Record number of women MLAs in Alberta 'changes the game'
Influx of women to shift focus from the economy to people, author says
As they sketch along the banks of the North Saskatchewan river, Edmonton high school students Juliana Sech and Rachel Phung ponder the historic developments in Alberta over the past few weeks.
Phung voted for the first time May 5th and is pleased by how many women were elected to the NDP caucus.
"It's a good thing because brings it more diversity of opinion."
Of 53 seats won by the new NDP government, almost half are held by women — a record in Alberta and perhaps even in Canada, says Athabasca University professor Jane Arscott.
Arscott, along with colleagues Linda Trimble and Manon Trembla, wrote the book Stalled: The Representation of Women in Canadian Governments which detailed the lack of progress made by women in Canadian politics since the late 90s.
Arscott says the electoral success of the Notley caucus doesn't mean the "stall" is over, but she's hopeful more parties will follow the lead of the NDP and recruit more women to run.
"That changes the game entirely," says Arscott, "because the balance of probability is that more women will seek office, more women will be successful, more women will be at the cabinet table, more women will be on board and commissions."
Lana Cutherbertson, 28, says it's the kind of result they could only dream of.
"It's really, really cool and for a group like ours when you don't see results and you don't see results for a while, and then something like this happens, it's awesome."
Arscott believes gender balance will have an impact on Alberta.
The group dynamics of caucus and cabinet alone will change the conversation from a preoccupation with the economy, to one more focused on the people in the economy, she says.
"You may end up with a different angle of vision on the same problem but you'll approach it in a different way."
Rachel Notley and her cabinet will be sworn in on Sunday afternoon on the front steps of the Alberta legislature. Arscott expects Notley will continue to make history by appointing at least six women to her 12-person cabinet.