Published in the Spring 2006 issue • Features
An Interview with Doris Anderson
Trailblazing feminist Doris Anderson was an influential editor of Chatelaine magazine from 1957 to 1977, head of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women in the early 1980s and is now on the steering committee of Equal Voice, a non-partisan Canadian organization working to change our electoral system.
Trailblazing feminist Doris Anderson was an influential editor of Chatelaine magazine from 1957 to 1977, head of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women in the early 1980s and is now on the steering committee of Equal Voice, a non-partisan Canadian organization working to change our electoral system. She spoke to Shameless for a story in our Spring 2006 issue. The interview appears below in its entirety
So then, wonder woman, what feminist crusade are you working on these days?
Getting more women into politics and I think it’s hopeless without electoral reform. No countries in the world that have our electoral system have any more women than we do. I just think we have to change. Equal Voice does a wonderful job of pushing parties to run more women by meeting with cabinet ministers and talking about it. But all that work and look what’s happened: we had fewer women running in this federal election than in the last.
Why do you think that is?
It’s because of our first-past-the-post system (a winner-take-all kind of politics where the candidate with the most votes is elected). It’s bad. What we need is proportional representation (where the number of seats won by a party is proportional to the percentage of popular votes received). Scotland, Wales and New Zealand have it and they all had a dramatic increase in woman representation.
The criticism of proportional representation is that it will cause a lot of arguing, that so many different parties with different views will spend most of their time arguing instead of getting anything done. But most progressive legislation in this country was pushed by a minority government: Medicare, pension plans, unemployment insurance. European countries that have proportional representation find it doesn’t disrupt their decision-making process at all. In fact, it makes for a less kindergarten atmosphere because the coalition has to work together for a common purpose. And everyone knows that women are good at compromising.
Some also say that proportional representation will create too many fringe parties. But we can easily solve that by insisting on an entrance threshold. Parties have to win, say, at least 5 percent of the popular vote to keep out the Flat Earth Party or the Marijuana Party. Having five to seven parties in the House can be quite manageable.
Why do you think young women have a tendency to be uninterested in politics?
I think it’s because they don’t see their point of view reflected. But democracy is important. When people become uninterested in politics, it can lead to a very weak country, one that could take on a form of fascism, like what’s happening in the U.S.