EDITORIAL: Slim pickin's
Sometimes affirmative action can be more negative than positive. For the upcoming spring federal election, Jean Chrétien's government will use a quota policy for nominations in some electoral ridings.
In a democratic decision made at the 1991 Liberal convention, nominations can be sought two ways: by the traditional method of election or on appointment by the party's leader. This year Chrétien announced that 25 per cent of nominations must be occupied by females. Four nominations will be appointed to ensure 75 of the 301 nominations are held by women.
In practice, this number is admittedly small but, with respect to philosophy, serious questions are raised by this policy.
First and foremost, consider the message this sends to women with an interest in government. In many ways, the policy tells women they cannot get these nominations by themselves they need a man's help. Furthermore, this type of affirmative action diminishes the power offices hold. One's confidence in leadership is questioned when appointed and not elected.
Then there is the issue of qualification. Like most affirmative action initiatives, this policy offers the possibility those given nominations may not be the best qualified. There is also the idea that volunteer campaign workers will be forced to work for someone they do not support because of this policy. And what about the voters in these targeted ridings? Will they be forced to vote for a candidate they do not necessarily favour in the name of the party.
On the issue of the vote, it must be noted that while the decision to implement this policy did come by democratic means a vote by elected representatives of the Liberal Party of Canada democracy in politics is often a partisan matter.
But what are the possible alternatives? After all, politics often comes down to those with the most resources, which in this society means white males.
The NDP has suggested a support system whereby those potential candidates who have less financial resources can receive government support. This idea is great in theory, but where will the money come from?
Perhaps the only viable alternative is to have special interest groups support certain candidates. In this case, women's advocacy groups could make donations to women interested in pursuing a nomination. This suggestion is not perfect, but we're talking politics here.
And in politics, things always come down to dollars and sense.