Bring women into parliament

By: Ann Hui

68 women were elected into the Canadian House of Commons during last night’s federal election. This marks the highest number of women ever to hold seats on Parliament Hill.

The funny thing is that hardly any major newspapers in Canada chose to cover the election from this angle. Even funnier is how little this ‘achievement’ will mean for women in politics.

Women’s groups like Equal Voice – an advocacy group devoted to increasing the number of female politicians – pushed all of the major parties to run more female candidates this year. A record-breaking 387 women ran in this campaign, up from 320 female candidates during the 2006 election.

Despite these efforts, the 68 women elected last night were only four seats more than in the last parliament.

The UN claims that 30 per cent female representation is necessary in order for women’s voices to be heard. Even with our ‘record-breaking’ election, women hold just 22 per cent of the seats. For all of our celebrating, we’re still more or less on par with Ethiopia and Pakistan.

So, what went wrong?

According to today’s Toronto Star:

In many cases, women were running in unwinnable ridings. In others, more than one woman was running in the same riding, while in some, no women candidates were running at all.”

Photo of Olivia Chow taken by the Toronto Star

For those of us living in Trinity-Spadina, all three major party candidates were female. How is one to choose?

Equal Voice is now calling on Prime Minister Harper to appoint more women to his cabinet. Women did not hold any senior cabinet positions in his last cabinet, so here’s hoping that there’ll be some improvement this time around. If you can’t win with numbers, you might as well give them good seats, right?


One thought on “Bring women into parliament

  1. In answer to the question posed above: in Trinity-Spadina, when all three candidates were women, how is one to choose, is quite simple.

    One chooses the candidate who best represents issues of a gendered nature: child care, elder care, violence against women, poverty, reproductive choice and fair wages for workers. It would be terrific if child care and elder care were not primarily “women’s issues” but the work of caring for elderly people and children, and domestic work in general, continues to be done largely by women.

    Thankfully, the people of Trinity Spadina did not find this a difficult decision and re-elected Olivia Chow, a powerful advocate for women in the twenty-three years she has held public office.

    As a feminist, I cannot support the work of “non-partisan” groups like Equal Voice, which emphasize merely running more women candidates. Being a woman does not mean one automatically represents the interests of women. Does anyone really believe that Diane Finley is a powerful advocate for women? As Minister of Immigration, she tried to deport a nanny who was dying of cancer. That Elizabeth May, who has waffled on the issue of reproductive choice and is proud to have “talked women out of having abortions” represents the interests of women? That Maria Minna, the Liberals’ status of women critic, whose government had 13 years to implement a national childcare policy and did not do so, helped Canadian women with her “pink book”?

    I would love to see more women elected to public office. But the Margaret Thatchers and Sarah Palins of the world do not advance the rights or interests of women. We must support and elect women with a cogent, feminist analysis.

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