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YWCA Canada urges Ontarians to choose proportional representation in referendum

Edited by Traci Lawson

Canada's largest multi-service women's organization urges Ontarians to choose proportional representation in upcoming electoral reform referendum. Leader says a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system will help more equitable representation of women in provincial legislature.

Ontario voters go to the polls a month from today to choose a new provincial government. When they cast their ballots on October the 10th, they will also be asked whether they want to keep the current electoral process or adopt a Mixed Member Proportional system.

YWCA Canada is partnering with Equal Voice (an organization dedicated to increasing the number of women politicians) to support the MMP system. Under this new system, 90 of the seats in the Legislature would be elected in ridings as is currently the case, while an additional 39 would be elected by Proportional Representation (PR).

Each voter would get two votes one for a local riding representative and one for their preferred party's list of candidates for the PR seats. The 39 PR seats would be determined based on the percentage of votes received by each party across the province.

YWCA Canada believes the MMP system is more democratic and will likely lead to more women being elected to the Legislature. The political parties would be obligated to present candidate lists that include a good gender balance and visible minorities. Therefore the Legislature would more fairly represent the actual make up of the population. Right now there are only 26 women (25 percent) in the 103-seat Legislature and only 8 members are of visible minority communities. Both figures are half what they should be based on provincial demographics.

"The Ontario Citizens' Assembly got it right when they recommended MMP as the process to improve our democratic process in the province," notes Paulette Senior, CEO of YWCA Canada. "The need to implement a system that proportionately and more equally represents the wishes of Ontario citizens and results in more women being elected is democracy at work.

Currently, women and minorities are too often dependent on arbitrary nomination processes thus preventing them equal opportunity to run for office. MMP will help to ensure women a fair chance at the polls resulting in a stronger voice in government."

The Mixed Member Proportional system has been used successfully in New Zealand, Germany, Scotland, and Wales. It has resulted in stable coalition governments with increased participation by women members of parliament.

We have an opportunity to achieve the same kind of results here in Ontario. YWCA Canada will be working with Equal Voice to encourage our members and all Ontario citizens to vote YES for the Mixed Member Proportional System on October the 10th. This is a crucial opportunity to achieve much needed reforms to an outdated electoral system, and to make sure more women are actively engaged in the political decisions that affect them and their families.

Canada's legislatures are dominated by white male professionals and political party slates are 80 percent male even though party leaders have publicly called for more women. It is time to put an end to this scenario and make our political system more inclusive and more democratic.

As part of its campaign, Equal Voice has launched "Ontario's Greatest Female Premier"- a chance to nominate women to be Ontario's next Premier.

Nominations will be accepted until September 15th and voting will take place between September 15th and 27th. The winner will be announced at Queen's Park in the first week of October.

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