International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD

Women in Politics

In 2015 twelve members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet (approximately 30%) were women.

The Harper Government: 77 female MPs ~ 25%.

The Trudeau Government: 88 female MPs ~ 26%.

More women in Cabinet is undoubtedly better for women than under-representation.  Government Ministers are more influential than back bench MPs, which is why these figures are tracked by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

But we need to remember the reason Prime Minister Trudeau’s gender balanced cabinet was newsworthy —  it did not happen naturally.  Although Canadian women make up about half the population, electing 25% women to the House of Commons was a record when Mr. Harper’s government managed it, just as electing 26% was a record for Mr. Trudeau’s government.

Whoop de doo.

That’s not exactly fair representation, but that is what you get with a First Past The Post electoral system.

That’s why Canada is way down the list “at 63rd internationally when it comes to women’s political representation.

While Mr. Trudeau is to be commended for attempting to redress that wrong, implementing a gender quota is an artificial fix.  One side effect is that such a policy severely limits the pool of cabinet choices when half the cabinet must be chosen from a quarter of the MPs.  Whether true or not, whenever a quota system is used, there are always mutterings asking if those who are chosen may not in fact be qualified for the job.

Cabinet Ministers are chosen entirely at the discretion of the Prime Minister.  Any MP can be quickly scooped up for a Cabinet position, and just as easily turfed out again, all at the discretion of one man: the Prime Minister.

In Mr. Trudeau’s Cabinet, however, the male members are being chosen from three quarters of the MPs, so there will be no doubt they are worthy of the power and authority they’ve been given.   But female members are being chosen from a mere quarter of the MPs.   This certainly can be easily used to undermine the public perception of the value of female Cabinet Ministers.  The optics of this combined with a quota certainly undermines the idea that Ministers are chosen purely on merit.

The very existence of this quota is entirely at the Prime Minister’s discretion.  Which means it us not a permanent fix: it can be discarded at any time.  This Prime Minister could easily change his mind about gender parity (just as he did with his Electoral Reform promise).  Or the next Prime Minister may as easily choose to exclude female MPs from his Cabinet altogether.  Like any policy developed under First Past The Post, this could become a pendulum issue swinging back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives.

Women chosen to serve as Ministers are well aware they owe the PM a debt of gratitude for bestowing this honour on them.  When the man with the power tells the Minister of Democratic Institutions that Proportional Representation is not an option, what can she do but go along.   Because female Cabinet Ministers surely know the prize can be peremptorily withdrawn at his discretion for any reason.  Or none.  Such context will most certainly guarantee that some (if not all) women Ministers will be very careful to do as they are told.  Will they fight for what they know is right or will they toe the party line to protect their status and position?

On the other hand, if Canada elected women in more proportional numbers in a more natural way, such a quota would hardly be necessary.  There would be a reasonably large pool of women MPs from which Ministers can be chosen on merit.  If they share a level playing field, women and men could assert themselves with confidence (and hopefully do what’s right). Wouldn’t that be something!

Diversity

It also seems the claims that Prime Minister Trudeau’s Cabinet is “the country’s most diverse” need also be taken with a grain of salt.

AS Rachel Décoste points out, “The previous Harper cabinet included women, Aboriginals, South Asians, East Asians, Quebecers and a person with a disability. If that’s not diversity, I don’t know what is.”  Ms. Décoste goes on to explain:

“For visible minorities, PM Trudeau’s inaugural cabinet is decidedly less diverse than PM Harper’s. The absence of East Asians (Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, etc.) is jarring.

“The presence of black Canadians, the third largest racial demographic, is also deficient. Despite a record four Afro-Canadian MPs elected from a voter base blindly loyal to the Liberals, PM Trudeau shut them out of cabinet.

“Harper did not name any African-Canadians to cabinet. He had no black MPs to choose from. Despite a record four Afro-Canadian MPs elected, Trudeau shut them out of cabinet.”

