Electoral reform is presently underway in several provinces and at the federal level to improve the democratic systems in Canada. Many women’s organizations, including Equal Voice, are involved in making sure that equal representation of women, who represent 50 per cent of the population, is recognized as an important factor in electoral reform.
Changes to electoral financing, among others, have already been adopted at the federal level. Spending limits have been established to provide a more level playing field for candidates, especially women and minority groups.
On June 16, 2005, the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs tabled its report on a federal electoral reform process. If adopted by Parliament, a Parliamentary Committee and a Citizens’ Consultation Committee would be established to concurrently engage Canadians in an electoral reform discussion. To explore this very complex issue, visit some of the sites on electoral reform proposed under 'More on this Issue'.
Some parties have adopted a policy to encourage or support the recruitment of women candidates. In 2004, Equal Voice surveyed the leaders of the four parties represented in the House of Commons to ask them what they were doing to increase the number of women candidates in the general election. Here are excerpts from their response:
- Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe responded through his assistant chief of staff:
“We believe that to improve the level of representativeness of elected individuals, we must ensure a better proportion of women in Parliament and even aim at reaching parity between men and women. This is of course the special responsibility of political parties, and the Bloc Québécois, working with groups interested in this issue, has reflected on the objectives to fulfill, the steps to follow and the means to achieve the goal. Therefore, as of the fall of 2003, we created a committee specifically responsible for recruiting women candidates and named as co-chairs Caroline St-Hilaire, the member for Longueuil, and Diane Bourgeois, the member for Terrebonne-Blainville. This approach was adapted to the objectives we wished to fulfill, which were to allow as many women as possible to come forward as candidates in the upcoming election campaign.”
- Conservative Party of Canada Leader Stephen Harper did not respond personally, but Peter MacKay, party president, did: “The challenge of achieving a balance between family and elected office is often quoted by women as a reason not to run. We must be sensitive to that consideration and establish appropriate support systems so that potential candidates are not lost to the Party in the House of Commons… At the PC Party’s Annual General Meeting in August 2002… one of the recommendations [was a] call for the reactivation of the Ellen Fairclough Fund to raise and ensure adequate funding for female candidates.”
- Liberal Party of Canada Leader, PM Paul Martin, leading up to the last federal campaign, declared: “Our party will elect the largest number of women candidates in Liberal riding history.” Unfortunately, the results did not meet the expectations but the Liberal Party does have a National Women’s Liberal Commission, the mandate of which is to represent women’s interests in the party and to encourage the participation of women at every level of party activity.
- New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton: “Leading up to the recent election, the NDP had a policy of freezing nominations until a woman or a candidate from another under-represented group is
confirmed to be seeking nomination.” The party has an Affirmative
Action policy and a Federal Search Committee to attract and
encourage candidates from under-represented groups.
The Green Party of Canada, which was the only other party to present candidates in all 308 federal ridings in the 2004 federal election, also has a policy to increase the number of women candidates.