TRU airs Whipped: The Secret World of Party Discipline

Documentary Whipped exposes secretive system of party discipline in Canadian politics

On Sept. 26, the documentary Whipped was screened at TRU’s International Building. The screening of the film was organized by Fair Vote Kamloops in partnership with the TRU Sustainability Office.

Whipped is a 45-minute documentary that exposes the secretive system of party discipline that transforms Canadian politicians into what writer and director Sean Holman calls ‘trained seals’. In the documentary, Holman speaks to some former and current elected officials who tell him about the backroom forces that cause them to vote against their constituents on legislative matters.  The documentary also shows how the system of party discipline assures that the party in government almost never fails to achieve its legislative agenda.

“Outside this chamber, British Columbians hold a multitude of opinions, but inside only two opinions are usually heard: the government’s and the opposition’s,” Holman said. “And like elsewhere in Canada, it’s the government that always prevails. In fact, during the nine years I reported on provincial politics, not a single opposition bill was passed and not a single government bill was defeated. According to the legislative library, the last time a government bill was defeated was March 1953.”

Holman is an associate professor at Mount Royal University, Calgary. As a former investigative journalist covering B.C. politics, he uses these skills in the documentary to bring to light how political parties strive to ensure that politicians vote in agreement with the party’s decision in the legislature. In fact, in the movie he interviews several former MLA’s who admit to having voted in favor of bills that they disagreed with.

“Party discipline also means that democratically elected representatives may have very little influence over the government and if they don’t have any influence, how much of a say do voters really have in this legislature?” asked Holman in the documentary.

In conclusion, however, Holman points out that there are a significant number of voters in B.C. who vote with consideration primarily to party policy and values rather than their politician’s personal values. The documentary creates awareness of the dynamics of party discipline, and voters can then make better-informed decisions.

A representative from Fair Vote Kamloops that was in attendance said that it was important for the people of B.C. to watch the movie as upcoming elections draw nearer.

Fair Vote Kamloops is a local organization that is working to improve the democratic process through the implementation of proportional representation. It is a local branch of the larger Fair Vote Canada-B.C.

Whipped is also available in its entirety and free of charge on Sean Holman’s website, Unknowable Country, where he advocates for freedom of information and government transparency.