Mark Johnson recently graduated with an M.A. in Political Science from Carleton University. He also holds graduate degrees in Communication and Political Management.
Despite significant advances in recent decades, women in Canada continue to be underrepresented in Canada’s House of Commons. Many reasons have been discussed for this gap, not the least of which is the impact of the Single Member Plurality (SMP) electoral system. Indeed, the effects of the electoral system reverberate through the candidate aspiration, nomination, and election phases. Using evidence from the Alternative Vote (AV) electoral system of Australia and the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system of New Zealand, Canada’s electoral system will be critically evaluated from the perspective of women’s descriptive representation. The evidence suggests that, while adopting Australia’s AV system could be expected to have a minimal impact at best, should Canada switch to MMP, while no panacea for women’s underrepresentation, we would likely see a higher proportion of women elected to the House of Commons compared to results currently seen under SMP.