It’s “unfortunate” that Pauline Marois’s electoral defeat has cut the number of female Canadian premiers to two – down from six just a few short months ago, Kathleen Wynne says.
While the Ontario Premier expressed joy at seeing the Liberals retake Quebec from the forces of separatism, her elation Tuesday was tempered by the return of the gender imbalance around the premiers table.
“It does occur to me that it’s unfortunate that we had six, actually, six women at the Council of the Federation meeting last summer and that has changed, obviously,” Ms. Wynne said at a photo opportunity at a Toronto elementary school.
“There’s no definite pattern here: I think that it may have been a coincidence of history that there were that many female premiers. I hope it’s not. I hope that we will see over the coming years that trajectory re-established.”
The first female premier to exit recently was Eva Aariak of Nunavut, who decided late last summer not to seek a second term; she was subsequently defeated in her bid for re-election as an MLA. Newfoundland and Labrador’s Kathy Dunderdale followed in January, opting to resign in the face of tanking opinion polls. Alison Redford quit as Alberta premier last month in the midst of a caucus revolt.
On Monday night, Ms. Marois saw her Parti Québécois go down in flames against Philippe Couillard’s Liberals.
Besides Ms. Wynne, the only other female premier left is British Columbia’s Christy Clark – “last two standing,” the Ontario Liberal Leader said Tuesday.
Ms. Wynne said she was optimistic more women would take the top job in governments across the country, but that more women must be encouraged to enter the political arena in general.
“I hope that it’s possible that we can see lots of women in those roles,” she said. “We can’t dictate that: It’s something that will happen and it will happen and we will have more women in these roles if we encourage women to get into politics in the first place.”
The six women at last summer’s premiers conference, which Ms. Wynne chaired, was the largest number ever to simultaneously serve as premiers.
Gender questions aside, Ms. Wynne said she was elated by Mr. Couillard’s victory and tacitly sounded happy to see Ms. Marois go. The Ontario Legislature last fall endorsed a bill by one of Ms. Wynne’s MPPs effectively condemning the PQ government’s proposed charter of values.
“We are happy the population of Quebec rejected divisive politics, the policy of a divisive charter of values and a policy of sovereignty that is divisive of Canada,” Ms. Wynne said in French.
With the PQ gone, the Ontario Premier said she would call Mr. Couillard and ask him to resume the practice of joint Quebec-Ontario cabinet meetings held under Quebec’s previous Liberal premier, Jean Charest.
“I hope that our values and our politics are compatible, I hope that we can have a good dialogue,” she said. “I had a good relationship with Ms. Marois, but we didn’t work together on infrastructure projects, for example, and I hope that it will be possible with Premier Couillard.”