Electoral system blamed for fewer female politicians

By CBC wire
Published March 3rd 2004 in Canadian Broadcasting Company, New Brunswick

MONCTON  —  New Brunswick's electoral system has to change if more women in the province are expected to make their mark in politics.

The Advisory Council on the Status of Women wants seats distributed according to popular vote, or a similar form of proportional representation.

The provincial government is preparing to overhaul the election process with "fundamental" changes in place by 2005.

The Advisory Council's executive director believes women gained political clout through the eighties and nineties but that momentum has stalled.

"In New Brunswick, it's gone backwards in terms of women candidates and the number of women elected," Rosella Melanson said. "Something's got to give."

Proportional representation on the table

Melanson hopes New Brunswick's commission on electoral reform will shake things up when the nine-member panel presents its plan for democratic renewal at the end of the year.

"The centerpiece of the commission, really, is a mandate to propose a new electoral system that is more proportional," said Bill Cross, the commission's advisor.

"At the same time, it will retain the principle of representation form particular geographic places."

That could mean parties would submit lists of candidates to be chosen on the basis of the popular vote, not nomination battles, something Melanson said has boosted the political fortunes of women in other parts of the world.

"I know that in the Scandinavian countries, there are quite a few women, sometimes 45 per cent of parliament are female," Melanson said.

Currently, 13 per cent of New Brunswick's MLAs are women.