All party Leaders in this election will -- or at least should -- tell you that they want to see more women in politics, and that Canadians would be better served by a more balanced representation in the House of Commons.
But what sets Tom Mulcair apart from Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, is that he won't simply wring his hands and lament the sad state of affairs. He'll back up his desire to change the face of politics in this country with concrete action to get the job done.
I'm a woman proudly running for office with Tom Mulcair's team. That pride, in no small part, is a result of his clear track-record of backing his principled words up with decisive action.
His action to advance the equality of women within the NDP and in Canadian politics takes shape in at least three major, tangible ways.
First, getting women elected to the House of Commons; second, making sure women's voices are heard loud and clear in parliament; and third, taking principled stands against policies that negatively affect women, and for policies that advance the equality of women in Canada.
On all three fronts, there is no question that Tom's action speaks much louder than words.
On electing women to sit in the House of Commons, it's becoming a well-known fact that, for the second straight federal election, the NDP has the highest-ever number of women running for office. One hundred and forty-seven women are running for the NDP, or 43.5 per cent of our 338-member slate of nominees. This number shatters Canada's previous record of 124 women candidates (40 per cent of 308), which was an impressive bar set by the NDP under Jack Layton' leadership in the last campaign.
In every other party's slate of candidates, men outnumber women by more than two-to-one.
The incontrovertible reality is that more women candidates mean more women elected, which was on full display with the NDP in 2011. We fielded the largest number of women candidates in Canadian history, and then we elected the most women MPs in Canadian history.
Second, on ensuring the voices of women are heard in Ottawa once elected, Tom's record could not be more clear. Each Leader in parliament surrounds themselves with a group of MPs in prominent positions called House Officers. These MPs are very influential in caucus decision-making, and in providing strategic advice to the Leader. Under Tom's leadership, six-out-of-nine NDP House Officers were women, including two deputy Leaders, the Whip and the NDP Caucus Chair.
By contrast, Trudeau and Harper asked just one woman to serve among their 10 House officers. Trudeau chose men for five out of six Liberal House officer positions, and Harper chose men for all four of his. A troubling record for both leaders.
Third, on making the right choices on tough questions and issues in Parliament, once again Tom has proven that he'll back up his principles with action time after time.
In the last parliament, the NDP caucus brought forward a law to require gender parity on the boards of our crown corporations; they succeeded in having the tax on feminine hygiene products removed for all Canadian women; and they voted unanimously to stop a parliamentary committee from re-opening the abortion question.
My experience as both a journalist and moderator of the International G(irls) 20 Summit has taught me that "women's issues" are actually priorities for all Canadians who want to build a country that is fairer, stronger and more inclusive for all.
For example, Tom's plan for $15-per-day childcare plan will create a million new childcare spaces across Canada, and will help level the playing field for young mothers who want to return to the workforce. In Quebec, since the introduction of affordable childcare, 70,000 more women have joined the workforce. While there is no doubt that this ranks as a top priority for women, it's also an important policy for families, for children, for communities and for the economy. And far from being too costly or difficult to implement, it's actually a plan Canada can no longer afford to do without.
In Tom Mulcair, the NDP has a Leader with a concrete plan to repair the damage of Stephen Harper, the courage of his convictions, and a track record of backing those convictions up with action -- just like he did when he voted against C-51.
Tom Mulcair's principled approach is becoming a hallmark of his leadership in Ottawa.
He strongly believes there should be more women in the House of Commons, and that they should play leadership roles when they get there. And, most importantly, he backs those words up with action.
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