These next few days are like festival season for political people: in Winnipeg the Liberal Party is gathering for the 2016 Biennial Convention while over in Vancouver, the Conservative Party are also in the midst of their national convention. Gender equity and increasing the number of female candidates will be a hot topic for both. PM Trudeau and his core team have this made this a clear priority for this Liberal Party and for the Conservatives, a more gender inclusive party has to be an essential part of their renewal efforts.
At the provincial level, three provinces are led by women, including Premier Rachel Notley in Alberta. Women make up 53 per cent of our province's cabinet ministers. In 2006, it was a mere 11 per cent. So, in a decade, that's progress. Federally, as in Alberta, cabinet is gender-balanced, a move that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau justified with the now oft-quoted "because it's 2015." Yet, in 2016, it must be noted that only 26 per cent of seats in the House of Commons are held by women. So, why is it that the lack of gender parity remains so pronounced in most levels of government across Canada?
I do not recall anyone questioning the merits of male ministers being appointed as the vast majority of cabinets -- forever. Were all those stellar choices under Stephen Harper (Julian Fantino, Vic Toews, and Pierre Poilievre to name a few) just so unquestionably well-prepared for the job that the matter never came up? Or is it beyond obvious that questions of merit never surfaced when the expected men were put in their usual spots -- known as positions of power?
Trish Kelly, a prominent member of Vancouver activism and a self-described sex-positive" and "queer" resigned her nomination as a candidate for park board in the city's upcoming municipal election, because of the surfacing of a humorous and risqué Fringe Festival video she made about masturbation from way back in 2006. As a male, I struggle with the guilt that something like that would not be nearly as damaging to my public figure.
A quick quiz for you -- which country has: the most women in parliament? The largest number on boards? Drum roll -- Rwanda 63.8 per cent and Norway 40.6 per cent. So it seems that when it comes to leadership, the glass ceiling in the U.S. and U.K. isn't about to be shattered any time soon. But does this really matter? I think it does.
Trudeau publicly promised that all Liberal nomination meetings in all the federal ridings would be open and democratic. But instead of supporting and encouraging Christine Innes' efforts to win a third nomination, Trudeau kiboshed her candidacy and destroyed Innes' dream of recapturing Trinity-Spadina. Holy hypocrisy, Justin!
There seems to be some confusion as to the difference between open nominations and the commitment in the Liberal Party for open and fair nominations. In 2009, when we presented the "Change Commission" report to the Liberal Party of Canada, we really wanted to call it "Stop Rewarding Bad Behaviour." From coast to coast to coast we had heard stories of 'bad behaviour' in nomination and leadership races that were seriously turning people off the political process.
Prime Minister Harper's cabinet shuffle has established four new female faces in ministerial positions. But a recent study that finds women are out of touch when it comes to politics. According to study author, "It's not only that women tend to know less about public affairs, but they are more disconnected to the political process ... Women are more inclined to say they are not interested in politics than men. Women are also more inclined to say politics are complicated and difficult to understand." As a man, I say the following with much discomfort: This will not do, ladies. Politics is important, no matter your gender. You need to do better.