Thursday, September 21, 2006

Women in the legislature or lack thereof

A lot of people have talked about the lack of women in the legislature and the Telegraph-Journal ran a piece on it today on page A1. I'll give some selected quotes:

Seven female MLAs is actually a slight improvement from the six female MLAs who held office when the legislature was dissolved last month.

Inside the new Liberal government, however, there will only be three female MLAs.


At one point, five female MLAs served on Bernard Lord's Conservative cabinet, but at best there will be three women on the new executive council.


The Conservative benches will have four seasoned female MLAs after Madeleine Dubé, Rose-May Poirier, Joan MacAlpine-Stiles and Margaret-Ann Blaney won re-election.


The commission recommended that financial incentives be provided to political parties in which women comprise 35 to 40 per cent of the candidates in the preceding provincial election.

Neither the Tories, nor the Liberals came close to meeting this mark in 2006. The Liberals had 10 female candidates on the ballot, while the Conservatives had eight.

The New Democratic Party, led by NDP Leader Allison Brewer, did the best overall with 15 female candidates seeking election.
Though I am a man, I have not been blind to the disgrace that is our system that well into the first decade of the 21st century sees 7 MLAs elected to the legislature - a feat first accomplished in 1987, so here we are stalled after 20 years - a mere 12.7% of members. It really is a sad state of affairs.

However, I have to give full marks to the Liberals (pause for groaning from the non-Liberal readers) which is something this article fails to do.

Though the Liberals ran only 10 and the Tories ran only 8 we need to look at the bigger picture.

The Liberals and Tories both had 25 incumbents. For the Liberals 1 was a woman, for the Tories 5 were. So The Liberals ran 9 new women, while the Tories ran only 3. 30% of the non-incumbent Liberal candidates were female. That is not too bad.

Also, the Liberals appointed someone to head up recruitment of women and had a great deal of success. Something that is not pointed out in this article is that in the 30 ridings the Liberals did not have incumbents, there were 20 riding where women came forward. However, of those 20, 11 lost their bids for the nomination.

A lot of work is left to be done, but I do commend the Liberal Party for their concrete efforts that got them to third base but not all the way around.

Politics is neither horse shoes nor hand grenades so being close does not really count, but you have to give the Liberals top marks for effort.


Spinks said...

Women are the numerical majority, so at the risk of offending the politically correct, might many women just not want the job? Just throwing it out there. Now Spinks, duck!

nbpolitico said...

Well I think that the example of the number of women the Liberals recruited that failed to get their nomination proves and old allegation that internal party politics remain dominated by an old boys network and it is therefore more difficult for women to get nominations as they don't have connections with the boys who pull the levers.

Daniel said...

Sure, the Liberals deserve some credit for the recruitment of women, but let's not forget that at least 3 of them (Shelby Mercer, Gwen Cullins-Jones and Elaine Albert) were merely "sacrificial lamb" candidates against Tory juggernauts (Jody Carr, Dale Graham and Jeannot Volpe).

While it's a step in the right direction to recruit more females, there should have been more recruited in ridings that were actually winnable; why couldn't the Liberals have found a female candidate in more places like Fredericton-Silverwood, Dieppe Centre and Fundy-River Valley? Why relegate such a large proportion to ridings which are essentially unwinnable?

This isn't exclusive to women or Liberals, either; minorities in general seem to show up as "token" candidates all to often, just so that a party can say "we ran someone from that demographic". Idee Inyugador is a good example: it was commendable for the Tories to nominate someone of African descent, but he had absolutely no hope running against Ed Doherty.

I think we (as a society) still have a long way to go: we still seem to see gender and ethnicities as "novelties", and can rarely get beyond that. I guess one relatively insignificant election won't really change that.

nbpolitico said...

daniel... the Liberals did have women candidates seek the nomination in Fredericton-Silverwood and Dieppe Centre, as well as Rogersville-Kouchibouguac, Moncton West, Tantramar, Charlotte-Campobello etc, etc all in winnable ridings, the problem however was that they couldn't get the nominations, which is another problem altogether.

Also, in fairness, the Liberals had incumbenets in most of the winnable ridings already following their strong 2003 showing so we have to be a bit realistic.

Daniel said...

I understand that many women have run for Liberal nominations; however, I think that commending "the Liberal Party" for this isn't particularly the best move, as it was "the Liberal Party" that didn't vote for them in their nomination fights, was it not? (of course, I guess that depends on how you define "the Liberal Party".)

Also, to give the Liberals the leg-up on this subject over the Tories is stretching in a bit. You stated one of your reasons was that the Liberals already had incumbents in most of the winnable ridings and could therefore not nominate many new women ; didn't the Tories also have incumbents in most of the winnable ridings - five of which were women? Would the Liberals have found another 10 women to run if they already had 5 female incumbents?

nbpolitico said...

Daniel - I guess my view is that the leadership of the Liberals should be commended for recruiting women to run in 20 of 30 unheld ridings. The nomination process is something completely different.

my point about winnable ridings was in response to your comment that many women Liberal candidates were sacrificial lambs.

The fact remains that, in unheld ridings, the Liberals put up 20 women, the Tories put up 3 (there were no women in contested PC nominations). That is a striking difference and one the Liberals deserve credit for.

Yes, more needs to be done, as I said in my post, but the Liberal leadership did an amazing job recruiting women and should be commended for that. Obviously work needs to be done to get them past the party ballot and on to the general election ballot but we have to start somewhere.

Lisa R said...

I think there are many reasons why more women aren't involved in politics today. I think the biggest factor is that many women don't relate to the "political speak" If they want more women involved, run a recruitment campaign, featuring women, showing women involved in politics, how they've made a difference. Have on the government/political websites, more materials that are appealing to women, put up testimonials of others who have been involved. Corporations recognize that women own 80% of the marketshare, yet politicians don't seem to recognize that, which particulary in light of the fact that women are the largest of the undecided in politics is disappointing. So they need to reach out to women on all levels if they want more involvement from them, whether from the ballot or the party.