IN THE NEWS
Equal Voice invites you to Be her. Support her. Celebrate her.

 

Statements in the Ontario Legislature

May 09, 2012

 

 The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of the Environment on a point of order. 

 

Hon. James J. Bradley: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. To your previous reference, if I may make reference to that, that has been superseded by convention in the Legislature in recent years, I think. I believe we have unanimous consent for each party to speak for up to five minutes on the issue of greater rep-resentation of women in the provincial Legislature. 
 
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of the Environment has sought unanimous consent for up to five minutes to speak on this issue. Do we all agree? Agreed. Minister of Education. 
 
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Thank you very much, Speaker. It’s a pleasure to speak in support of Equal Voice today, who are here at Queen’s Park. Equal Voice is a non-partisan organization dedicated to electing more women at all levels of political office in Canada. They see the underrepresentation of women in our Parliament and in our Legislatures as a fundamental deficit in Canada’s democratic institutions. Unfortunately, Canada is falling behind in women’s represen-tation. Canada has fewer women in Parliament than most of Europe and many other countries in the world. 
     Il nous faut plus de femmes dans la vie publique, et il nous faut travailler tous ensemble pour y parvenir. 
     That’s why we need more women in public life and we need to work together to bring that about. We have the tools to do it. In fact, in 2008, the United Nations released a report which asserted that, “Political party reform to ensure internal democratization improves women’s chances of competing for public office.” 
     The work of Equal Voice is so important because women still encounter barriers when seeking elected office. There are often media imbalances in the treatment of women politicians and sometimes there’s a failure of political parties to encourage women candidates, to name just a few of those barriers. But we know that political will and commitment from party leaders does make a difference and can make a difference. 
     In 2006, Equal Voice asked all parties in this Legislature to nominate more women candidates in Ontario. They did, and the result was a 7% increase in the number of women elected in just one election cycle. Speaker, we can make a difference. In this regard, that’s why I’m so proud of the leadership of our Premier. During the last provincial election, Ontario Liberals nominated a record 42 women candidates, more than any other party and more than any other time in the history of our party. 
     We need more women elected because women make a difference for our province. They’ve played key roles in introducing initiatives that benefit all women in the province, initiatives such as the Ontario child benefit, full-day kindergarten and the poverty reduction strategy. Women have helped lead social assistance reform, drug reform, the family caregiver leave, and the Accepting Schools Act, which addresses the issue of gender-based bullying. 
     Women have worked on vital investments in child care, the domestic violence action plan, the sexual vio-lence action plan and so much more. But these initiatives aren’t just good for women; they’re good for our province. They make it better, stronger, safer, fairer and more caring for each and every Ontarian. 
     But as the Premier said last year, Agnes Macphail didn’t get elected solely to fight for women’s issues. She lobbied for progress for farmers, prisoners and seniors. She stood up for women, yes, but she stood up for every-one else as well, and so too do the women in this Legislature. 
     Each woman in this Legislature has her own story about how and why she made the decision to enter into public service. Perhaps she had a mentor. Perhaps she was given an encouraging tap on the shoulder. Perhaps her convictions on an issue made her put up her hand. Or maybe she was driven by the resolve of Agnes Macphail, who once said, “I want for myself what I want for other women: absolute equality.” 
     Let’s resolve today to carry on her good work and support Equal Voice by attracting more women to public life so that the laws we make here and the programs and services we provide are fully representative of who we are as a province and as a society. We have so many talented women in Ontario doing fantastic things. They’re leaders, and we need more of them right here in our Legislature. We need to reach out to them with a tap on the shoulder or an encouraging word. 
     So thank you to Equal Voice for speaking up to ensure we all take collective action to ensure a future with more women in public life. 
     Merci, À voix égales, pour votre travail en assurant qu’il y a plus de femmes dans la vie publique. 
     Thank you for reminding us that this issue is still alive and needs political leadership in order to be accom-plished. We need Equal Voice to continue to do the work that they’re doing every day because we need more women’s voices and life stories reflected here in the On-tario Legislature every day. 
     As Equal Voice says, “Be her or support her.” I’m certain that that is something that each and every one of us can do. 
 
