NDP's Dewar Aims To Attract More Women To Politics

Paul Dewar

First Posted: 12/08/11 10:19 AM ET Updated: 12/11/11 09:25 AM ET

NDP leadership candidate Paul Dewar is pledging to bring back the per-vote subsidy for political parties, and says it should be tied to how many women candidates a party runs.

The Ottawa MP, one of nine candidates in the competition to succeed Jack Layton, says his idea would help ensure more equal participation of women in federal politics by creating an incentive for political parties.

"Women's representation in the House of Commons fails to reach the 30 per cent threshold, considered by the United Nations as the critical mass of women's participation in decision-making. This is a national disgrace," Dewar said in a news release Thursday. "My vision for a stronger and more caring Canada includes immediate action to encourage women's equal participation in politics."

The $2-per-vote subsidy that parties currently receive is being phased out by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a financial blow to some parties more than others. The Conservatives estimate the taxpayer-funded subsidy cost $27.4 million in 2010. Parties with strong fundraising, including the Conservatives, don't rely on the subsidy for revenue as much as other parties.

If the NDP wins the next election, Dewar says as leader he would bring the subsidy back and parties would only get the full $2 if they run at least 50 per cent women candidates.

Parties with 40 to 49.9 per cent women would get $1.75 per vote, and those with 30 to 39.9 per cent would get $1.50 per vote. Parties with less than 30 per cent women on their list of candidates wouldn't be eligible for the subsidy under Dewar's plan.

"Stephen Harper is phasing out public financing because he doesn't believe in supporting a healthy and engaged democratic process," said Dewar. "I will bring back the public financing and tie it to parties' performance on ensuring gender equality. That's the way to end gender inequality in Canadian politics."

The NDP had the highest number of women candidates in the May election 124 and 40 of them were elected.

There are 76 women in total in the House of Commons, out of 308 seats.

Dewar and the other candidates participated in their first debate on Sunday in Ottawa. They are in the midst of a long campaign, the NDP's new leader will be elected March 24 at a convention in Toronto.

Brian Topp - What does the party need to do to win the next election?
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This is a question I get from party members everywhere I go. New Democrats want to win in 2015. And they want to know that the candidates have a plan to win and then to govern well. I believe that the key to winning is to offer a clear and positive social democratic agenda for change. We don't have to become Liberals to win. We don't have to defeat ourselves even as we win by adopting the priorities and agendas of our opponents -- by becoming what we are fighting to change.

And we don't have to borrow from the Conservative playbook by practicing the cynical politics of division and anger. For every criticism we make of or opponents, we have to offer a positive solution in its place. In my campaign I have offered a series of detailed proposals to improve the fairness of our tax system and I will be releasing major policy initiatives aimed at building a more equal, greener and just Canada. In the end, New Democrats win by staying positive, by offering a clear and practical agenda for change, and by having the courage of our convictions.

Filed by Michael Bolen  |