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Why does Canada have so few women in politics?

March 8, 2010

Report today that Canada ranks 50th in the World in the number of women in politics.  Is it time to consider a quota on minimum number of female candidates for a party? Some people worry that this might lead to forcing unqualified people into office. But that’s just silly, we all know there are large numbers of women who are much more capable and qualified to run things than the men currently in government. A quota would remove a huge hurdle for those women by not requiring them to play the boys game and work their way through a system that is rigged against them. Once they are candidates, or even just into the candidate selection process for parties it will be up to party members and voters to choose who they want to represent them. I’m confident once given that choice our numbers will go up dramatically of their own accord.
This was one of the most disappointing things about the failure of BC-STV last year. Parties would have had to run a number of candidates against each other in their own ridings, hoping that more than one of them would win. But running a slate of 4 or 5 white men would have been very difficult to sell. So we would have had a huge social pressure on parties to select at least one minority candidate and one or two women in each large riding without any need to a quota. Once given the choice between three white men and two women amongst the same party in a single riding many voters would have chosen the women simply out of a sense of balance and justice. But this feature of STV wasn’t discussed much and the referendum was lost.

Under our current system, a quota for nomination of female candidates is the best solution. The quota could apply to the candidate selection process or to the actual candidates put forward, either one would make a huge difference.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 9, 2010 3:29 pm

    Tinkering with the current electoral system in the name of fairness is about as useful as putting lipstick on a pig.

    Improving the appearance of a winner-take-all system by using the law to graft some women (which women?) into it would be a serious distraction from the main reform objective shared by democrats of both genders: realizing the right of every male and female citizen to equal representation in the legislatures.

    As you point out, a voting system capable of delivering proper democratic representation is likely to foster the nomination of many more women in winnable situations. After that, given that women have 52 per cent of the franchise, we should let the chips fall where they fall.

    To the extent that women are politically oppressed, they are an oppressed majority. The preferable antidote to that oppression is not quotas. It is representative democracy.

    John Deverell

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