Women from Different Political Parties Urge More Women Candidates; Issue Challenge to Federal Party LeadersTuesday, July 27 2010
OTTAWA – Equal Voice is fighting for women’s equality on International Women’s Day by issuing the Canada Challenge: Getting More Women Elected to the House of Commons to the four federal party leaders – Conservative leader Stephen Harper, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, NDP leader Jack Layton, and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe – by asking the leaders to use their authority to ensure that each of their political parties runs more women in the next federal election. Equal Voice has not set targets but is asking the four leaders to pledge to run “many more” women candidates next time.
Backing the issue, on behalf of Equal Voice, are political trailblazers, Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, a Progressive Conservative who served as Canada’s first woman Prime Minister, Hon. Judy Erola, a Liberal who served as Canada’s Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Hon. Audrey McLaughlin of the NDP, the first woman to serve as the Leader of a federal political party in Canada and Conservative Senator Pat Carney, the first woman to have served as Canada’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Minister of International Trade and President of Treasury Board, major economic portfolios. All four women are members of Equal Voice’s Advisory Board which brings together women of all political stripes to work across party lines for the election of more women.
These women who broke down barriers in their own political careers have seen little progress for women in the House of Commons for over a decade; women have languished at just 21% of MPs. With only 64 women serving as MPs in the House of Commons, the numbers of women MPs actually decreased following the 2006 election. Equal Voice says it time for and political parties to prove their commitment to women’s equality and take action by ensuring the nomination of more women.
Political parties are the gatekeepers to House of Commons and they need to be proactive in recruiting and supporting women candidates to run in winnable ridings” said Raylene Lang-Dion, Equal Voice’s National Chair. “Equal Voice issued the Ontario Challenge at Queen’s Park in Toronto last year, and Ontario Party Leaders Dalton McGuinty, John Tory and Howard Hampton all affirmed their commitment in the Legislature. Since that time, all the Ontario parties have done a better job of nominating women in by-elections, and the proportion of women in the provincial legislature has grown from less than 21% to over 25% -- a significant milestone.
Over the course of the past decade, we have not seen an increase in the numbers of women elected to the House of Commons, “said Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell. “Canadians should be concerned about why this is the case and what message this sends to young women. The House of Commons needs more women; the more female role models that people see and that young women see, the better it is to encourage more women to get involved in politics.”
Canada's international ranking, in terms of women elected to its national parliament, has dropped to 47th in the world and now has fewer women elected than Mauritania, Uganda, Rwanda, Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Senator Carney. “Here we are 37 years after the first Royal Commission on the Status of Women and many of the barriers identified in the Bird report still exist for women in politics.”
Hon. Judy Erola noted that Doris Anderson, who along with Erola and many other women, successfully fought to have the Equality Clause added to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was supportive of the Canada Challenge. Doris Anderson, Canada’s most passionate voice for women’s equality and a stalwart of Equal Voice, died last week without seeing her lifelong dream of equality realized. We owe it to all women to continue the quest and intensify our actions to achieve change,” Erola concluded.
There are still barriers for women who want to seek elected office,” says Hon. Audrey McLaughlin. “Women often say that it much more difficult to win a nomination meeting than it is to win a general election – and there is no question that political parties have a role to play in promoting the nomination of women candidates. Some things have proven effective – such as my party’s policy of freezing nominations until riding associations can demonstrate they have made every effort to recruit female candidates. All parties need to do more.”
Women constitute over 50% of the population and yet they make up only 20.8% of the House of Commons. According to the United Nations, a critical mass of 30 per cent of female legislators is required to ensure that public policy reflects the needs of women. Canada has not achieved this 30% mark let alone the 50% required for equal representation. Political parties have a role to play in addressing the lack of growth in female parliamentarians over the past decade, improving Canada's international rankings, and reducing barriers for women seeking elected office.
A backgrounder on women in Canadian politics is available on our web site at www.equalvoice.ca
Equal Voice is a group of concerned women and men nation-wide, who have formed a multi-partisan non-profit organization devoted to the still-bold idea that more women must be elected to every level of government in Canada. Equal Voice supports the participation of women in politics with our online “Getting to the Gate” campaign school, our regional chapters, and our national youth chapter.
For more information, please visit www.equalvoice.ca.