Nfld. & Labrador

25% women: Gains, but no equal voice in legislature

Women will be outnumbered in the new House of Assembly three-to-one, and advocates for gender parity say parties have to try harder to recruit female candidates who can win.

'Big responsibility' for lone woman in PC caucus

The all woman NDP caucus celebrates on election night. (CBC)

Women will be outnumbered in the new House of Assembly three-to-one and advocates for gender parity say parties have to try harder to recruit female candidates who can win.

"We know when qualified woman are on the ballot, women can win," said Lynn Hammond, who has worked in communications for both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties.

Hammond and political scientist Amanda Bittner told CBC on election night that they would like to see more female faces in the legislature. 

"Not so good" is how Bittner described the 2015 election results which saw 10 women elected, compared to 30 men.

She said that falls short of the 30 percent needed to "effect change."

However, there are more women now than in 2011 when eight were elected — just one-sixth of 48 MHAs.

Bittner said there is more than just seats at play.

"It's not just how many there are, but what kind of cabinet post they have. Somebody like Cathy Bennett [Windsor Lake] should probably have a high cabinet post."

Siobhan Coady and Cathy Bennett, seen here flanking Liberal leader Dwight Ball, are among the names being floated as possible cabinet ministers. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

The incoming Liberal government has seven women, including Bennett and former member of Parliament, Siobhan Coady.

Liberal leader Dwight Ball hasn't said who his cabinet picks are, but he agreed Monday night that gender parity is a goal.

"This election saw a number of women come forward as candidates and this is important, but there's much more that we can do," Ball told supporters. "Women still remain severely under-represented and this is something we all need, all parties need to work towards. We have to address this."

Step in right direction

Lisa Dempster, who was re-elected for the Liberals in Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, pointed out that of the eight women who ran for the party, only one was defeated and Lynn Sullivan lost to another woman, the NDP's Gerry Rogers in St. John's Centre.
Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster says she hasn't had a lot of time for herself since getting elected 2 1/2 years ago. "You have to love what you do." (CBC)

"We did elect strong, independent, capable women," said Dempster, calling the election results, "a step in the right direction," but not enough.

She sits on a Commonwealth women parliamentarians committee and says women are "grossly under-represented" in legislatures around the world.

"We need to do more to make politics exciting and viable for women," she said, citing family support as essential.

'Big responsibility'

Tracey Perry is the only woman in the Progressive Conservative caucus. She was re-elected in Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune with nearly half the votes cast there.

"It's a big responsibility," she said. "We do need more women running."

Tracey Perry is the only woman in the seven member PC caucus. (Submitted photo)

Perry said being the only female voice is not a new experience. She was the only woman on the PC benches in the four months leading up to the election, after other women in the caucus resigned or took sick leave.

"I take extra pride in bringing our views to the table," she said. "Women do look at things from a different perspective."

Perry thinks women from the three political parties will work together on some issues, something Amanda Bittner agreed with.

"It's harder with a majority government, if that majority government doesn't have a lot of women though."

Bittner and Hammond are both involved with Equal Voice, which promotes gender parity in politics.

Hammond said there were a "significant number of women in the Kathy Dunderdale cabinet," and in 2011, all three party leaders were women.

One of those women, New Democrat Lorraine Michael was re-elected Monday in St. John's East-Quidi Vidi, along with colleague Gerry Rogers in St. John's Centre.

Nearly half the NDP's roster of candidates in this election were women.

"And I know that many of them are ready now to build to 2019," said Rogers.

Perry said while getting more women elected is important, gender is not the main influence on voters.

"It's entirely about who people feel is the best person, not about gender."

For the record, here's a list of the women elected Monday.

  • Siobhan Coady, Lib. St. John's West
  • Cathy Bennett, Lib. Windsor Lake
  • Pam Parsons, Lib. Harbour Grace-Port de Grave
  • Carol Anne Haley, Lib. Burin-Grand Bank
  • Lisa Dempster, Lib. Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair
  • Betty Parsley, Lib. Harbour Main
  • Sherry Gambin-Walsh, Lib. Placentia-St. Mary's
  • Tracey Perry, PC Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune
  • Gerry Rogers, NDP St. John's Centre
  • Lorraine Michael, NDP St. John's East-Quidi Vidi


 

About the Author

Marilyn Boone is a retired journalist who worked for CBC News in St. John's.

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