Proportional Representation

June 23, 2021 | By

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Along with municipal governments, our provincial legislature is arguably the most important institution to have reflect the diverse populations they serve. All political parties talk a good game about diversity and inclusion, and some do a far better job than others of actually walking it. But at the end of the day, Alberta’s legislature — like most elected bodies across the western world — remains disproportionately male, white, and able-bodied.

Electoral reform can change that. By trading our first-past-the-post system for one in which the votes cast more accurately reflect the seats won, we’d instantly be improving the representativeness of our democracy. We’d also encourage political parties to live up to their promises on diversity and inclusion, because under a proportional system they’d have far more input into which candidates get prioritized — and which ones don’t.

A proportional system wouldn’t just benefit traditionally under-represented groups like women, minorities, and people living with disabilities. Under a proportional system, parties that don’t tend to elect representatives in cities could elevate candidates from there, as could the ones that don’t tend to elect people in rural regions.

It wouldn’t be a silver bullet, and countries that have adopted proportional systems don’t see their elected bodies perfectly reflect the diversity of their population overnight. But experience from elsewhere shows that representational diversity does improve, and it should be reason enough for Alberta to take this seriously.