Like many of you, an election call in the very early days of August wasn’t exactly what we had planned. No matter. Equal Voice is eager and enthusiastic about giving you the goods as it pertains to the participation of women candidates in #elxn42. The numbers. Their prospects. And the kind of treatment – good and not so good – women candidates may be getting on the campaign trail.
While thelate Hon. Flora MacDonald is no longer with us, her passing so close to the election call serves as a poignant reminder of how far we have yet to go to ensure balance in Canada’s House of Commons.
How Many Female Candidates Does it Take to Make History?
In the 2011 federal election, 76 women were elected to the House of Commons constituting 24.6 percent of Members of Parliament (MPs). The five major parties (we list them according to their status in the House of Commons: Conservative Party, New Democratic Party, Liberal Party, Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party) had fielded, among them, 31 percent women candidates. The NDP led the way with 40 percent women candidates and, interestingly, elected almost the same percentage (39 percent) to their party caucus.
The other parties had more variable results:
The Conservative Party fielded 22 percent women candidates and, of their total caucus of Members of Parliament (MPs), 17 percent were women;
The Liberal Party fielded 29 percent women candidates and, of their total caucus of MPs, 18 percent were women;
The Bloc Quebecois fielded 32 percent women candidates and, of their total caucus of 4 Members of Parliament, just one woman was elected (who subsequently crossed the floor too the NDP);
The Green Party elected just one Member of Parliament, Elizabeth May, their national leader. In the 2011 campaign, however, they fielded just over 33 percent women candidates.
Where Are Things at Now?
With over a month to go before nominations close on September 28 (21 days before the federal election date), women currently constitute 30.5 percent of all nominated candidates for the five major parties. So not quite at the 2011 historic high of 31 percent – but there is some ways to go before all nominations are complete.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most parties are holding steady or are up from the previous election when it comes to the percentage of women they have- up to now- nominated.
Interestingly, there is significant provincial/territorial variability in these numbers. Curious about your province/territory? We’ve listed the percentages below.
As we said above, 76 women were elected in May 2011 which constituted 24.6 percent of the House of Commons. Throughout the duration of this Parliament, four other women were elected in federal by-elections (two from the Conservative Party and two from the Liberal Party). At the same time, three women (two New Democrats and one Conservative woman) stepped down. At dissolution, 77 women were serving as Members of Parliament.
In other words, Canada’s 41st Parliament represented a historic breakthrough from previous elections where the percentage of women MPs serving hovered in and around the high teens or low 20s. Was the breakthrough in 2011 monumental? No. It was incremental, representing a very slow but (mostly) steady rise in the percentage of women elected to Canada’s Lower House (the House of Commons). Is it fast enough? Absolutely not. But we will get to that in another issue of Equal Voice's Weekly Wednesday Election Missive e-series.
Heartening, however, in the 2011 election was the percentage of women elected who were under the age of 40. 18 women under the age of 40 were elected in 2011 which represented a significant leap from previous Parliaments where there were never more than five younger women serving. While the election of more women under the age of 40 represented a marked improvement, it in no way compensates for the ongoing and woeful absence of diversity, including that of First Nations, Metis and Inuit women, women of Colour, women with disabilities, low income women, among many other women representing diverse backgrounds.
What’s Being Said
Here are some links to news articles this past week that caught our attention and/or featured commentary by Equal Voice.
Equal Voice's National Spokespersons for the election are the following:
Nancy Peckford (Ottawa): 613-854-9793 or 613-863-0953 (cell) Joan Weinman (Toronto):416-698-8824 or 613-294-5679 (cell)
EV Regional Spokespersons are also available and we would be pleased to put you in touch with one of our dynamic chapter chairs upon request.
It Takes a Village
Equal Voice runs a lean machine and our work would not be possible without the considerable support of our savvy and sophisticated volunteers, not to mention several key corporate sponsors. This week’s thanks goes to Grace Lore, member of Equal Voice’s National Board of Directors and doctoral candidate in women and politics, who's been crunching the numbers at all hours. Thank you Grace.