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Politics Women should get more financial support to get into politics, minister says

Canada's Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, December 9, 2015.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Patty Hajdu, the federal Minister of Status of Women, calls politics a "rich man's game." As a single mother who raised two boys, Ms. Hadju says that getting into politics wasn't easy; she knows women lack the advantages that men have in seeking public office.

"Politics continues to be a rich man's game. There is no doubt that we need to look at how we support women financially to become politically active," according to notes of a speech Ms. Hadju is to deliver Wednesday at an event honouring the 88 women elected to federal office last October.

Ms. Hajdu is launching a call for proposals for projects for women, including indigenous women, to encourage them to play stronger roles in their communities. In addition, she is announcing that her department will look at proposals to promote more women getting elected to municipal councils, provincial legislatures and the House of Commons.

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Not included in her announcement, however, is how much funding her department is prepared to provide for these projects. A Status of Women official says there is no dollar amount at this point as funding depends on the applications received.

Ms. Hadju says in her speech that the government is "inviting organizations to propose projects that will empower indigenous women …" Her department will consider projects that are aimed at strengthening "the voices of indigenous women on issues of importance to them and their communities."

The other part of her announcement is a call for projects that will "address barriers that prevent women from running for elected positions" and "improve conditions for women by amplifying women's voices and enhancing their civic participation."

She notes in her speech that 26 per cent of the 338 MPs elected last October are women – while this is a new record, it is not good enough. "Many experts and advocates have identified 30 per cent representation as the threshold at which change begins to happen," according to her speech.

Her speech at the Rideau Club – the event is being sponsored by Equal Voice, a non-partisan organization advocating for more elected women in Canada – is part of the Liberal government's efforts to show it is serious about gender equality.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau famously appointed women to half of the positions in his cabinet. Asked why he did that, he said: "Because it's 2015."

"The journey into politics is a challenging one for women," according to Ms. Hadju's speaking notes. "The barriers that women face in all sectors of society tend to be more pronounced in the political realm."

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In her speech, she describes her decision to get into politics. The Thunder Bay-Superior North MP is a rookie, having defeated Bruce Hyer, the former NDP MP, who crossed the floor in 2013 to join Elizabeth May's Green Party.

In her speech notes, Ms. Hadju describes her work in the community, including nine years working for the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.where she was the chair of the city's Drug Awareness Committee, and where she developed a municipal drug strategy.

She also was the executive director of a shelter – the largest homeless shelter in Northwestern Ontario.

"I recognized the link between the need I saw in the community and the social and fiscal policies being implemented across our country," she says, according to the notes. "I knew that I needed to help shape those policies and to address the challenges I saw every day."

She says the "opportunities" she had in getting a good education, having access to strong female mentors and access to money, contributed to her success.

Getting to Parliament is only half the battle, however, as she notes what many women have grappled with for decades: "We must acknowledge that Parliament is not necessarily a family-friendly place," according to the speech notes. "In this job,the days are long, and if you're a mother with young children, it's even more challenging. We must change that if we are to encourage more diverse representation."

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