Where are the women in Parliament?
By John Gray, CBC.ca Reality Check Team | Dec. 13, 2005 | More Reality Check
A little more than two years ago, as he was headed for his coronation as leader of the Liberal party, Paul Martin made a couple of astonishing statements.
Looking ahead to the election that took place in June 2004, he said: "We cannot go into this election campaign unless we have the largest number of women candidates in Liberal riding history."
Enthused, he explained, "We have to go out across this country and, in riding after riding, recruit young women who want to dedicate themselves to the public service."
What he wanted, he said, was that the number of women in the Parliament of Canada should be representative of the country as a whole: "That means 52 per cent."
The harsh reality is that Martin did not reach his target of the largest number of women candidates in Liberal party history. Women constituted 24 per cent of all party candidates. The Liberals, under Martin's old rival Jean Chretien, attracted 28 per cent women candidates in the 1997 election.
Of the 135 Liberals elected in the 2004 election, only 34 were women – 25 per cent of the caucus.
As for the goal of half the membership of Parliament being women, that was a distant target. Of the 308 MPs, 65 were women, a long way from 52 per cent, virtually the same proportion as in 2000.
With the country now in the midst of another election campaign, the numbers do not look any better for women this time.
Nominations do not close until Jan. 2, exactly three weeks before the vote, but the four major parties have already nominated most of their candidates, and female representation seems once more to be at best an afterthought.
- As of Dec. 12, the Bloc Québécois had nominated all of its candidates and the 23 women nominated constitute 31 per cent of the BQ slate.
- The Conservatives have nominated 293 candidates; the 32 women are just 11 per cent of the total.
- The Liberals so far have 281 candidates, 76 of them women, who account for 27 per cent of the total.
- Once more, the New Democrats have the broadest female representation; their 289 nominated candidates include 106 women, 37 per cent of the total.
The group most active in lobbying for greater representation of women in Parliament is Equal Voice, whose chair, former journalist Rosemary Speirs, concedes wearily that "so far, we're battering against a wall."
One of the continuing problems, Speirs acknowledges, is that political parties frequently nominate women in those ridings where they expect to have little chance of victory.
Another result is that the number of women willing to take a chance on politics is declining. Inevitably, there are no women premiers and no women are mayors of the largest cities.
Speirs points grimly to the chart published by the Interparliamentary Union in its survey of democratic institutions around the world.
In terms of representation of women, the 65 elected to the House of Commons in the last election mean that Canada is 23rd in the world – slightly behind Ethiopia, slightly ahead of Latvia.
|Party||# of nominated candidates ||# of women|| # of men|| %|
|Bloc Quebecois|| 75 ||23 ||52 ||31%
|Conservatives ||293 ||32|| 261 ||11%
|Liberals ||281 ||76 ||205 ||27%
|NDP ||289 ||106 ||183 ||37%