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Record Number of Women Elected to Parliament.

In the October federal election, women were elected in 98 of Canada's 338 federal ridings and they now make up 29 percent of the country's MPs. There are 10 more female MPs sitting in the House of Commons--an 11.3 percent increase--compared to the number elected in the 2015 election.

The increase is significant. It puts the Canadian government close to the 30 percent-plus zone that sociological theories call "critical mass," a proportion at which a minority's representation begins to significantly affect an institution's policies.

According to Equal Voice, a Canadian organization pushing for more women in politics, there was a nine percent increase in the number of female candidates who ran in the federal election. However, Equal Voice also noted that three times as many men as women were nominated in ridings considered to be "safe" for their party.

In part, this helps explain why 6.2 percent of new female candidates were elected, compared to 11.3 percent of first-time male candidates. University of Calgary political science professor Melanee Thomas blames political parties for this inequity. "Not only are parties less likely to nominate women as candidates," she wrote in Policy Options, "they are also more likely to disproportionately nominate women in seats their party cannot win."

In the new federal Liberal caucus, 52 MPs out of 157--or 33 percent--are women. Other parties have higher percentages of women, but lower overall numbers. 12 of the Bloc Quebecois's 32 elected MPs (37.5 percent) and nine of the 24 NDP-elected MPs (37.5 percent) are women. Two of the three Green Party MPs are women (66 percent). Conservatives elected 22 female MPs out of 121 (18 percent). Jody Wilson-Raybould was the sole Independent candidate elected.

High-profile women defeated in the October election include Conservative Party MP Lisa Raitt and former Health Minister Jane Philpot, who ran as an Independent following her resignation from caucus after former Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould resigned over the SNC-Lavalin affair. Due to the resignation of Green Party leader Elizabeth May after the election, Canada no longer has a female party leader in the Commons.

Once again, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet has gender parity. Women hold half of the 36 posts. Notably, former foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland is now deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs. Carolyn Bennett remains minister of crown-Indigenous relations and Catherine McKenna has moved from the Environment portfolio (and the misogynist trolls who harassed her) to the ministry of infrastructure and communities.

Plenty of work still remains before Canada has a more diverse Parliament. Of 87 LGBTQ+ candidates who ran in October's election, only four were elected, making up just over one percent of MPs. This includes Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan, who has been appointed minister of natural resources.

The 55 people of colour who were elected represent 16.2 percent of MPs, bringing the House of Commons closer to representing Canada's ethnic and racial diversity. Ten Indigenous MPs were elected, Wilson-Raybould among them. Notable Indigenous and Inuit women elected include Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, 25, the NDP MP for Nunavut and social activist Leah Gazan, the new NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre.

Female parliamentarians have proven powerful when they find common ground. In early 2018, women worked across party lines in response to the #MeToo movement, helping develop policies to address sexual harassment on the Hill. Another sign of feminist influence in Canadian politics is the newly formed Canadian Association of Feminist Parliamentarians, which formed in 2018 and has 60 members. The cross-party group of MPs and Senators is expected to provide a sharp gender lens on legislation and other matters to advance feminist issues.

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Author:Kome, Penney
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2020
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