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Parliamentary Records Go Online… Officially

April 29, 2009

Canada’s Parliamentary records have gone online. Now you can go onto the Fed’s website and check up on how your MP has been voting, or just how good their attendance has been (mine has perfect attendance, it is sad that we are ideologically opposed).

If a technology is declared revolutionary because it becomes so ubiquitous as to change human behaviour, then Canada’s government can be considered a late adopter in this case. Publication of parliamentary informatics in a parsed, easily readable way has already been initiated in a number of countries (including our own), by community-funded and volunteer websites.

It is not as if I am unappreciative that there is finally an official version, but I always get a kick out of it when the ingenuity and pioneering spirit of private citizens gets us there first. How’d They Vote? has been parsing Hansards and posting a lot of this information in a similar configuration since 2005, and has done an excellent job at presenting the data clearly and thoroughly.
That said, I am happy that the government is putting an official version up, with nicely configured scrapeable data, and I appreciate the extra functionality of being able to go back five years to get a longitudinal look.

There are apparently four ways to search online, but I will relate the two I was able to figure out: If you go to the federal site, you may search by MP, to find your representative, or by bill, so you can see how it fared across the board. To save you the search and click-fest that is the official site, I here are the direct links: You can check the Vote Details where you can choose a bill and click for both an explanation and voting records. Or you can search by Member of Parliament, pick an interesting looking one from the list, and click the “Votes” tab from their page. The bills are also clickable, in case you need to read up.

Will this affect the way Parliamentarians vote? Undoubtedly it aids the dissemination of information to voters. However, the drivers of change, no matter how technologically assisted, are at their core reassuringly analog. People with the will to organize and initiate community movements will truly drive change. The rest of it, Facebook, Twitter, machine-readable Parliamentary records and the rest of it are simply increasingly effective tools.

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