Canadian Members of Parliament voting records (finally) online

Tavish sez, "After a push from the NDP, the Canadian government's put voting records of every Canadian MP online."

It's about time, but what a lame execution: "To view an MP's record, head to the website and click on the Members of Parliament link to find your member of the House of Commons. Your MP's site will will have a tab for votes that takes you to a list showing whether they voted yea, nea, or didn't vote at all on any given bill."

It's time for some civic-minded Canadian hackers to slurp out all that data and reformat in a way that gives you real insight into what your elected representative is up to and how she compares to all the other politicos on the Hill.

MP voting records go online (Thanks, Tavish!)


  1. Fantastic! Creating a usable, searchable database of this stuff (incl. Hansard, etc.), has been an idea whizzing around my head for the last year now.

    I’ll start on parsing the data tonight. Here’s a brief overview of what I’ve noticed so far (Apologies for such a long post):

    For anyone else who’s interested, the URLs aren’t very friendly, but you can get a full listing of all votes since 1900 with a URL like this

    (They only have 2009 votes posted so far :( )

    Then you can cross-reference the attribute lines in that XML document (eg: <Vote number=”47″ parliament=”40″ session=”2″ sitting=”38″ date=”2009-04-01″>) with the GET vars in this URL:

    And that returns, for any given set of vote attributes, a full XML listing of who voted and how, including party and riding.

    Once you’ve crawled all that data, you should be able to build a cross-referenced database (like the one they have) and make a usable search interface (not like the one they have).

    I’m assuming the information is free to copy.
    It’s just a list of facts, right?

  2. Canadian MPs pretty well always vote on party lines. I’m not sure how valuable this data will be. Still, better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

  3. MPs just vote the same as everyone else in their party. The results probably won’t be very interesting. Still, it’s a good thing.

  4. The article says there are 4 ways to access the data. Only one was available yesterday. The other 3 will come online next week. There’ll be a search as well. Not sure if the search counts as one of the other 3.

  5. This sort of feature is much more useful in the U.S. In Canada, party discipline is so tight that the answer will almost always be “With their party”.

  6. As a Canadian, i’m not sure how this will be particularly helpful. We have a very strong system of party discipline in canada, meaning, voting against your party on a given issues is tantamount to offering your resignation. Typically, when this happens the said MP will already have a plan to “cross the floor” and join an opposing party. it’s rare.

    I’m not saying that it’s not useful, but i’d hate to see our political discussion start looking like the US’s where past voting records are presented like catalogues of a politician’s hypocrisy. “so and so voted against helping the troops 29 times” and so on. These are almost always taken out of context and don’t necessarily represent the true views of whoever they are talking about.

  7. I would love to see this information cross-referenced against the MP’s campaign platform to spot which MP’s deliver and which belong to the “say anything to get the vote, then do whatever you want” club.

    Thanks for the link!

  8. The British site does this for the UK parliament. The source code for the site is available on sourceforge so if someone can write a parser to take the data from the Candian Parliament and put it in the format that the public whip use, it should be fairly easy to get it working.

  9. Wow! This is really good! I have a (slightly resting) research project where I need access to large amounts of vote data for parliaments around the world. US is easy enough – and this actually solves the issue (modulo me doing some coding) for Canada.

    The European Union, however, are obstinate – and I probably should at some point write up just how obstinate, and stupid, their arguments for not sharing in even a parseable format are – but not tonight.

    And Sweden used to be easy to get at, until they rebuilt the parliamentary website. If anyone knows of more good web interfaces for voting data, I would be VERY interested!

  10. For those of you saying that it’s not useful because MPs vote with their parties, I think it’s useful in seeing who just doesn’t show up for work.

  11. It would be great to have Canadian provincial and territorial mpp votes and city councilor votes as well. was an excellent first start for federal mps. Our Parliament is also a great project

    Some interesting work was done with, where a user enters their postal code and gets a map of their electoral district accompanied with those up for elections.

    The biggest issue we have in Canada re-the latter, is access to the postal code file which is currently sold to Canadians for thousands of dollars as opposed to it being shared as a public dataset. Cost recovery policies and government data monopolies are slowing progress for hactivists, citizens or NGOs who would like to create some interesting projects or tell some interesting demographic stories. and Digital Copyright Canada work toward making those datasets available.

    Tracey &

  12. This is great.. mostly.

    This should have been an open source project, not some closed-source walled garden effort. The website is terrible and the interface is really holding it back from being something way better.

    I believe a community of open source developers can build something much more sophisticated.

    So to co-ordinate efforts, I started an open-source project that includes a crawler and web service to provide an alternative. Anyone interested in helping out, please check out

    My hope is that we can get a decent query-able web service API for people to build real applications from. I for one already have an idea for one such application built on this service.

    The project will still need servers to host it on and a domain name for people to find it.

    At least there are people in parliament trying I guess… but we can just do it better.

    So if Cory or anyone here is interested, please help spread the word.

  13. I started a project to build a crawler which will feed data into a publicly query-able web service.

    It’s meant to be a more low-level service to scrape data from for more interesting applications and research.

    Whoever initiated this project on had good intentions, but it should have been an open-source project from the beginning. Transparency doesn’t mean hiring a company to build a closed-source web site in a walled garden, you know? As it is, its more translucent than anything. It’s a start but we the community can do so much better.

    Anyway, once this project finds hosting somewhere I already have some ideas for neat projects as I’m sure others do as well.

    Now just to get the municipal governments to follow suit…

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