By Megan Stanley
A brief scan of the headlines of various news stories over the past month suggests Canadian women are having quite a moment in politics. Largely prompted by the recent election of Kathleen Wynne in January as leader of the Ontario Liberal party, almost every national media outlet has produced a piece contributing to the growing public discussion on the representation of women in Canadian politics.
Even former Prime Minister Kim Campbell chimed in with an op-ed in the Globe & Mail calling for the establishment of gender parity in Parliament. According to the narrative created by these media stories, women politicians represent a new wave of game-changers on the Canadian political scene and their recent successes may signify shifts in our society’s attitudes toward gender and politics. Not too shabby.
With each story, the current state of the nation’s political affairs is reiterated: Canada currently boasts six female Premiers, some of whom govern provinces that are seen as key “have” regions in the Canadian economy. The recent Ontario Liberal leadership race, a critical election for the province, was dominated by two women candidates. The current federal Liberal leadership race features four accomplished women out of the total nine candidates seeking to change the face and direction of the party.
However, even considering these recent accomplishments, women remain vastly underrepresented in Parliament and provincial/territorial legislatures. Women comprise only 25% of MPs in Canada’s Parliament as of 2011, falling short of the critical mass (defined by the UN as 30%) needed to have a visible influence on legislation and political culture.
These facts and figures are consistently cited in both public and academic discussions, highlighting the dismal state of affairs for women in politics and calling for gender parity in all levels of government.
So, what’s the problem? Isn’t it a positive step forward for the Canadian public to recognize and respond to the need for a national discussion on women’s political underrepresentation? If gender parity in legislative bodies is the ultimate goal, doesn’t recognition and discussion of the problem help to reach it? Read more