Categorized | Editorial

Women have a chance to shine in the next Parliament

Posted on 29 October 2015 by admin

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s has made a commitment that fully 50 per cent of his cabinet will be made up of women.

That promise is both welcome and ambitious. Under Harper, 31 per cent of cabinet positions were held by women – the most senior being Rona Ambrose in health, Diane Finley in public works and Lisa Raitt in transport. And on the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning, the inner circle of key decision-makers, only three of 15 members were women.

So women will be watching carefully to see how Trudeau carries out his commitment. Will women crack the top positions of power – finance, foreign affairs, justice, trade, public safety and defence? Or will they be over-represented in “softer” portfolios and second-tier cabinet jobs?

It’s not as if women haven’t successfully held powerful cabinet positions in the past. Former prime minister Kim Campbell was the first woman to be defence minister in any NATO country, while both Flora MacDonald and Barbara McDougall held the foreign affairs portfolio.

Still, even now there has never been a female finance minister. Naming a woman to that job would be the strongest signal Trudeau could send that there are no limits for women in his government.

Happily for the incoming prime minister, there’s plenty of talent among the 50 female Liberal MPs (27 per cent of his 184-member caucus) elected last week.

Among the returning veterans are long-serving Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett; former journalist Chrystia Freeland of Toronto, who co-chaired Trudeau’s economic panel; B.C.’s former environment minister, Joyce Murray; and Judy Foote, a former Newfoundland cabinet minister.

Among top-flight newcomers are Ottawa lawyer Catherine McKenna, who beat the popular NDP incumbent Paul Dewar; Vancouver’s Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Crown prosecutor and one-time regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations; Karen McCrimmon, the first female base commander in the air force; and lawyer Melanie Joly, who placed second in the last Montreal mayoral election.

There’s also hope Trudeau will signal that a new era for women on Parliament Hill by placing women in high-profile leadership positions in the Prime Minister’s Office.

A final sign that women will hold more sway is that there is strength in numbers. A record 88 women were elected as MPs, up from 76 in the last Parliament. Of course, there are more MPs in total, so the percentage of female representatives edged up only slightly from 25 to 26 per cent.

That’s short of the 30 per cent the United Nations says leads to a shift in policy and practice in government, still a dozen more women can make a difference.

Trudeau faces a difficult balancing act in fulfilling his promise on women in the cabinet – weighing regional considerations and the ambitions of his many MPs, both male and female. It will be a crucial early test of his promise to bring fundamental change to Ottawa.

Leave a Reply

Advertise Here
Advertise Here