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Home: Blog--Guide to the Pundits' Guide

BLOG -- Guide to the Pundits' Guide

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Equal Voice Challenges Party Leaders to Run More Women

The organization Equal Voice held a news conference with women parliamentarians this morning as part of their "2009 Canada Challenge" campaign, to encourage the major political parties to increase the number of women candidates they run in the forthcoming campaign.

Opposition party leaders and the Minister for the Status of Women responded by making pledges in the Equal Voice news release (PDF) and during Members' Statements before Question Period:
  • NDP Leader Jack Layton was first up, and pledged that his slate for the forthcoming election would include "at least 50% women".
  • Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said that "we are going to do our utmost to reach that objective", and stated that their goal was "parity, which is only normal".
  • Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff pledged on behalf of his party that "no fewer than one-third of our Liberal candidates will be women in the next election".
  • Status of Women minister Helena Guergis quoted in the release stressed that women should have every opportunity "to make a meaningful contribution to democratic life in Canada, which includes the option of running for elected office," and in the House she highlighted her government's funding of the Equal Voice program to foster political education amongst women, and the record number of women appointed to Cabinet by the Prime Minister.
  • Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, also quoted in the release said that "we need more women candidates to ensure that the issues important to Canadians are raised and important questions asked".
The Pundits' Guide will allow users to track how parties are doing in meeting their recruitment commitments; both overall (in the Nominations Progress table at the top of the main page), but also in various categories of seats, such as Incumbent Seats, Seats in which the party placed 2nd last time, Seats in which the party placed a strong 3rd last time, and other Seats.

For this latter breakdown, go to the "Search the Database" page, and select the second query under the heading "Nominations Progress" entitled "Nomination counts by party and previous rank for the 41st General Election".

This breakdown can be important to examine because, for example, while the Conservative caucus had fewer women going into the last campaign, their party made an obvious effort to recruit women candidates in vacant incumbent seats and next-tier winnable ridings. That progress ought to be able to be measured as well.

One statistic mentioned by Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe was his party's record of success in actually electing the women candidates it runs. I've realized before that this was a desirable statistic to track, and when I revamp the Summary panes this summer I'll be adding it in there to provide us with a more complete picture.

I realize it's still controversial for some readers that parties might recruit candidates on the basis of a characteristic such as gender, rather than seeking to pick "the best person for the job". To this I would merely say that if the candidate were selected *only* on the basis of a characteristic, that would be a recipe for political failure. By the same token, I might argue, often when new candidates are allowed to bypass a competitive nomination process they may be missing out on a crucial testing ground that could serve them well later on. So the nature of the selection process may be as important as the candidates' attributes. However, we don't even debate the importance of regional representation in the Chamber or the cabinet, and some parties also observe conventions about alternating the language profiles of their leaders, as they did with religion in days gone by.

Much as many new participants were inspired to participate in politics in the United States this past year as a result of the candidacies of President Obama and Senator Clinton, I remember a time 25 years ago when the first woman nominee for Vice President was selected. That was in the summer of 1984, and the excitement this event generated is part of what led me to become involved in politics myself. I would like to see many more such role models, of many different backgrounds and with many different attributes and skills, included in the parties' slates for the forthcoming campaign, in the hopes of motivating another generation of young folks to become involved in the democratic life of their country.

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