Press release No. 4 - Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the voting system - The Chief Electoral Officer evaluates the incentive measures aiming to ensure a better representation of women and ethnocultural minorities



    QUEBEC, Dec. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - Political parties have expressed their
willingness to make room for women, which is the main factor likely to
increase the place that women hold in parliaments and that it why it is
relevant to envisage financial incentive measures intended for parties. The
implementation of similar measures aiming to ensure a better representation of
ethnocultural minorities is more problematic than in the case of women owing
to the fact that it is difficult to agree on an applicable definition of who
these minorities are and who belongs to them. These conclusions are taken from
the report made public today by the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec and
which deals with the compensatory mixed proportional system as well as related
questions.
    "We find that women have occupied a growing place in the National
Assembly since the election of the first woman, Marie-Claire Kirkland
Casgrain, in 1961," emphasized Mr. Marcel Blanchet, Chief Electoral Officer.
"But the parity between women and men is far from having been achieved and
that is why additional efforts must be made if we want to increase this
presence, especially as the number of women fell at the time of the 2007
general election," appraises the Chief Electoral Officer. The case of MNAs
coming from ethnocultural minorities is more complex, as the available data do
not make it possible to determine the evolution of their presence in Québec's
Parliament.

    Presence of women: factors of change

    The Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations have determined that
in 2007 the percentage of women in the legislative assemblies around the world
stands at 17.7%. In Canada, women account for 20.8% of the House of Commons,
whereas they make up 25.6% of the Québec National Assembly, which represents a
decline of 5 percentage points in comparison with 2003.
    In the case of numerous States that outrank Québec, the percentages do
not result from a natural progression, but rather from radical changes made to
their electoral process and political system. The ranking made by the
Inter-Parliamentary Union reveals that the 19 States with the highest number
of women in their assembly have, barring exceptions, a proportional list
system or a mixed system.
    It should be recalled that at the time of the statistical simulations
seeking to evaluate the impacts of the various characteristics of the
compensatory mixed system, the Chief Electoral Officer was able to establish
that the alternation of female and male candidacies on the lists of the
parties has a direct effect on the representation of women. This effect is
accentuated if parties are required to put a female candidate at the top of
one out of every two lists.
    Looking back, the studies show that in those countries and States where
the legislative assemblies have the highest percentages of women, the main
force of change comes from the voluntary efforts made by political parties.
The idea of granting financial incentives to parties with a view to
influencing the crucial step of the designation of candidates thus appears to
be adapted to this problem.

    Incentive measures

    The Québec Election Act provides for two mechanisms by virtue of which
political parties receive sums of money from the State. There is the annual
allowance, based on the number of electors registered at the last election and
on the proportion of votes received from these electors by each of the
parties. There is also the reimbursement of election expenses for candidates
having been elected or having obtained at least 15% of the votes cast in their
division. The Draft Bill to replace the Election Act stipulates that these two
mechanisms could be used, by improving them, to encourage parties to recruit
more female candidates and members from ethnocultural communities. For
example, if female candidates accounted for more than 40% of a party's
candidates in a general election:

    
    - its annual allowance could be increased by 15%;
    - the reimbursement of election expenses of female candidates not elected
      would be increased by 20%;
    - the reimbursement of election expenses of elected female candidates
      would be increased by 25%.

    Similar measures were proposed in the Draft Bill in order to promote
candidates from ethnocultural minorities.
    One of the questions raised on the subject of these measures concerns the
reimbursement of election expenses and could be worded as follows: should we
only increase the annual allowance with respect to elected candidates (women
and representatives of minorities) and in so doing "reward the results rather
than the efforts"? Some comments heard during the work of the Special
Committee on the Draft Bill suggest that "rewarding only the results" would
encourage political parties to choose, for example, the "right divisions" for
candidates.
    Some stakeholders believe that the increase of the annual allowance should
be the only incentive measure put in place to encourage political parties to
recruit more women candidates in order to promote a fairer representation in
the National Assembly.
    To learn more about the financial impacts of incentive measures, the Chief
Electoral Officer made financial simulations, which are mentioned on pages 160
to 191 of his report. In terms of advantages and drawbacks, at the end of this
analysis, the Chief Electoral Officer submits that:

    - It is advantageous to use the increase of the annual allowance as an
      incentive to recruit women and representatives of the ethnocultural
      minorities, because it is a recurrent, straightforward and
      easy-to-apply measure. Indeed, political parties are "rewarded" in all
      of the years following the general election. Moreover, this measure
      would facilitate the preparation of global action plans as well as
      reporting on these plans.
    - Increasing the annual allowance to recognize the recruitment of
      candidates who were not elected rewards the efforts made by parties and
      not only electoral success. Moreover, the small parties could benefit
      from this measure, even though they do not succeed in having candidates
      elected. One drawback, however, would be that the incentives would be
      paid without necessarily achieving the objective of increasing the
      number of women in the National Assembly.
    - Increasing the annual allowance to recognize only the recruitment of
      candidates who were elected would reward the electoral success of
      political parties. However, there is reason to think that big parties
      would mainly benefit from this measure.

    The Chief Electoral Officer also evaluated the advantages and drawbacks of
offering parties an increase of the reimbursement of election expenses. In
this case, the main advantages are as follows:

    - There is an incentive at the level of the local authority of the party,
      which is encouraged to recruit the candidacies of and also to support
      the campaigns run by candidates from minorities;
    - There is an additional incentive if the candidates from the minorities
      are elected, hence a reward for the effort and electoral success;
    - Small parties are favoured.
    

    However, note must also be made of certain drawbacks: the possibility of
obtaining a higher reimbursement of election expenses could encourage
candidates to go into debt, whereas the additional sums paid as the result of
the increase of the reimbursement would likely be used to reimburse election
debts, rather than to invest in action plans seeking to increase the
representation of women and minorities.

    Definition of ethnocultural minority

    Moreover, the Chief Electoral Officer recalls in his report that the
success of incentive measures intended for candidates from ethnocultural
minorities is based on the acceptance of a clear definition of the individuals
and groups that make up these minorities. Indeed, not only must this
definition be accepted by Québec society, it must also be applicable "in the
field" by the election officers who will receive the nominations.
    The Chief Electoral Officer believes that it is up to the legislator to
establish such a definition of ethnocultural minority, along with the criteria
that will be used in the application of the financial incentive measures
concerning these minorities. The opinion of the Conseil des relations
interculturelles on this subject could certainly prove useful.
    The report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the characteristics of a
compensatory mixed member voting system is available on the website of the
Chief Electoral Officer at the following address: www.electionsquebec.qc.ca.
    -%SU: CPN
    -%RE: 1




For further information:

For further information: Denis Dion, Information officer, (418) 644-3320
or 1-888-870-3320, ddion@dgeq.qc.ca

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Directeur général des élections

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