For the past decade, Equal Voice has been tracking the number of women elected to Federal, Provincial/Territorial Legislatures and Municipal Councils across Canada. To access the most recent numbers (June 2014) on the representation of women in jurisdictions across the country, click here.
Incredibly, within the past two years we have seen a huge change in the Canadian political landscape. The 2011 federal election achieved a historic high in terms of women’s representation in Parliament. In total, 76 women were elected to Parliament representing 25 percent of the 308 seats (two women have subsequently resigned). Over 85 percent of Canadians are now governed by a female premiere. At the helm of five provinces and one territory are Eva Aariak in Nunavut, Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland and Labrador, Christy Clark in British Columbia, Alison Redford in Alberta, Pauline Marois in Quebec, and most recently Kathleen Wynne in Ontario. Remarkably, women have achieved parity at the premiers table (at least for now)!
For awhile, Canada had been slipping in terms of the number of women candidates running for Parliament. In 1993, a historic 476 women candidates ran for elected. In 2006, only 380 women ran in the federal election. Fortunately, this trend began to reverse itself when 445 female candidates ran in the federal election of 2008. In 2011's federal election, 452 women ran as candidates and a record high of 76 women were elected to Parliament. These women also broke another record in electing 18 women under the age of 40.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union ranks Canada 45th in the world on their “List of Women in National Parliaments.” Rwanda counts as the country with the most women elected at 56.3 percent. Regionally, Nordic countries have been best at electing women and continue to hold that record. While Canada ties with Australia in its current 45th place ranking, it ranks lower than countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Timor-Leste, Mexico, Tanzania, Uganda, Serbia, Ecuador, Slovenia, Guyana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Laos.
Even with over 85 percent of the Canadian federation governed by a female premiere, there is still stereotyping of women’s role and abilities; media imbalances in the treatment of women politicians; and a rampant sexist perception of women’s conduct and behaviour. A quick visit to Madam Premier blog will detail the numerous misogynistic comments that are targeted towards women politicians.
Many parliaments and political parties across the world are implementing well funded national action plans to reduce the barriers by recruiting and training women candidates, offering family friendly work environments, introducing proportional representation, electoral financing reforms, setting targets, constitutional reforms, and public awareness campaigns.
Polling shows that women care about different issues. The United Nations says that a critical mass of at least 30% women is needed before legislatures produce public policy representing women's concerns and before political institutions begin to change the way they do business.
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