Trudeau’s Cabinet Isn’t As Diverse As You Think

Kathleen Wynn, Elizabeth May, Andrea Horwath, Catherine Fife, Bardish Chagger, Lorraine Rekmans
Canadian Politicians:  Kathleen Wynne, Elizabeth May, Andrea Horwath, Catherine Fife, Bardish Chagger, Lorraine Rekmans

Electoral Reform

Instead of relying on the temporary fix of patchwork quotas, the Canadian Government’s continuing failure to reflect the diversity of Canadians in the House of Commons could be addressed in a more stable and balanced manner through adoption of some form of Proportional Representation. As demonstrated in my graph, as a rule it is the countries using Proportional Representation that outperform Canada in both gender parity and overall citizen representation.

Equal Voice thinks it could take the Canadian Government 90 years to achieve gender parity naturally if we continue on as we are.  Frankly, if we keep First Past The Post I think that’s wildly optimistic.  Any way you slice it, this is simply unacceptable in a representative democracy.

It’s great that the suffragettes fought for our right to vote; but it’s too bad they didn’t win effective votes for Canadian women.  On this International Women’s Day, it is important for all Canadian women to understand:  if the Canadian Government is serious about gender parity it must begin with Proportional Representation.

Canadians Deserve Better -Proportional Representation - on Canadian Flag backgroundThis is the thirty-first article in the Whoa!Canada: Proportional Representation Series

#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRE

Proportional Representation Series So Far:

• Proportional Representation for Canada
• What’s so bad about First Past The Post
• Democracy Primer
• Working for Democracy
• The Popular Vote
• Why Don’t We Have PR Already?
• Stability
• Why No Referendum?
• Electoral System Roundup
• When Canadians Learn about PR with CGP Grey
• Entitlement
• Proportional Representation vs. Alternative Vote
• #ERRÉ #Q Committee
• #ERRÉ #Q Meetings & Transcripts
• Take The Poll ~ #ERRÉ #Q
Proportionality #ERRÉ #Q 
• The Poll’s The Thing 
• DIY Electoral Reform Info Sessions
• What WE Can Do for ERRÉ
• #ERRÉ today and Gone Tomorrow (…er, Friday)
• Redistricting Roulette 
• #ERRÉ submission Deadline TONIGHT!
#ERRÉ Submission by Laurel L. Russwurm
• The Promise: “We will make every vote count” #ERRÉ
FVC: Consultations Provide Strong Mandate for Proportional Representation #ERRÉ
PEI picks Proportional Representation
There is only one way to make every vote count #ERRÉ
Canada is Ready 4 Proportional Representation
Sign the Petition e-616
#ProportionalRepresentation Spin Cycle ~ #ERRÉ
• International Women’s Day 2017 ~ #IWD
• An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

and don’t forget to check out the PR4Canada Resources page!

Elizabeth May on the BDS Motion

"In July 2011, that parliament of Israel voted on a question of whether to condemn calls for boycotts against Israel as a civil wrong. The vote carried, but it was not overwhelming. There were 47 members of the Knesset who voted for it, and 38 members voted against it. The 38 members who voted against it were certainly not hate filled against the State of Israel." —Elizabeth May

“In July 2011, that parliament of Israel voted on a question of whether to condemn calls for boycotts against Israel as a civil wrong. The vote carried, but it was not overwhelming. There were 47 members of the Knesset who voted for it, and 38 members voted against it. The 38 members who voted against it were certainly not hate filled against the State of Israel.”
Elizabeth May

Read Elizabeth’s full statement on Open Parliament: https://openparliament.ca/debates/2016/2/18/elizabeth-may-1/

Thank you for running!

I am very pleased to see Elizabeth May retains her seat as the MP of Saanich—Gulf Islands. But its a bitter-sweet victory, because no other Green Party candidates were elected. Over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know a host of Green Party folk, and they are an incredible bunch of people.

My husband, Bob Jonkman, spent the last few months as the Green Candidate in Kitchener-Conestoga. Although he’s been quite active in the Free Software and Fair Vote communities for years, he’s never done anything quite like this before. It was a a huge commitment of time and energy, on many levels, but he came through with flying colours. And he did it all with grace and charm, even though he knew the odds against winning the election were incredibly slim for those running under the green banner.  Bob&Liz_4223
And I have to say I am incredibly proud of my brilliant husband.

