Cover: Whipped: Party Discipline in Canada, by Alex Marland. typeface: the title aranged vertically in green letters on a black background.
480 pages, 6 x 9
5 b&w photos, 10 charts, 8 tables
Release Date:15 Nov 2020
Release Date:15 Sep 2020
Release Date:15 Sep 2020


Party Discipline in Canada

UBC Press

Canadians often see politicians as little more than trained seals who vote on command and repeat robotic talking points. Politicians are torn by dilemmas of loyalty to party versus loyalty to voters. The reality is more complex, especially in a world where a public slip-up can spell the end of a political career.

Whipped examines the hidden ways that political parties exert control over elected members of Canadian legislatures. Drawing on extensive interviews with politicians and staffers across the country, award-winning author Alex Marland explains why Members of Parliament and provincial legislators toe the party line, and shows how party discipline has expanded into message discipline. He explores the phenomenon of politicians as brand ambassadors, the role of the party whip, and the inner workings of legislatures. He recounts stories from Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s drive for caucus cohesion in the 1980s through to the turmoil that the SNC-Lavalin crisis wrought on Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party in 2019. From caucus meetings to vote instructions, Marland exposes how democracy works in our age of instant communication and political polarization. This book conclusively demonstrates that party loyalty usually wins out in Canada.

Filled with political tips, Whipped is a must-read for anyone interested in the real world of Canadian politics.

This work will have broad appeal for political scientists, politicians, and political staffers, as well as for students, journalists, and anyone with an interest in the workings of Canadian politics.


  • 2021, Shortlisted - Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, The Writers Trust
Marland [provides] an important fresh look at the issues around party whip systems and explores the mechanisms of party discipline and the extent discipline can be enforced in the digital age of direct communication between represented and representative. Darren G. Lilleker, International Journal of Press/Politics
It is a fresh addition to the study of Canadian politics, written in a clear and accessible tone yet rife with diligent detail and sharp analysis. Elizabeth Haig, Canadian Parliamentary Review
Whipped renews our understanding of Canadian parliamentary politics and party discipline in the modern setting, where we see intensifying message discipline across a range of new platforms and technologies. Writing in accessible plain language, Marland pushes his argument forward with a mix of convincing new primary research.

J.P. Lewis, Canadian Journal of Political Science

If you’re interested in how modern legislatures in Canada really work, Whipped: Party Discipline in Canada by Alex Marland is a treat — a detailed, well-researched and well-written look behind one of the curtains. Brian Topp, partner, GT&Company Executive Advisors, Policy Magazine
Whipped reveals how the people who govern us govern themselves. A great read for anyone curious about how politics in Canada really works. An absolute must-read for anyone thinking of running for office. Because if you find yourself sitting in Parliament having not read it? You’ll be in for a hell of a surprise. Rick Mercer
Whipped will take you to the place that political journalists find incredibly difficult to cover – the world of political-party culture, which operates by its own unwritten, constantly evolving rules, and always as a tug-of-war between ambitious individuals and their teams. Alex Marland, once again, has given us a book about how the political system really works, not just about how it is supposed to work. Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star columnist and author of Shopping for Votes
This tremendously valuable book offers a sophisticated, in-depth investigation into how party cohesion, message control, discipline, and conflict management happen in the modern environment of permanent campaigning and parliamentary politics. This is a major contribution to our understanding of the realities of Canadian political life. Paul Thomas, professor emeritus, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba
Whipped pulls the curtain back on party discipline, an aspect of Canadian politics that we know little about. By revealing the links between party discipline and message discipline, Marland gets us thinking about this topic in an entirely new way, Whipped should be read by practitioners and academics alike. Tamara A. Small, associate professor, Department of Political science, University of Guelph
Canadians have long wondered what goes on in the backrooms of our democracy. They need wonder no longer – Alex Marland has produced a very well-researched and highly accessible book on the inner workings of Parliament, on the role the caucus plays, and on how political parties operate. Donald Savoie, Canada Research Chair, Public Administration and Governance, Université de Moncton
Whipped substantially increases our understanding of the function of Canada’s Parliament, the role of MPs within it, and party discipline in general. Royce Koop, associate professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba
Alex Marland is a professor of political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the author of Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control, which won the Donner Prize for best public policy book by a Canadian and an Atlantic Book Award. He is trusted by Canadian politicians, political staff, and other members of the public sector to respect their conditions for sharing information about what goes on behind the scenes in Canadian politics and governance.

1 Party Discipline in Canada

2 Representation

3 Partisan Teams

4 The Communications Arena

5 Message Discipline

6 Government Centralization

7 Parliamentary Caucuses

8 Caucus Research Bureaus

9 Legislative Assemblies

10 Managing Trouble

11 The SNC-Lavalin Affair

12 Advice for a New Parliamentarian

Appendix 1: Interview Participants

Appendix 2: Interview Sampling and Recruitment

Notes; References; Index

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