A backbencher is a Member of Parliament (MP) or a legislator who does not hold governmental office and is not a Front Bench spokesperson in the Opposition. A backbencher may be a new parliamentary member yet to receive high office, a senior figure dropped from government, or someone who for whatever reason is not chosen to sit either in the ministry or the opposition Shadow Ministry.
In most parliamentary systems, backbenchers individually do not have much power to influence government policy. However, they are important in providing services to their constituents and in relaying the opinions of their constituents. In addition, since backbenchers generally form the vast majority of the number of MPs, collectively they can sometimes exercise considerable power especially in cases where the policies of the government are unpopular or when a governing party is internally split.
Beth Phinney was a member of the House of Commons from 1988 until her retirement in 2005, representing the riding of Hamilton Mountain for the Liberal Party.
John Bryden was a member of the House of Commons from 1993 until 2004. For most of this time he served as a Liberal MP for a riding in west Hamilton. He crossed the floor in 2004 and ran as a Conservative candidate before his defeat in the 2004 election.