You did great, Bob. 🙂

Mr. Harper Won’t Be Forming Government

HarperThere is less chance Mr. Harper will form even a minority government than there was Tim Hudak would in Ontario.  The Harper Government’s heavy handed governance in combination with the proliferation of scandals has seen to that.  Even with the media soft pedalling the worst of it, even remaining Conservative supporters have an inkling.

The Harper Government has angered Canadians, including many of their own supporters across the board (from Rex Murphy to veterans). I could make a long list, but the internet is awash in such things.

There is no doubt in my mind we will have a new government tomorrow.

Yay.

 

The only real question is: who will form government?

 

Liberals?

The polls tell us the three biggest parties are neck in neck in neck, but as the election approaches, they all favor Mr. Trudeau.  Is this surprising?  Not when you consider the upholders of the status quo … the corporatocracy, multinationals, the elite, the rich, the 1% … whoever they are —  will only support the two parties that can be trusted to uphold the status quo.  In other words, the Conservative and Liberal parties.

 

When every Canadian on the street knows we are going to heave steve and stop harper, the two media giants that control the mainstream media have come out in favor of the Conservative Government.  Even they say we should Heave Steve… but keep his government.  Seriously.

 

The “political class” on the other hand, much prefer Liberal status quo defenders. They want to return to the Liberal glory days, and hope to re-establish the supremacy of the Liberal brand through the installation of Canada’s answer to George W. Bush, our own second generation political royalty, Justin Trudeau.  Never mind that Justin Trudeau had no track record at all before being anointed.  Before he became Party leader, his only claim to fame was his name.  Whenever the media needed a mild mannered soundbite, they would go to the non-threatening MP who happened to be the son of Pierre Trudeau.  And while it is true Mr. Trudeau has knuckled down and shown his commitment to getting the job throughout the campaign, he has made some serious errors, the most egregious being his steadfast support for  Bill C-51, a law that makes a mockery of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.   When you consider the Charter is probably the single most important thing the Liberal Party has ever done for Canada — the thing every Liberal could point to with pride — it is unsurprising so many life long Liberals chopped up their cards and abandoned ship.

 

Thomas Mulcair, federal NDP LeaderNDP?

The NDP will scrap the so-called Anti-Terror law (formerly known as Bill C-51) and restore the Charter.  The NDP has also firmly committed to Proportional Representation.    These two things are essential if Canada is to have any hope of being a free country.  Don’t vote for anyone who will not commit to both of these.

 

Not taxing big business and the rich has certainly contributed to the fact Canada is the only OECD country still in a recession.  (Mainstream media propaganda has tried to foster the idea this is the second recession on Harper’s watch, but the reality is that we never really got out of the first one.)

 

What has become apparent to those of us online is that most of the Liberal policies effectively continue the Conservative policies of the last decade.  The Modus Operandi if both the LPC and CPC is to “give big business everything.”   As Canada ha signed Trade Agreement after Trade Agreement, the lot of Canadians has increasingly plummeted.  Canada has yet to come out ahead on any of them.  And these secret agreements keep getting worse, with provisions that allow foreign corporations to overrule local governments on issues like protecting the environment.   Maybe a multinational doesn’t care about clean water, but we humans can’t live without it.   The China deal is set to run more than 30 years, and now the TPP doesn’t end, ever.

 

Both Liberals and Conservatives are on board with these agreements, but the NDP promises to scrap TPP.  Yay.

 

And while the NDP is offering some good social programs, they are tippy toeing.  $15 minimum wage sounds great, but if I’m not mistaken, that wouldn’t be applied across the board; but only for FEDERAL employees, and it will be phased in over time.  When $15 an hour isn’t a wage large enough to lift Canadians out of poverty today, that is just too little too late.

 

Then, too, that $15 a day day care sounds good, but it too is going to be phased in, and will only help a limited number of Canadians.

 

The Fear Factor

The problem is that Mr. Harper, (like Mr. Hudak), makes a good boogeyman.  It is easy to scare people into voting for *your* candidate when you can fan the flames of fear.  That’s how strategic voting works.  Has anyone selling strategic voting ever offered to support your candidate instead of their own?

 

Although strategic voting is always sold as the way you have to vote to make sure the boogeyman doesn’t win, if such strategies work, why is there always a worse boogeyman the next time?

