Kim Campbell proposes gender parity electoral model

Former prime minister Kim Campbell is proposing a new electoral model for the country as a means to bring gender parity to Parliament.

Proposal would send one man and one woman from each riding to Parliament

Former prime minister Kim Campbell is proposing a new electoral model for the country as a means to bring gender parity to Parliament.

Former prime minister Kim Campbell proposed a new route to gender equity in Parliament at the Bold Vision conference in Brudenell, P.E.I. Wednesday evening. (CBC)

Campbell provided the keynote address Wednesday night at the opening of A Bold Vision, a women's leadership conference taking place this week in Brudenell, in eastern P.E.I. The conference has brought together prominent women from across the country.

Campbell, the only woman prime minister in Canadian history, is pitching a dual-member riding system for electing MPs to the House of Commons. Voters in each riding would send one man and one woman to represent them in Ottawa, bringing gender parity to the capital.

Research has shown gender diversity leads to better decision-making, Campbell said, but not because women make better decisions than men.

"It's not a men-versus-women thing, it's a matter of having different perspectives that qualify one another, that keep group-think from developing," she said.

"Women experience the world differently from men in many perspectives and it's important to have their voice there."

Campbell says her proposal would require a redrawing of district boundaries--something that already happens on a regular basis--and says she's not proposing doubling the current number of MPs, but that her model could adapt to fit any number.

She says a number of factors make it more challenging for women to run for office and serve as MPs. Campbell says women can find it more difficult to raise money to finance a campaign, and the heavy travel schedule can take a toll on both women and men.

Currently women make up about a quarter of the House of Commons. Campbell's proposal would double that number.

Campbell said she never imagined when she became prime minister in June 1993 that more than 20 years later she would remain the only woman ever to serve in that capacity. She says she's disappointed by that, and wants to bring change.

"I keep meeting young women who say they'd like to be prime minister and I say 'Go for it!' But when they look young I think 'Oh gosh I better eat my Wheaties or keep my exercise up so I'm there when they're sworn in.'

"I would very much like to see more women in that position."


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