Women In Canada Politics: Kathleen Wynne's Premier Win A Breakthrough?

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne holds her granddaughter Olivia after a swearing-in ceremony at Queen's Park in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn | CP

TORONTO - About 70 per cent of Canadians think Kathleen Wynne's victory as Ontario's first female premier is a significant breakthrough for women in politics, a new poll suggests.

It includes 31 per cent who feel it's a very significant breakthrough, according to a national Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey.

That compares to 17 per cent who felt it isn't that significant and 11 per cent who say it's not at all significant.

Women under the age of 35 and those living in Atlantic Canada and Quebec are most likely to view Wynne's victory as at least a significant breakthrough, the poll found.

Three-quarters of respondents felt women are well represented in politics, while 31 per cent feel they aren't. Conservatives are more likely than other voting groups to feel they're well represented.

Canada's sixth female premier said she agrees it's a breakthrough for women in politics.

While there's gender parity among premiers, women are still under-represented in the country's legislatures, Wynne said Monday.

The representation of women ranges from 10.5 per cent in the Northwest Territories to nearly 33 per cent in Quebec. Only 30 per cent of Ontario MPPs are women.

"There is a catchup that needs to happen," Wynne said.

"I hope that as we see female leadership across the country, we will see more representation in those legislatures and in Parliament."

While gender parity among the premiers is important symbolically, some political observers say it would be more significant if Wynne's position is cemented with an electoral win.

Wynne also made history as Canada's first openly gay premier, a milestone she acknowledged in her inaugural speech.

The poll indicates that Canadians are split on whether gays and lesbians are well represented in politics, with 44 per cent of respondents saying they are and 41 per cent saying they are not.

Of the 1,015 respondents surveyed, 58 per cent feel visible minorities are well represented, while 36 per cent say they aren't.

Quebec residents are less likely than others to feel visible minorities are well represented in politics, the poll found.

Men are more likely than women to feel that women and visible minorities are well represented in politics, it found.

Thirty-seven per cent of respondents feel aboriginals are represented well in politics, compared to 57 per cent who feel they aren't. Residents of Ontario and Quebec are much less likely than others to feel aboriginals are well represented in politics.

Conservatives and Liberals are more likely than other voting groups to feel aboriginals are well represented in politics.

Respondents were asked the question: "As you may know, Kathleen Wynne was recently elected the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario and will be sworn in as Ontario's first female premier, and Canada's first openly gay premier. How significant a breakthrough for women in Canadian politics do you believe this is?"

The telephone poll was conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4. The survey has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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