Janice MacKinnon stirs debate: Is gender parity a 'throwback to another era?'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first cabinet will have gender parity — for the first time ever, it could have an equal number of men and women.

Justin Trudeau appointed women to 15 of 31 cabinet positions

Justin Trudeau asked about gender parity in cabinet 1:13

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised and delivered on gender parity in cabinet — he appointed women to 15 of 31 cabinet positions.

But that promise doesn't sit well with Saskatchewan's first female finance minister.
Janice MacKinnon was Saskatchewan's first female finance minister when she served in Roy Romanow's NDP government in the 1990s. (CBC)

"It's like a throwback to another era," says Janice MacKinnon, who held the finance portfolio in Roy Romanow's NDP government in the 1990s.

In an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, MacKinnon said there are other concerns that should come before gender.

"These people being chosen are going to make really important decisions for the future of the country," she said. "I think what people should expect is that accomplishments, talents, abilities are the prime concern."

MacKinnon says the cabinet should reflect the diversity of the entire country, including region and ethnicity, but gender parity is a bad idea.

Equal Voice chairperson disagrees

Sandi Urban-Hall is the chairperson of the Equal Voice Saskatchewan chapter, an organization devoted to electing more women to political office. She said she's pleased Trudeau stuck to his promise of putting gender parity in cabinet.

"Our population is 50 per cent women and therefore, I think it's important for women to have their voice in cabinet," Urban-Hall said. "And to be able to change the tone of politics in Canada."

A federal cabinet would never exist if we only had English-speaking people, or if it was exclusively Caucasian, or if it was exclusively lawyers.- Sandi Urban-Hall, chairperson of Equal Voice Saskatchewan chapter

She said women bring a diversity of views when policy decisions are made, through their differences in experience, education and perspectives. 

"When we have got 50 women elected within the Liberal caucus, competency or merit isn't even part of the discussion. There is a very strong crop of women."

Urban-Hall said, in her view, cabinet has always had informal quotas.

"A federal cabinet would never exist if we only had English-speaking people, or if it was exclusively Caucasian, or if it was exclusively lawyers. The prime minister's just simply chosen to put a particular emphasis on gender balance in his cabinet."


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