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Canadian Democracy: Veiws of Canadians

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Thomas Bateman

Political Science 104

Cody Thompson

April 2, 2001

Strengthening Canadian Democracy

The views of Canadians

In the report by Paul Howe and David Northrup titled, "Strengthening Canadian Democracy: the Views of Canadians" Policy Matters 1:5, Canadians attitudes towards government including questions about electoral system reform, representation and the rate of veter turnout.(Howe & Northrup, 2000) After reading, this report it is clear that many Canadians find many issues of their government to be unacceptable. One of the most menacing concerns is in the form that government attains office. The voting process, the form in which Canadians are represented by their Members of Parliament, and the first past the post method of election.

The debate about electoral reform is not a new issue it has been discussed for quite some time, but with the recent studies, "Concerns about the relationship between a party's share of the popular vote in an election and the number of seats it receives"(Howe & Northrup, 2000) has been given more attention. The first past the post system has continually elected governments that display grossly unfair party representation. "The most dramatic evidence was provided by the Progressive Conservatives, who captured 16% of the national popular vote but only won 2 seats (0.7%) in the House of CommonsÐ'...In Quebec, the sovereigntist voice of the Bloc Quebecois was amplifiedÐ'...when 49.2% of the vote garnered 72% of the provincial seats for the BlocÐ'..."(Braving the New World p.177).

Howe and Northrup pointed this out to Canadians during a survey, asking if they felt that this was acceptable or unacceptable. When there results were compared to the same survey taken ten years ago, the results showed some very important shifts in Canadian's opinions.

Canadians have shown an increase in their disapproval of this electoral system, as well as an increase in those who have voiced an opinion. The evidence presented shows that over half (63 %) of Canadians with an opinion on the electoral system in place, feel it is unacceptable. However, when asked if they were satisfied with the electoral system in place in Canada, the results showed that an overwhelming seventy-two per cent were satisfied with the first-past-the-post system. Canadian's feeling of unacceptability towards the present electoral system, should be enough of a concern to at least make a consideration of reform.

The electoral system in Canada directly correlates with the type of representation that Canadians receive. More specifically the representation that women and visible minorities receive in parliament. "Women, visible minorities, and Aboriginal peoples continue to be significantly under-represented in the ranks of elected politicians at all levels of government."(Howe & Northrup, 2000) It is obvious that sufficient representation by government means that everyone in Canada must be represented. There has been an increase for females elected to parliament, however it is subtle. In comparison to other countries, Canada is in the middle, ranked 29th worldwide, in this area. (Howe & Northrup, 2000) Canadians do feel that something should be done to even the playing field by choosing as many female representatives as they do males, much like the Reforms taking place in France. Measures have been taken to rectify this situation, with Bill C-2. This Bill suggested that parties with at least 20 per cent female MPs would be granted a larger amount of reimbursement for their election expenses, and an even larger refund for those parties with 30 per cent female MPs. (Howe & Northrup, 2000) Canadians support the idea that parties should be required to increase the amount of female candidates.

Visible minorities are also under-represented by government. In 1997, visible minorities accounted for little over 6 per cent of Members of Parliament. An increase from 1993 when this group made up 4.4 per cent, and 1.7 per cent in 1988. (Howe & Northrup, 2000) With visible minorities making up 11 per cent of the population, the under-representation of visible minorities is as serious as that of Canadian women. However only 35 per cent of Canadians feel that this is a problem, but almost half feel that parties should be required to elect more visible minority candidates. (Howe & Northrup, 2000)

Canada's Aboriginal people are a group that has been grossly under-represented by government throughout Canadian history. "As the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples reported, of the approximately 11 000 MPs elected since Confederation, only 13 have been self- identified as Aboriginal." (Howe & Northrup, 2000) The Lortie Commission's proposal to this problem was to set aside seats in the House, specifically for Aboriginal representatives. A solid majority of Canadians (57 percent)" (Howe & Northrup, 2000) thought that was a good solution for this obvious problematic mis-representation.

This evidence shows that the representation that all of Canada's minority groups receive a disproportionate amount of representation in Parliament when compared to the rest of Canada. It is also clear that most Canadians feel that something should be done to allow and ensure that the House of Commons is more diversified.

Voter turnout in Canada is also at the forefront of Canadian democracy. Many Canadians feel that democracy does not serve its purpose if it is not being used to serve the whole of a country. "In

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