Who's really leading in the race for female representationPosted in Reality Check Posted on September 25, 2008 06:28 PM | Permalink
By John Gray
When they were challenged to nominate more female parliamentary candidates, Canada's political leaders promised to do better next time, and most of them did.
So, yes, there will probably be more women in the House of Commons after Oct. 14, voting day. But it's a pretty safe bet that the gender balance/imbalance of the next Parliament will be about the same as the last.
That is not to say that the Commons will look as it did when Agnes Macphail was first elected in 1921. She was the only woman MP in Ottawa for the next 14 years.
But in a world in which women are seeking and expecting equality, the sobering realization is that in the ranking set by the Inter-parliamentary Union, Canada is 51st in the world in the number of women elected to the Commons.
The dubious consolation is that the United States is even worse, in 69th place.
Libs in lead for first time
The tally of women nominated to run in the Oct. 14 election was published by Equal Voice, a lobby group dedicated to electing more women in Canada.
For the first time, the highest proportion of women nominated by one of the major parties was in the Liberal party. The 113 Liberal women nominated represent 37 per cent of the party's 307 candidates, surpassing the 34 per cent of nominations by the New Democratic Party.
Women make up 20 per cent of candidates in the Conservative party, 28 per cent of the Bloc's candidates and 29 per cent of Green party candidates.
On International Women's Day last year, the leaders of the four parties in the Commons promised to do better in terms of the number of women nominated in the next election campaign than they did in the 2006 election.
The Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats have all marginally increased the proportion of female candidates while the Bloc has slipped marginally back.
What is probably more indicative of female representation is the percentage of women candidates running in "winnable" ridings. These are defined as ridings in which the seat is currently held by a woman; where the given party came in second by a margin of 10 per cent or less in the last election; or where there was a three-way contest with a margin of less than 15 per cent between the first- and third-placed contestants.
By that measure, the New Democrats are ahead, with 39 per cent of their candidates in winnable seats; followed by the Bloc, with 32 per cent; the Liberals, with 28 per cent; and the Conservatives, with 15 per cent.
Whatever the improvement in the current election, Canada's political parties are still a long way behind the benchmark set by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, who said the number of women in Parliament should be representative of the country as a whole: "That means 52 per cent."
About the Authors
Ira Basen joined CBC Radio in 1984 and was senior producer at Sunday Morning and Quirks and Quarks. He was involved in the creation of three network programs The Inside Track (1985), This Morning (1997) and Workology (2001), and produced the award- winning radio documentary series Spin Cycles (2007). He has also written for Saturday Night, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus. He taught at the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, and Ryerson. He is a co-author of the Canadian edition of The Book of Lists (Knopf, 2005).
John Gray has worked for a number of Canadian newspapers, including most recently more than 20 years with the Globe and Mail, where he served as Ottawa bureau chief, national editor, foreign editor, foreign correspondent and national correspondent
Mark Gollom has been a news writer for CBCNews.ca since 2003. He's worked as a reporter at the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Toronto Sun. Mark has a degree in political science from the University of Western Ontario and a diploma in journalism from Centennial College in Toronto.