Harper Government

There are plenty of good reasons to fear another Harper government, but there just isn’t going to be one.  And everyone knows it, including Mr. Harper.  When I was young, Brian Mulroney’s government was so reviled that after he passed the reins to Kim Campbell, the party was destroyed — reduced from a crushing majority to only TWO seats — by an election.  But compared to Mr. Harper, Brian Mulroney was loved.

 

This is not a campaign on the rocks. This is a campaign in flames.

 

Greens?

Kim Campbell was an unfortunate first female Prime Minister, but we could make up for that by installing Ms. May.  Everyone likes Elizabeth May, even people who would never vote for her want to hear what she has to say.  They say 80% of Canadians wanted to see her in the debates.  But it was worth it to the “big boys” to keep her out anyway, because when Elizabeth may talks, people listen.  Not just because she’s smart, or the best parliamentarian.   People listen because what she says makes sense.  It is, after all, easier to pretend the Green Party only cares about the environment if people don’t ever get to hear from the Green Party.

 

But Elizabeth May is Lizhands down the best of the major party leaders, so you would thing that the Canadians who vote for the leader (which I am told is most of us) would be voting Green.

 

But people don’t vote Green.  Not because they don’t think she would make an excellent Prime Minister, but because they don’t think she could get elected.  And yet, the Green Party runs candidates across the country, so the possibility exists that she could become Prime Minister.  All it will take is for enough eligible voters to vote for enough Green Party Candidates.

 

This year my husband has been running as a Green party Candidate here in Kitchener-Conestoga.  Throughout the campaign I have had the opportunity to meet a great many Green party candidates, and I have been very impressed; the overall calibre of the Green Party Candidates I’ve met has been staggering.  It may be because so many Canadians are engaging in politics like never before, simply because it is starting to come home to us how fragile our democracy is.  Any of the Green Candidates I’ve met would be a credit to their constituents, and I believe many of them are exceptional.

 

Green Party policy is based on a solid bedrock of fiscal conservatism, even as it appears to be pie in the sky stuff.  After all, none of the other major parties even mention poverty as a rule, let along roll out a plan to eliminate it.  The problem isn’t so much that Canadians like poverty, but that people don’t believe eradicating it is possible.  Even though there was a successful Liberal pilot project decades ago that demonstrated it can be done in a way that would make society stronger in many many ways.  But none of the other major parties are selling it, so we think it can’t be possible.  But the truth is, Canada is a rich country that could easily afford to eliminate poverty by implementing a Guaranteed Livable Income.

 

If it was such a good idea, you might wonder why we didn’t adopt Mincome in the 1970’s.  That’s easy: for the same reason so many good things don’t get done in Canada: our unstable uncooperative electoral system.  When your electoral system consists of alternating dictatorships, thinking tends to be very short term. In a winner-take-all electoral system the new king of the castle never implements the old king’s policies, so when the Liberals were voted out mincome was shelved.   And no subsequent Liberal Government even considered revisiting it.

 

What nobody tells us is that the cost of implementing the Guaranteed Livable Income would be a tiny fraction of what we spend waging war.  Maybe the cost of a single helicopter.  But we all have our priorities, right?

 

All it takes is the political will.  

 

So long as we believe we can’t vote for what we want, we will never get what we want.

 

The Real Way to Change

People have the idea that the only way to make sure we don’t elect Mr. Harper is by giving one party a majority government.  That is simply not true.  Although the NDP and Liberal Parties are happy we think this because people who might otherwise vote for what they want will be voting for the big party they think could win.  The truth is that majority government is always the worst possible result for Canadians.

 

But we don’t need to replace a majority government with another majority government.  All we have to do to move Mr. Harper out of 24 Sussex Frive is to unseat enough of the MPs in his party.  There is even much less chance the Marxist-Leninist Party will form even a minority government than the Greens will.  But if the Kitchener Centre ML Candidate defeats Stephen Woodworth, that’s one less Conservative seat in Parliament.  Vote for the person or party that offers what you think is most important.

 

VOTE.

If you haven’t yet, please vote today. (And bring a friend.)  Only you can decide who will best represent you in parliament.  That’s who you should vote for.

 

Here’s hoping we all vote Green.

 

Green Party candidates

 

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves