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Canada's Three Women Premiers Lead Legislatures with the Highest Percentage of Women

May 09, 2015

 

Ottawa: Canada’s three female premiers who govern the country's largest English-speaking provinces also have another claim to fame. Their provinces rank in the top three legislatures in Canada with the highest percentages of women. The numbers vary from 33 to nearly 37 percent women. Currently, British Columbia is first, Ontario a close second and, after Tuesday’s elections, Alberta now ranks third at 33 percent.

 

The United Nations has said that a minimum of 30 percent women is key if female MLAs are to exert a sustained and meaningful influence on the overall culture and policy outcomes of a legislature.

 

“It goes to show that women leaders often bring many strong and talented women with them,” said Lynne Hamilton, Equal Voice National Chair. "Recruiting strong candidates can and often does start at the top.”

 

British Columbia has led the way since 2013 at just under 37 percent – a result produced after Premier Christy Clark won a sizable and unexpected majority that year. Ontario assumed second place last June with 35 percent when Premier Kathleen Wynne – whose party featured a slate of nearly 40 percent women – also won more seats that they had predicted.

 

And as of this week, Alberta now ranks third at 33 percent, with 29 women elected from a total of 87 seats in the legislature. This is in large part thanks to a NDP candidate slate that was nearly equal in terms of women and men candidates. Consequently, 25 of the 53 NDP seats will be occupied by women. The additional 4 women MLAs consist of two each from the Wildrose Party and Progressive Conservatives.   

 

“It’s wonderful to see a boost in women’s representation in Alberta,” notes Stephanie Kusie, Equal Voice’s Chair for Alberta South.

 

“Of course, we recognize that there were many good women serving in the backrooms and frontrooms of all of the major parties prior to this election. With the NDP wins have also come some big losses. Several women lost their seats – and many others had worked tirelessly for MLAs and the party leaders no longer in power. There is, no doubt, disappointment.”

 

“Equal Voice would like to recognize the contributions of all women who served in the previous legislature,” underlined Lana Cuthbertson who leads the Equal Voice Alberta North chapter.

 

The New Democrats in Alberta will now have the highest percentage of women ever elected to a governing caucus – at 47 percent.  Parity at the cabinet table is nearly assured.

 

Before the respective election campaigns in these provinces, few thought Clark, Wynne, or Notley would win a majority. Governments in British Columbia and Ontario were expected to lose and the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta had held on to power for 43 years. Ironically, the presumption of defeat may have contributed to the record number of women elected in each province.

 

“Everyone wants to run in a ‘safe seat’. Finding the courage to run in a tough race can be daunting. I'm excited to see that so many women took up the challenge,” adds Ms. Hamilton.

 

“It’s not a given that women’s representation will increase because there is a female premier,” Nancy Peckford, Equal Voice National Spokesperson cautioned. “When Premier Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador won a majority mandate, we actually saw a small decline in the number of seats women held.”

 

Ultimately, it's about leadership.

 

“What’s consistent about the three female premiers currently in power is that they were highly motivated to get women on their ticket. They intuitively understood that talented and capable women from diverse backgrounds only enhanced the caliber of the team and what they are offering voters,” emphasizes Nancy Peckford.

 

In other words, a win-win.

 

No pun intended.

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Thanks also to the Government of Canada (Status of Women & Canadian Heritage) for their financial support.