Women in Ottawa

How did women do in the non-event we’re calling Canada’s Federal election?  Equal Voice [download pdf]has the story:

Equal Voice urges PM to boost women in Cabinet as women elected to Parliament crack 21
per cent barrier
Ottawa; October 14, 2008 — With modest gains in the election, women MPs have finally shattered the 21 per cent glass ceiling in the House of Commons, but Canada is still far short of fair representation, says Equal Voice.At the latest count, there were 68 women elected to the House of Commons, up from 64 in the previous election. Women will now occupy 22 per cent of the 308 seats in the House, compared to 21 per cent in 2006.

“Congratulations are due to the record number of women who stood as candidates in this election, and to the women who were elected in all parties,” said Raylene Lang-Dion. She is National Chair of Equal Voice, the influential non-profit organization that works with all major parties to improve the numbers of women elected to all levels of government in Canada.

However, while the result demonstrates progress, Lang-Dion noted that experts say and
experience demonstrates the need for at least one-third women in Parliament to make sure women’s perspectives are fully reflected in the nation’s agenda. Last night’s result means that Canada will still rank far behind other democracies in terms of the number of women elected to its national legislature.  Among world democracies, Canada will rank 46th.

“Mr. Harper’s new caucus includes some experienced and talented women MPs, whose merits
would justify a strong female contingent in his cabinet,” Lang-Dion said. Eighteen months ago, on International Women’s Day, the leaders of the four major parties in Parliament took up the Equal Voice Canada Challenge issued by Lang-Dion promising in statements in the Commons to run more women in this election.  They have all lived up to this pledge, with different degrees of success.
The Liberals ran the most women (113), but elected just 18 women MPs, while the Conservatives, who won the most seats, ran 60 women candidates, of which 23 were elected.  The Bloc Quebecois elected 15 women, and the New Democrats 12.   Overall, the showing for women was disappointing considering that more women ran than ever before; they were 29 per cent of the total candidates.

Equal Voice researcher Vicky Smallman had warned that many of the women candidates were
running in “unwinnable” ridings where their parties did poorly in the past. A breakthrough for women depended on whether the parties running most women made substantial gains, which did not happen last night.

“Despite the result, we are pleased all parties tried harder.  We see many signs of growing awareness by Canadians that we need more women in elected office,” Lang-Dion said. “We urge Prime Minister Harper to respond by appointing women to half the cabinet positions and ensuring that women are represented well among the senior ministries.”

Equal Voice Founding Chair Rosemary Speirs is already looking to the next election, and urging all parties to lay the groundwork now for future success. 

“Our goal is unchanged;we want fair representation of women in Parliament,” said Speirs.  “That means we need ALL parties nominating at least one third women, as the Liberals and NDP managed to do,  and even better will be the day when half or more of the parties’ candidates are women.  Only then will women be full partners in running our country.”
For further information:  Raylene Lang-Dion,  raylenelang-dion@rogers.com, 613-355-3428
Vicky Smallman, smallman@ca.inter.net, 613-295-8129
Rosemary Speirs, rspeirs@equalvoice.ca, 416-577-2777


Ok well, I’m not going to urge dancing in the streets because women have four more seats in the House, but I guess it would be nice if Stephen and the boys let a few more women into Cabinet.  On the other hand, they wouldn’t likely be doing anything I’d want them to do, so I’m more interested in the women who were elected as Liberal and NDP MPs.  There’s lots you can do in opposition and getting ready to be a Cabinet Minister in a governing party is one of them.

For those of you who are interested, go to Equal Voice, here [download pdf], for a list of women elected on October 14th.

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