Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Proportional Representation Boosted Diversity in New Zealand Parliament: Greens

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Proportional Representation Boosted Diversity in New Zealand Parliament: Greens

Article excerpt

Electoral reform nothing to fear: NZ Green MP

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OTTAWA - Canadians who fear that scrapping the first-past-the-post electoral system would lead to instability and extremism should look for comfort on the other side of the world, argued James Shaw, the co-leader of New Zealand's Green party.

"In our experience, we had exactly the same concerns, but none of them ever happened," Shaw told a news conference Friday in Ottawa.

Shaw was on hand alongside his Canadian counterpart, Green party leader Elizabeth May, to make the case for changing the way ballots are cast in this country's federal elections.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to change the way Canadians vote in time for the next federal election in 2019; a parliamentary committee is studying the issue.

New Zealand adopted a form of proportional representation 20 years ago.

"Some of the fears that people had were that it would lead to unstable government, that it would lead to having extremists in Parliament and that they would get a foot in, that it would make for the death of large parties, and so on," Shaw said.

"And in fact, none of those things have happened."

Shaw pointed out that the two main parties -- the centre-right National Party and the centre-left Labour Party -- together still hold a significant majority of seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives, even if proportional representation has allowed other parties, including the Greens, to have a strong presence too.

He said the system also often leads to centrism.

"Because every single vote counts, you have to fight for every vote in every seat, right across the country," said Shaw, who was in Ottawa for the Green party's convention, which kicked off Friday and continues through Sunday.

"There have been people with a radical hue that have come into Parliament, but Parliament has an effect of moderating that. …

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