cross Canada, governments are responding to growing public concerns about voter apathy and the unrepresentative nature of our elected bodies. Several jurisdictions are looking at proportional representation, to better reflect the actual makeup of the population and popular vote.
In Ontario, the Liberal government established a Citizen's Assembly of randomly-selected citizens, half of them women, to study the electoral system and recommend a new voting model by May 15, 2007.
The British Columbia government has promised a second referendum on its Citizens Assembly proposal, which was lost so narrowly last year that the politicians agreed upon a second try.
In Quebec, Premier Jean Charest, who promised electoral reform after the last election, is in the midst of a new election campaign on the old first past-the-post system.
In Atlantic Canada Prince Edward Island established an Electoral Reform Commission and New Brunswick created a Commission on Legislative Democracy.
The issue is also simmering at the federal level with a growing interest in conducting consutlations on proportional representation.
Equal Voice has been active, calling on governments to make the election of more women a priority for any changes to the way we vote.
The key to electing more women is the change the way nominations are conducted. We know from past elections that women, once nominated, are as likely to be elected as male candidates. Given a chance to do so, electors apparently are as happy to choose a woman as a man. But they don't get that choice if women's names are not on the ballot.
In the 2004 Ontario election, 25 per cent of candidates were women, which is a slight improvement on the national average of 22 per cent. The foolproof way to increase the number of women elected is to increase the numbers being nominated.
The way to do that, we believe, is by putting the spotlight on the gender balance of party candidate slates. Other countries, which use systems of proportional representation are much better at electing women (see our submission to the Ontario Citizens' Assembly for a complete list).
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