed in this the~is, suggests that choices regarding legislature size can be explained with reference to prevailing conceptions of political representation. At its simplest level, the assumption behind this approach is that different understandings of political representation involve different priorities and different styles of representation, each of which will have different ramifications for legislature size. It is the emphasis placed on this previously under used approach which is the principle contribution of this thesis.
With regard to legislature size in Canada, this thesis demonstrates that once the institutional constraints and the influence of population size are understood and accounted for, the choices which have been made regarding the size of the Canadian House of Commons can be most effectively explained by the pervasiveness of a Burkean conception of political representation.
Patten, Steve, "Making Choices: The Size of the Canadian House of Commons" (1989). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7036.
McMaster University Library