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member for Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock 
 
Ms. Laurie Scott: I’m pleased to participate today on behalf of Tim Hudak and the PC caucus in marking the 10th anniversary of Equal Voice, promoting the election of more women to all levels of government. 
     This, as was stated by the minister, is a non-partisan, non-government organization that exists for the sole purpose of promoting the election of more women in Canadian politics. 
     When you look at the list of Equal Voices’ advisory board members, it’s a veritable who’s who of some of the most admired women in Canadian politics in the last 25 years: Kim Campbell, Pat Carney, Sheila Copps, Janet Ecker, Judy Erola, Barbara Hall, Alexa McDonough, Audrey McLaughlin, Lyn McLeod, Anita Neville, Flora MacDonald, Lucie Pépin and Nancy Ruth. 
     In January 2001, the late Christina McCall invited Libby Burnham and Rosemary Speirs to a meeting to try and breathe new life into the attempt to get more women elected. On a sunny Sunday afternoon on May 6, 2001, a reception was held for the people interested in helping at Donna Dasko’s house. I was fortunate enough to have been invited there by Libby Burnham. 
     Since that meeting I have run and won in three general elections, becoming the first woman elected from my riding of Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock, and now stand today as the PC critic for women’s issues. It’s my opportunity to say happy anniversary to Equal Voice and to thank them for their mentorship towards me. 
1530 
     Today, Equal Voice has active chapters across Canada. From 1919, when women in Canada got the vote, to Agnes Macphail serving as the first member of Parlia-ment and the first Ontario MPP, through to the appoint-ment of Ellen Fairclough in 1957 as Canada’s first woman cabinet minister, the progress of women in politics has been steady. In the intervening 55 years, women have made great political progress in Ontario and across the country, with many women serving as Premiers or as senior government ministers and oppos-ition leaders. 
      In addition to the government of Canada having the highest percentage of women in cabinet in Canadian history, four women serve as Premiers: Eva Aariak in Nunavut, Alison Redford in Alberta, Christy Clark in British Columbia and Kathy Dunderdale in Newfound-land. For the first time in history, we can say that there are women Premiers from coast to coast to coast. 
     As many of you know, I came from a political back-ground, with my father being the member of Parliament from 1965 until 1993. So going from a registered nurse into the political field—one of the most trusted profes-sions to one that maybe isn’t so trusted—was a little bit of a different campaign. You heard the quiet mutterings on the doorsteps that some people would not vote for me because I was a woman, but you did get the other part that would vote for me because I was a woman. But I think a lot of those traditional prejudices facing women in politics, for the most part, have faded into the back-ground, and I hope that they have done that. There is a much greater likelihood today of candidates being judged on their individual merits and the policies and leadership of their party rather than gender, and I’m very happy to see that. 
     Last fall, I was very pleased to be part of the largest group of female candidates in the history of the Ontario PC Party. It is a good moment. Unfortunately, in the Legislature here, we are 28% women in the Legislature. So there’s more work to be done, considering we represent just over 50% of the population. On the average, in Canada as a whole, it’s only 25% that we account for in the municipal councils, provincial Legis-latures and the House of Commons. 
     Over the past 10 years, Equal Voice has performed a valuable role in promoting this agenda through its work with all political parties, its ongoing outreach with young women and encouragement of women to run for public office. I was a mentor for a young woman who went to BC to run for the Green Party, so it is a truly non-partisan group that does mentor. 
     But good organizations never lose sight of their goals. It’s important to take time to celebrate its successes. That was certainly the case on April 25, when the leader of the third party, Andrea Horwath, was presented with Equal Voice’s 2012 EVE Award, and I’d like to take the oppor-tunity to offer my congratulations to her. 
     “Women in politics” certainly doesn’t have the exotic ring that it once did, nor does it instill the fear in the hearts of men that it once did. However, as I said earlier, there is still work to be done in promoting the election of more women to positions in all levels of government. I know that Equal Voice has that ongoing commitment here, and we as MPPs, and even to the young female pages who are with us today, should be mentors to them and to all women so that they are encouraged that they can enter all levels of the political field. 
     Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and happy anniversary to Equal Voice. 
 
