Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
We would never cheer for a tie game in hockey (especially now that our beloved Leafs are winning a few), but with Kathleen Wynne set to become Ontario’s first female premier, equalizing the number of female and male provincial premiers at five each, we and many others celebrated the historic moment like an overtime goal (minus the blue-and-white face paint).
Yet just like the early weeks of a new hockey season, there’s still a long way to go to achieve true gender parity in Canadian politics. From the way Parliament is scheduled and debate is structured, to the way political parties and the media operate, there remains a strong masculine narrative streaming through our political culture.
Levels of female representation in Canada’s federal and provincial legislatures hover at only 25 per cent – short of the 30 to 35 per cent the United Nations says is required before changes in “management style, group dynamic and organization culture” take root. Sweden’s national Riksdag is made up of 45 per cent women – attributed largely to its system of proportional representation, a more consensual political culture and family-friendly scheduling.
But where do we begin? Former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell recently suggested a gender parity system where every riding elects two MPs – one man and one woman – thus guaranteeing half of our elected representatives in Ottawa are women.
This week’s question: How can we further advance women’s political representation in Canada?
Maria Minna, former federal Liberal cabinet minister
“Nomination races can be very vicious and a deterrent to women’s participation, in addition to the systemic and electoral barriers. We should consider legislation that compels parties to nominate 50 per cent women in winnable ridings, sets a quota of at least 40 per cent women in the House of Commons and a target date to achieve it, and requires Elections Canada to run parties’ nomination processes.”
Sana Hassainia, NDP member of Parliament (Verchères-Les Patriotes, Que.)
“Parliament is structured for those whose families no longer rely on them every day, but my young family cannot come after my work. Like all other workplaces, Parliament must account for the modern reality of the young working mother: time to pump milk for her child, and the parliamentary nursery could begin taking children under 18 months.”
Melanee Thomas, professor of political science at the University of Calgary
“Canadians should critically examine when women are elected to lead their parties. Several, including Wynne, are selected when their parties’ fortunes are dismal. This is called the ‘glass cliff’ phenomenon, and it highlights how parties are willing to select atypical leaders when the electoral risk is minimized.”
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