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Title: Examining the Role of Electoral Systems in the Policy Influence of Aboriginal Populations: A Comaprative Analysis of the Canadian, Austrailian, and New Zealand Cases
Authors: MacDonald, Beth
Issue Date: Sep-2016
Citation: MacDonald, Beth. (2016). Examining the Role of Electoral Systems in the Policy Influence of Aboriginal Populations: A Comaprative Analysis of the Canadian, Austrailian, and New Zealand Cases ( Unpublished master's thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
Abstract: In the 2015 federal election, a surprising emphasis was placed on Canada’s electoral system. In fact, Justin Trudeau committed to making 2015 the last federal election decided under the Single-Member-Plurality (SMP) system. While much of the criticism around SMP in Canada has been centered on the fact that the winner-take-all system leads to many votes being inconsequential, less attention has been devoted to how this system often fails to represent minority peoples and communities. However, despite this disconnect in motivations to change the SMP system, both shortfalls could potentially be rectified under more proportionate voting rules. This paper examines the Aboriginal populations of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in order to determine what effect more proportional electoral systems have on the well-being of these populations as well as the resulting policy influence they enjoy. Available data on education, health, housing, and income are analyzed in order to compare the well-being of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations, as well as identify any gaps in positive outcomes. This data is then compared to levels of political engagement and voter turnout under each nation’s electoral system. Australia currently uses the Full Preferential Vote and Single Transferable Voting systems while New Zealand uses a Mixed Member Proportional (MPP) system to determine election results. Although data regarding Aboriginal voter participation in Canada and Australia is limited, data shows that Māori participation in New Zealand’s federal electoral system is fairly high. However, Aboriginal voter turnout has fallen since the introduction of MPP to New Zealand in 1993, which calls into question the real effect on minority representation under more proportional systems. Despite this, analysis of newspaper coverage and government agency news releases show that the Māori appear to be the most influential of the three Aboriginal populations as it relates to influencing specific Aboriginal policies. The Canadian Aboriginal population also enjoys substantial influence, although much of this appears to stem from the legal obligations that the Canadian federal government has to Canadian Aboriginal peoples. The lack of Constitutional recognition of the Australian Aboriginal people appears to have stifled the policy influence held by the population, despite using electoral systems that often allow for a greater degree of minority representation and influence. I conclude that a combination of proportionate voting rules as well as legal recognition of Aboriginal communities is needed to create the optimal conditions of policy influence.
Appears in Collections:Master of Public Policy Capstone Projects

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