First thing: all proportional representation (PR) systems have lists of some
sort. "Pure" PR used in most PR countries has 100% lists--that is, all
representatives are elected from lists. Mixed systems (MMP) such as
was suggested for Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, PEI and for Canada
(by the Law Commission) and used in Germany, New Zealand, Scotland
and Wales have less than 50% of the representatives chosen by voters
from lists--the rest are elected from ridings as we do now under our
first past the post (FPTP) system. Single transferable vote (STV) also
has lists although they tend to be shorter than the other two types.
Before a proportional election, local districts will usually nominate candidates but instead of one, they will nominate several depending upon the number their area or district deserves. Using a transparent, democratic process, usually at a party convention, these candidates are placed on a list. The most valuable candidates will be at the top of the list and will be the ones most likely to go to the legislature depending on what proportion of the popular vote the party is able to attract.
As a voter, you can better decide which party you intend to support
by examining each party's list. Each party is held responsible for
the diversity of its list and is accountable to voters for its composition.
Even countries that have country or province-wide lists, they
ensure that local districts have a say in who their local list representatives
If a party has a fair number of capable women on the list and they are placed near the top, it is a good visual indication that that party is serious
about electing women. However, if a party has fewer women on its list
overall and places mostly men near the top, that might indicate the
opposite. In many European countries, parties will often zipper
their lists, alternating male and female names throughout the length
of the lists so equal numbers are elected. In any case, the visual
appearance of the list is critical because it shows if a party is serious
about nominating women. Parties are competitive and once they realize
that they are losing votes by not diversifying their lists, they start
to add more women and the number of women increases over all parties
No system is perfect. And no system will work exactly the same in every country.
But one thing about which the literature is very clear: voting
systems do matter for women. Our greatest impediment to electing more women is our current system. It is not the only factor but changing to a
more proportional system is the necessary first step. The role of women
and women's groups in encouraging parties to place women high on these
lists is critical in order to take advantage of the opportunity
structures that lists provide.
Since New Zealand's first MMP election in 1993, the number of women elected has gradually increased so they now rank 15th in the world with 32% women.
Canada's international ranking continues to decline and we are currently
at 51%, trailing countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, Namibia and Afghanistan.
By changing the system in one province, we will send a signal to the
rest of the country that the status quo has to
go. Canadian women deserve better representation.