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If ever the need were more clear

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NDP Leader Jack Layton boldly proclaimed in the English language debates Tuesday that we need proportional representation.

It was the first time I’ve heard anybody discuss electoral reform in this election.

Canadians are clearly distressed about how our Parliament is working. Or not working for that matter. The refrain I hear the most is concern that nobody in Ottawa works together or gets along.

The Hill has become the most hyper partisan region I have ever seen. One MP, whose name and party shall remain namesless, recently looked to be near tears as he/she described to me the fact he/she wasn’t allowed to even mention an idea first brought up by a member of an opposing party without being fully ridiculed and then ignored.

The other day there was an interesting piece in the Ottawa Citizen looking at the average MP and the average Canadian. Parliament does not reflect the society in which we live. It is still dominated by white, middle and upper middle class men in their 50s. I’m not suggesting affirmative action hit the House of Commons. It’s not the answer.

But if we ever needed proof that our system is undemocratic one only need recognize that in 2008 900,000 Canadians voted for the Green Party and not a single Green MP got elected. The NDP got 2.5 million votes and elected 37 MPs. The Bloc Quebecois got 1.4 million votes but because they were all in Quebec they elected 49 MPs. That just does not seem okay to me.

Proportional representation may not be the answer. But the first-past-the-post system we have now has passed its due date. We’re one of the only democracies still using it. It’s too late for this election obviously. But it’s really time for a serious debate about how to improve our electoral system.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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