Percentage of women elected virtually unchanged from 2011: advocacy group
The newly arranged House of Commons is pictured on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, October 21, 2015 11:20AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 21, 2015 1:07PM EDT
While the 42nd general election resulted in dramatic changes in the country's political landscape, the percentage of women who were elected to Parliament has remained virtually unchanged, according to one advocacy group.
Equal Voice, a multi-partisan Canadian organization that works to encourage more women to seek political office, said the proportion of women elected on Monday increased by only one percentage point from the last federal election.
Of the 338 MPs elected on Monday, 88 are women, or 26 per cent, Equal Voice said. In the 2011 election, 25 per cent of the MPs elected to office were women.
Here's a breakdown according to each party:
- Liberal: 50 female candidates elected, representing 27 per cent of the Liberal caucus
- NDP: 18 female candidates elected, representing 42 per cent of the NDP caucus
- Conservatives: 17 female candidates elected, representing just over 17 per cent of the 99-member Tory caucus
- Bloc Quebecois: Two female candidates elected, representing 20 per cent of the BQ MPs
- Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was re-elected in her riding, and was the only elected MP from the Greens.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as of Sept. 1, 2015, Canada ranks 50th for percentage of women elected to national parliaments.
Equal Voice's National Vice Chair Joan Weinman says it's essential that women have a voice in government because they can bring a unique perspective to the debate.
"It's definitely about who is ‘best fit’ for the job, but women are fit for the job," she told CTVNews.ca. Weinman noted that women are already serving in leadership roles in communities all across the country.
"Since women constitute 50 per cent of the population, it's absolutely critical that we hear that voice."
Issues that female legislators can advise on and fight for that directly affect women include pay equity, childcare, violence against women, and seniors' care, she said.
"All of those issues have a very direct impact on women," Weinman said. "And if we don't have a seat at the table, we are not going to have those issues raised."
Many ridings had no female candidates on the ballot
But according to Equal Voice, 97 of the 338 ridings had no female candidates running from any of the three main federal parties. When also accounting for the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party, the number of ridings with zero females running dropped to 53.
So before there is equal representation of women in politics, more women have to take the plunge and run for office, Weinman said.
"While many Canadians wanted change, with only 33 per cent women on the ballot for the major five parties, electing a higher proportion of women proved extremely difficult," she said in a statement. "It’s not rocket science. To get more women elected, we need far more women to run."
One of the factors Equal Voice has identified as being an obstacle for women to enter politics is the lack of a "livable legislature" or livable work environment, Weinman said.
She notes that the way most legislatures and parliaments are set up makes it difficult for women to serve as an elected official, while also providing care for their families. This is problematic as women still predominately serve as the primary caregivers for their children and aging relatives, she said.
If more policies were in place that allowed legislators to work, as well provide care, more women would likely run for office, Weinman said.
Policies such as flexible work hours, onsite provision of childcare, reducing overly onerous travel requirements, and giving employees the ability to work from home may reduce the barriers, she said, noting that many of these policies have already been adopted in the private sector.
"These are incredibly different concepts for an institution that has been entrenched for years and years, but it's those types of things that are going to make a tremendous difference for women," Weinman said.
"It's just a matter of shaking that old oak tree and changing things."
Trudeau pledges gender balance in new cabinet
On Tuesday, prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau said he intends to keep his campaign promise to have men and women equally represented in his cabinet, which he will announce on Nov. 4.
Equal Voice's national spokesperson, Nancy Peckford, said the organization is encouraged by Trudeau's commitment for gender balance.
"He now has an extraordinary opportunity to help inspire the next generation of women leaders by putting an equal number of women into cabinet, and having them serve in powerful and non-traditional positions," Peckford said in a statement.