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Parkdale–High Park. 
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you very much to the member from Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock for acknowledging that it was, in fact, our leader, Andrea Horwath, who won the EVE Award just this last week from Equal Voice. Of course, that gives me even more of an added pleasure in standing up to commemorate this 10th anniversary of this amazing organization. 
     I also want to acknowledge their support in the Girls Government initiative that has now become, I think, a joint ownership of this entire assembly. It was started in Parkdale–High Park—I’m very, very proud of that—where we get girls in grade 8 to get together and to come here for a tour, to go to Ottawa for a tour, to pick a topic and to debate that topic, to come here for a press conference—to really experience what it is to be a woman in political life. 
     At our very first dinner that was hosted, I must say—and thank you for this, Mr. Speaker—by the Speaker, of all women from all parties, in the dining room, there was a Liberal member from Guelph who stood up and said this should be one of our first initiatives. So it’s truly non-partisan, truly in the spirit of Equal Voice, truly something we can do for girls coming up through the system. 
     I want to say I’m also proud that federally we have 40% of our caucus—it’s a very large caucus, at that—that is female, and here 40% of our caucus is female. Again, we in the New Democratic Party are extremely proud of that. But, as has been acknowledged, we have a long, long, long way to go. 
     Whenever I talk about women’s issues, I always like to mention the fact that I am the first woman in my family to be considered under law a human person. People automatically think that maybe my mother or grandmother came from somewhere else, some other country, but no, they didn’t; they came from here. It was in 1929 that we became considered human persons. Before then, we were considered the property of our husbands or our fathers, so any member here who’s female whose mother was born before 1929, you are the first generation of human persons. We have come a long way. 
     I remember “Help wanted: female. Help wanted: male.” We’re still struggling. We’re still struggling with women making 71 cents to every dollar that men make. We’re still struggling in this province with inadequate child care. In Quebec, they’ve proven a dollar into child care gets $1.05 back in investment in the province. We’re still struggling for that here. 
     These are the measures of women’s equality and, of course, the more equal women are and the more equal access they have, the more they’ll run for political office, the more will be elected and then, of course, the more we can do on women’s issues. 
     But certainly we’ve made some progress here, so I just want to give a shout-out to all those amazing women at Equal Voice. I want to thank the Toronto Star and their editorial board for featuring Girls Government last week. 
     I want to thank Equal Voice for saying they’re com-mitted to making Girls Government not only a provincial initiative, not only one taken up—and I should mention their names—by the member from Etobicoke Centre and by the former member from Kitchener–Waterloo—the first two members of the two other parties who started Girls Government in their own ridings. Thank you. By the way—and I see men clapping—you don’t have to be a woman to do it. You can be a man and start Girls Gov-ernment, and talk to me after about how you do that. We’ve got the template. But want I thank them for starting. 
     I want to thank Equal Voice and I want to thank them in particular for saying they want to make this program national. I look forward to working on that. I look for-ward to spreading that program around this Legislature. 
     I look forward to all this group of girls, who, in the words of one we met with on our Ottawa trip, Niki Ashton—twice elected, ran for leader of the party, only 30 years old and she looks like she is 19, if you’ve seen her. The girls, when they met with her, their summary of the meeting—I said, “What did you think? Here’s a young woman who has been elected twice and ran for the leadership of her party and she’s only 30 years old. What do you think?” And one of them said, “She’s really cool,” but more importantly, she said, “It’s a really cool job.” And I think we can all attest, we women here, that it’s a really cool job, Mr. Speaker, and more girls need to be exposed to it. More women need to run; more women need to get elected. We’re just thankful that Equal Voice has put the push on to do all of the above. 
 
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I thank all the members for their statements. 
 

 

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