Gender parity a priority in cabinet, says PCs' Brian Pallister

There are 24 new faces in the PC caucus. On Tuesday, the Progressive Conservative Party claimed a super majority, winning 40 out of 57 seats. Critics say the new caucus lacks diversity.

Critics say new PC caucus lacks diversity

The incoming female PC MLAs. From L to R: Rochelle Squires, Janice Morley-Lecomte, Sarah Guillemard, Myrna Driedger. Bottow row L to R: Heather Stefanson, Cathy Cox, Eileen Clarke and Colleen Mayer. (Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba)

There are 24 new faces in the PC caucus. 

On Tuesday, the Progressive Conservative Party claimed a super majority winning 40 out of 57 seats.

The party held 19 seats when the writ dropped in March, with 16 MLAs seeking re-election and winning.

"There is a lack of diversity in the PC caucus," said Chris Adams, who is a political analyst and author.

The new caucus is made up of eight women and 32 men.

Out of 40, only four incoming MLAs check the diversity box. Alan Lagimodiere in Selkirk and Bob Lagassé in Dawson Trail identify as Indigenous. Former MP Steven Fletcher, who was the first quadriplegic in the House of Commons, is now the incoming representative for Assiniboia and Jon Reyes of St. Norbert is Filipino. 
PC leader Brian Pallister does not deny his party is lacking in diversity. He said his roster is who Manitobans elected and that is what he will work with. (CBC Manitoba)

Adams said it wasn't surprising that the PC vote went to traditional strongholds, like rural Manitoba. 

"Many of those people have brought their PC identity into Winnipeg," he said. "They got their university training, became accountants, and continued to be involved in the PC Party."

He said traditionally, urban areas and the north go NDP. However, this time around many longstanding orange constituencies in the city flipped to blue.

Adams predicts more diversity for the PCs in future elections.

"We will see more Filipino candidates, we will see more Asian Canadians," he said. "One thing I thought was quite noteworthy is the number of women candidates for the PCs."

Pallister promotes gender parity

Brian Pallister didn't deny his team lacks diversity: "Who Manitobans gave me, I will work with. That's the pieces of the puzzle."

The incoming Premier said he is proud of having eight women on his team: "I reached out and recruited for 3.5 years, so we actually had the largest percentage, pure number of female candidates in our [PC] history."

Progressive Conservative Leader and premier-designate Brian Pallister is surrounded by party candidates as he delivers his victory speech at Canad Inns Polo Park in Winnipeg on April 19, 2016. (Michael Fazio/CBC)
The PC leader said, as the father of two daughters, gender parity in his cabinet is important.

"I believe that [my daughters] should have equal opportunity in life, but they should also understand that merit is what matters most and they should earn their way on that basis," he said.

Pallister wouldn't elaborate how he will work with the indigenous community, but promised things will be changing.

Pallister said he met with many chief and councils on the campaign trail and is looking forward to building relationships with them.

" I have many friends and I have not bought one of them. I will not go to communities and promise things at the expense of a great risk to our province."

Problematic, says new MLA

Nahanni Fontaine, who is an indigenous woman and a new incoming MLA for the NDP, called the lack of diversity on the PCs' roster "problematic."

Nahanni Fontaine, incoming MLA for St. Johns, is one of four indigenous NDP caucus members.
"How do you represent people if you don't have that equitable representation within your party or your caucus?" asked Fontaine. "I suspect that it is going to put them at a little disadvantage."

Fontaine said she is proud of the diversity in her party.

The NDP held onto 14 seats as well as the majority of diverse incumbents. Mohinder Saran, Flor Marcelino, Ted Marcelino, Kevin Chief and Amanda Lathlin were re-elected. Two more indigenous MLAs were added to their roster: Wab Kinew and Nahanni Fontaine.

The gender make up of the NDP is three women and 11 men. In 2011, 10 women were elected as MLAs and Lathlin was added in a byelection. Of those 11, seven sought re-election, with Marcelino and Lathlin holding on to their seats.

The Liberals claimed three seats, Jon Gerrard, Cindy Lamoureux, and Judy Klassen, who is indigenous.