New Brunswick

Ex-PM Kim Campbell pitches reform to boost gender parity

Former prime minister Kim Campbell says all federal ridings should run two candidates, including a woman, as a way to create instant parity in parliament.

Dual-member ridings would allow voters to elect a man and a women in all federal ridings

Former prime minister Kim Campbell says all federal ridings should run two candidates, including a woman, as a way to create instant parity in Parliament but that proposal ran into some opposition from some voters on Sunday.

Campbell’s comments come less than a week after the New Brunswick election where only eight female MLAs were elected out of the 49 seats, which represents roughly 16 per cent of the legislature’s seats.

In Canada, 76 women were elected in the 2011 election, bringing the number of female MPs to 25 per cent of the 308 federal seats.

Even though women have been more successful in getting elected to the House of Commons than the New Brunswick Legislature, Campbell said it's going to take generations to reach gender parity at the national level without an intervention.

She suggests one man and one woman for every riding.

"You know the idea of gender parity is nothing radical in the world. Even France passed a gender parity law,” she said.

The idea, however, received mixed reviews on CBC’s Maritime Connection on Sunday afternoon.

Jim Buckley was one of many people who expressed doubt about the former prime minister’s proposal.

“It should be based on merit of the candidate because if you do proportions, then we should have First Nations candidates based on that. We should have blacks. We should have Asians,” he said.

Nathalie Durand of Moncton said women are often judged by their outfits and lipstick colour more than their skills.

She has considered running in previous election and that double-standard faced by female candidates turned her off.

“I have many times and the infringement on my privacy and the misogyny I see, is a huge disincentive,” she said.

Problems start during candidate recruitment

Lori Turnbull, a political scientist at Dalhousie University, said a major roadblock to getting more women into politics comes well before voters cast their ballots during a general election.

“The problem, at this point, seems to be getting women recruited in the first place, getting women on the ballot. That might be a bit of an issue,” she said.

Turnbull said there should be an examination of what barriers there are stopping more women from running in elections.

In 2003, New Brunswick’s Commission on Legislative Democracy brought forward several recommendations to encourage more women to run for office.

One proposal was to increase the annual public financing given to political parties if they women represented more than 35 per cent of their candidates in the previous election.

The commission also called for an educational program to be established that would help groups and associations promote more women to get into politics and political parties would have been required to submit a report every two years to Elections New Brunswick to show what steps they had taken to encourage more women to run.

The commission’s report had hoped those reforms would have seen the percentage of female MLAs reach 35 per cent by 2015.

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