Libby promotes proportional representation to increase women’s presence in Parliament

House of Commons
March 3, 2011

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP) :

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Hamilton Centre for such a great overview of this issue and a very passionate speech in the House today about why we need to engage in democratic improvement.

He did mention, under proportional representation, that it is a real benefit for elected women. I think he said that 74 countries already have proportional representation and in those elected assemblies, we have seen an increase in representation from women.

In this House of Commons, it has been an ongoing struggle. We are still at about only 20% representation in this House.

I wonder if the member could explain why a system of proportional representation actually increases the diversity of elected bodies, such as the House of Commons, and ensures that women are getting elected, as well as other members of Canadian society who right now are completely underrepresented in this place.

Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP) :

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for such an important question.

It has been shown, in a number of examples, that the first thing that happens is that there are more women, more Aboriginals, and more minorities in Parliament to reflect the population of our country.

The reason that happens is that when the lists are developed– and I ran out of time as it is a very short period of time to talk about something so complex–but when Canadians have that second vote for the party, the names of the candidates on the lists of each of the parties are there for them to see. We would hope that we would build in federal laws that would dictate the governance of electing people to those lists so that we would all have the basic fundamental tenet of democracy and that it I would not just be the whim of party leader to put their buddies on the lists. All that would do is replicate what we are doing in the Senate.

So, we want to ensure there is a level playing field, in the hope that, and this is what actually happens and we hope it would happen here, parties wanting to appeal. To the electorate, of course, are putting on the names of women, minorities and Aboriginals and electing them to their slate, to their list, and then from there, they would find their way here. The reason for that is the current system we know, as is shown in study after study and then because of plain common sense, is stacked against women. There are so many challenges, and I know there are some who will argue that. Nonetheless, the responsibilities for families still fall mostly on women. Women still make less money, so there is less disposable income to invest in a political career. There is a whole host of real challenges and blockages that have prevented women from getting here. What gives? They are over 50% of the population and they are less than 20% of the House. That is a major deficiency.

One of the benefits of proportional representation is that it would, if we take the example in other countries, increase the number of women, Aboriginals and minorities in this House, and that can only make it stronger.