10 September 2007

REAL Women needs to get real

Gwen Landolt, National Vice President of REAL Women of Canada, has issued a statement opposing the mixed-member-proportional (MMP) system that Ontarians will be voting on a month from today, as reported here: REAL Women of Canada Warns Against Ontario Proportional Representation Voting Change. Landolt claims that "it will undermine our democratic system of government." Admitting that under MMP parties will have to form coalition governments, she raises the spectre of short-lived Italian-style governments plaguing Canada's political process. Landolt also fears that feminist influence within the major parties will increase as a consequence of MMP.

Her objections need to be addressed and put to rest. First, MMP will produce a legislature more, not less, representative of the political opinions of ordinary voters. Under our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, a single party takes all the effective power over the opposition of most voters. Why Landolt would find this democratic is a mystery.

Second, Germany and New Zealand, both of which use MMP, are stable democracies with governments generally lasting as long as they are expected to. The Netherlands uses a straight party list system with no single-member constituencies, and its governments are also durable. Electoral reform and multiparty coalition governments do not by themselves foment political instability.

Finally, Landolt fears that the major parties would pander to special interests, including feminists, in allocating list seats. This misses the point. Under MMP the "major" parties would no longer be as strong as they are now, with other parties, along with the viewpoints they represent, gaining seats in the legislature, provided they receive at least 3 percent of the vote. This could include a party more in keeping with the convictions of Landolt and REAL Women — one that is currently handicapped by FPTP. The Family Coalition Party (FCP) comes to mind here.

Incidentally the FCP favours MMP. Landolt's group should rethink its opposition and consider the possible advantages of MMP to its own cause.

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