Samara’s 2017 Democracy 360 Second Report Card on How Canadians Communicate, Participate and Lead in Politics – Visible Minority Methodology Issues

While I have great respect for the work Samara does and continues to do, as exemplified in their latest report, I would be remiss in not pointing out some serious methodological mistakes made with respect to visible minority representation.

Their diversity numbers:

While our current Cabinet was selected to be more reflective of the Canadian population, Parliament generally, with 74% men, still has a long way to go. Women represent half of Canada’s population, but they are only 26% of its MPs. Visible minorities are better represented—they make up 17% of MPs and 19% of the population. Indigenous MPs make up 3% of the House and 4% of the population. In terms of representation of the youngest cohort of voters Canadians, representation has lost ground since 2015. Only 4% of MPs in the 41st Parliament are aged 18 to 30, a cohort that comprises 17% of the Canadian population.

The two mistakes are:

  • Using the wrong baseline for visible minority representation. Samara uses the overall population of visible minorities (19 percent) rather than the correct baseline of 15 percent, those visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens and thus able to vote. This is the second time that this incorrect baseline has been used and should be corrected for future reports; and,
  • Their count of the number of visible minority MPs is wrong. The correct count is 47, not the 53 indicated in the chart below.

The corrected numbers show visible minorities forming 14 percent of the House of Commons (2015 election), compared to 15 percent of the visible minority voting population. A good result.

Samara and I have shared our respective data sets and discussed these concerns and they have been forthcoming on the reasons for the discrepancies. Their count of visible minorities included some Indigenous MPs and Alexandra Mendès (but not Pablo Rodriguez) and they used the overall visible minority population to be consistent with their earlier report.

For future reports, my main recommendations:

  • for women, foreign-born and Indigenous MPs, use the authoritative parlinfo biographical information which would avoid mis-categorization of Indigenous as visible minority MPs;
  • use existing analysis rather than re-inventing the wheel. Erin Tolley, Kai Chan and I all came up with the 47 number (Erin and I compared notes to ensure that neither of us missed anything, Kai did his work independently; and,
  • use the population of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens as the baseline, not the total visible minority population.

Their numbers for foreign-born, women and Indigenous MPs are correct, taken from the parl.gc.ca site (however the graphics are not – 40 versus the correct figure of 41 foreign-born, 81 versus 88 women, 9 versus 11 Indigenous peoples).

Source: 2017 Democracy 360

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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