Elizabeth May, the federal Green party leader in Canada, recently called for the scrapping of the first past the post (single member electorate) system in Canada. May advocates for proportional representation to remove the worst aspects of politics and get more women into parliament:
May said it’s the federal and B.C. first-past-the-post voting system that tends to produce parliaments with far fewer women than countries with proportional representation and to get more women in politics, one of the key reforms that has to be embraced is to get rid of first-past-the-post.
May believes the system creates nastiness, which discourages women from getting involved in politics.
“Proportional representation will change our culture, make us less hyper-partisan, allow us to have dialogue where we agree with each other more, work towards consensus more,” she said. “I am quite convinced that changing our voting system to a system where every vote counts will make a huge difference in making politics less unpleasant and more productive; it will help Canadian citizens feel prouder of what they see happening on Parliament Hill or B.C. legislature.”
Canadian campaign encourages young women to be part of a model parliament session.
MP Cathy McLeod is encouraging all young women in the riding to join the organization Equal Voice in an initiative recognizing a century of women in politics in Canada.
The initiative, called Daughters of the Vote: Marking History to Inspire a Future Generation of Women Leaders, is also intended to encourage more women to enter politics.
“This is a historic national initiative to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s political engagement in 2016 and Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017,” McLeod said.
Equal Voice invites young women between ages 18 and 23 to apply to be one of 338 who will take a seat in Parliament. One young woman will be chosen from every federal riding in Canada to represent her community and communicate her vision for Canada.
Reva Seth in Canada is launching a political index to report on gender equity in Canadian politics. One area of focus is to see whether the gender of local party officials bears any relationship to the gender of candidates put forward by the party locally.
At democracy5050 we advocate for mandating equal gender representation in the electoral law.
Reva describes how there has been a lot of talk but few results towards securing equal gender representation:
These next few days are like festival season for political people: in Winnipeg the Liberal party is gathering for the 2016 Biennial Convention while over in Vancouver, the Conservative Party are also in the midst of their national convention.
Gender equity and increasing the number of female candidates will be a hot topic for both. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his core team have made this a clear priority for this Liberal Party and for the Conservatives, a more gender inclusive party has to be an essential part of their renewal efforts.
The bar has been raised on expectations.
And yet, despite PM Trudeau's ground-breaking appointment of our current gender balanced ministerial cabinet, Canada still has a long way to go before the political landscape is conducive to supporting genuine gender equity.
There's the everyday sexism that Michelle Rempel described in her op-ed; the near daily online abuse that Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says she receives and the hard fact that the numbers of women elected to the House is only incrementally advancing.
Canada still has a long way to go before the political landscape is conducive to supporting genuine gender equity.
According to the UN a minimum 30 per cent female representation is required to actually have an impact on policy and practice and to reap the benefits that increasing the number of female representatives would generate.
And to be clear, the case for gender equity in Parliament goes beyond arguments of fairness and representation (even though those should be enough).
Research consistently shows that increasing gender equity in government (just as in the private sector) results in increased prosperity for a greater number of citizens.
So why are we stuck?
Although political parties, activist organizations like Equal Voice and concerned citizens have been long been both calling out and working to advance this issue -- actual progress has been incremental.
To actually change the ratio of female MPs we need to also focus on changing the gender ratio of the core positions and roles which form the architecture of the political system and which in turn also help set the tone of the political climate and landscape.
The Globe & Mail described the last election as a "landslide for the Liberals but a glacial creep forward for women in Parliament. Canadians voters elected 88 female MPs putting female representation in the House at 26 per cent -- a 1 per cent increase since 2011."
Equal Voice observed that, "...at this rate it will take another 11 federal elections to reach anything approximating gender balance on the ballot. That's about forty-five years."
Clearly it's time for a different and I would argue a more holistic approach to this issue.
Jane Taber discusses the proposal by Canadian MP Kennedy Stewart to link government funding of party election campaigns to the number of women put forward for election. Kennedy Stewart explains his proposal:
“If our system was fairer, 50 per cent of the House of Commons would be women,” he says. “But it’s not fair, so any good political scientist would try to fight for justice, so that’s what I am doing.”
Women occupy just 26 per cent of the seats in the House.
“The further you get away from parity, the bigger reduction in your public subsidy,” he says. “It’s free money going to parties with no strings attached. What they have done in other countries, like Ireland and France, is use this money in terms of an incentive. If you’re going to get all this free money, you have to do something for it, and part of it is to make sure you are running gender-balanced lists of candidates.”
Mr. Stewart’s academic research has shown that the party selection processes are biased, and that men are five times more likely to win nominations just because the selectors are biased against women.
So, the problem is with the political parties, and their old-boy networks and structures.
Equal Voice, a non-partisan group that advocates for more elected women, notes that only 32 per cent of candidates in last year’s federal election were women.
Based on the formula in his bill, Mr. Stewart says $1.25-million would be deducted from the Conservatives’ reimbursement for the 2015 election, because 20 per cent of their candidates were female; the Liberals, with 31 per cent female candidates, would lose about $900,000, and the NDP, which ran 43 per cent female candidates, would have lost about $200,000.
Mr. Stewart’s bill was debated earlier this month in the Commons; it comes back for a vote in September. Some note that, even if it passes, the desired change might not come. Equal Voice says that in France, for example, the major parties will simply take the financial hit.
For Ms. Rempel, the bill would not make “real change.” She says women need to be educated on how to win nominations – raising money, dealing with the media, and building networks – to prepare them for the “fiery furnace” of a federal election. She believes going through rigorous internal party vetting is a positive exercise for women.
“The propensity is – and frankly you see it in all political parties in Canada – I don’t want to see women that are thrown into non-winnable ridings just to be a token so that [the party] is not financially penalized,” she says. “I think that actually takes women a step back.”
We observe that the Democracy5050 model establishing electorates with equal numbers of male and female representatives is a real and democratic solution to the problem of balanced gender representation.
A male parliamentarian from the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada presented a Bill to tie government funding of parties for electioneering expenses to their performance in putting forward a balance of male and female candidates. The parliamentarian Kennedy Stewart writes:
Next week Parliament begins debating Bill C-237, the Candidate Gender Equity Act. My private member’s bill seeks to change our electoral laws and incentivize political parties to run more women candidates during elections. With Canada ranked 60th in the world when it comes to electing women MPs, it is clear we are not doing enough to address gender equity in our most important democratic institution.