Justin Trudeau's gender parity in federal cabinet provides hope, inspiration

P.E.I.'s Coalition for Women in Government is pleased to see women in influential portfolios such as Justice, Northern Affairs and International Trade. The group says having half of cabinet being female "will benefit our whole society."

'You can't be what you can't see,' says women's coalition

Canada's new Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna is congratulated by Prime Minister Trudeau at Rideau Hall. (Reuters/Chris Wattie)

Justin Trudeau's new gender-balanced federal cabinet will provide hope and inspiration for girls and women interested in getting into politics, says the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government.

Yesterday's swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall welcomed 15 women to Justin Trudeau's federal cabinet, marking the first time gender parity has been achieved in Canada's team of ministers. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulates Chrystia Freeland as she is sworn in as Minister Of International Trade Wednesday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

None of P.E.I.'s four MPs is female. 

"Well we always say that it's important for girls and young women to see women in positions of leadership," said Dawn Wilson, executive director of the coalition. 

"You can't be what you can't see. So having a cabinet with 50 per cent of women sends a clear and powerful message that women's voices and experiences matter."

You can't be what you can't see.— Dawn Wilson, P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government

Wilson said seeing so many women in cabinet was a powerful and historic moment for Canadian politics.

She said it was also encouraging to see women handed influential portfolios like Justice, International Trade, and Environment.

The coalition formed a decade ago to find ways to increase women's chances of being elected in all levels of government in P.E.I. Its long-term goal was for women to make up half the P.E.I. legislature by 2015, but that didn't happen: only 18.5 per cent of Island MLAs are women. 

On Wednesday, 15 women were appointed as federal cabinet ministers under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

History has shown that if women run in P.E.I., they are somewhat (60 per cent) more likely to be elected than men according to the coalition. But the challenge is getting more names on the ballot, and reducing barriers like the perception that politicians work long hours for low pay and little privacy, and the competitive nature of politics.

The coalition believes a new electoral system of proportional representation is the best way to ensure more women are elected provincially. 

With files from Angela Walker