British Columbia

Because it's 2016: Bill aims to increase number of women in politics

Kennedy Stewart, MP for Burnaby South, has introduced a bill designed to bring gender parity to the House of Commons.

Is money the key to convincing political parties to field more female candidates? Kennedy Stewart thinks so.

Burnaby-South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has introduced a bill to promote gender equity in the House of Commons. (CBC)

"After all, it's 2016," was the refrain used by Kennedy Stewart earlier this week when he introduced a private members bill into the House of Commons aimed at promoting gender equity in national politics.

The Burnaby South NDP MP thinks money is the key to getting political parties to nominate more women and wants to amend the Canada Elections Act to financially penalize parties that don't put forward a gender balanced candidate list.

 "A record 88 women MPs were elected in the 2015 election, but women still hold only 26 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons, which places us 53rd in the world when compared to other countries, said Stewart. "This is unacceptable."

In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced Canada's first gender equal cabinet. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Stewart's Candidate Gender Equity Act proposes reducing the public subsidy a party collects if it fails to put forward a candidate list with a 10 per cent or less difference between the number of males and females.

Currently political parties can claim campaign expense rebates of up to 50 per cent from Elections Canada.

"While more than enough women come forward to run for office, the real problem is that political parties do not ensure gender equity in their nomination processes," stated Stewart. "Without new measures, it is unlikely Canada will achieve parity until 2075."

Stewart says France and Ireland are two countries that have increased the proportion of female candidates using a similar scheme. 

In November, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced the first gender equal cabinet in Canada, uttering the now famous words, "because it's 2015."

Stewart's bill received first reading and was printed, but private member's bills rarely become law.


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