Record number of women headed to Ottawa
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, May 3, 2011 10:46PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:39AM EDT
More women than ever will be representing Canadians in the 41st session of Parliament.
A survey of the preliminary results from Monday night's federal vote shows at least 76 women will soon be sworn in as Members of Parliament.
That's almost 25 per cent of the total 308 seats in the House of Commons, up slightly from the approximately 22 per cent of seats held by female MPs in the last session.
A record sixty-nine women were elected to the 40th Parliament, which itself was a modest gain from the 65 women elected to the 39th. Only 67 women were sitting at the dissolution of the last session, however, as two MPs resigned since the last vote in 2008.
According to the director of Equal Voice, a non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing the involvement of women in all levels of politics, the results of this latest election are reason to cheer.
"What we strive for is to have every party running similar numbers of women and to reach the minimum threshold of one-third female candidates," Nancy Peckford told CTV.ca, noting that the NDP was the only party to exceed that level ahead of the vote Monday night.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, had just 22 per cent female candidates.
"The unfortunate thing is there's a real disparity between the governing party and the official opposition," she added, explaining that the results show the NDP caucus will be comprised of approximately 39 per cent women, compared to 17 per cent women in the Tory ranks.
"We would have liked to see all the parties achieve critical mass, obviously, but only one party has broken through," Peckford said. "Is it good news? We would say yes. But is it enough? We would say not so much."
Nevertheless, voters are sending at least one female MP to Ottawa from each province across the country, while only one of the three territories will be represented by a woman, Nunavut incumbent MP and former Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.
Of the 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, four will be held by women. All of them, including former Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, are incumbents.
In Quebec, voters have chosen women to fill 28 of the province's 75 seats in the House.
Nineteen of the 106 seats from Ontario will be held by women, compared with seven of the 28 seats in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
In Alberta, five of 28 MPs-elect are female, and 12 of the 36 in British Columbia.
Breaking the numbers down by party affiliation, the NDP has the largest contingent of female representatives with 39 of its projected 102 seats in the House of Commons.
The Conservatives expect to have 29, the Liberals six, and one each for the Bloc Quebecois and Green Party, which saw the election of its leader Elizabeth May in the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
Other high profile women back to Ottawa for the next session include several members of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's last cabinet: Bev Oda, Diane Ablonczy and Rona Ambrose. One of Harper's former cabinet ministers will not be back, however. Independent Conservative candidate Helena Guergis, who was dropped from Harper's cabinet and the Tory caucus in a swirl of controversy, lost her re-election bid to another woman Conservative Kellie Leitch.
When asked whether the women MPs now headed to Ottawa will carry a certain responsibility with them, Peckford cautions against such assumptions.
"No woman carries the responsibility of championing the cause of all women," she said in an interview Tuesday morning. "But those women have the opportunity to be mentors and to be inspirations and to be role models to many of the other women out there who may not be seasoned politicians."
NDP leader Jack Layton's wife Olivia Chow, who represents the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina, and longtime NDP MP Libby Davies are prime candidates for that role as their advice will almost certainly be sought when their party next convenes its largest-ever female caucus.
Judy Sgro and Hedy Fry are among the highest profile women in the new, shrunken Liberal ranks.
And Montreal-area incumbent Maria Mouwani will be the only female in the dramatically smaller Bloc Quebecois caucus.