Is that Ms. or Mrs. MP?
More female Conservatives in the House of Commons prefer Mrs. over the more modern Ms., but there’s no predicting who will take which title in any party, GLEN MCGREGOR finds.
Two-thirds of the female MPs in the Conservative government have opted to use the traditional honorific Mrs. in the House of Commons instead of the modern Ms. favoured by most female MPs in other parties.
For some women, Mrs. is simply a polite form of address for a married woman. To others, it is an archaic — or even sexist — term of bygone era.
The European Union last year banned Mrs. and Miss from use in official communications because they refer to a person’s marital status, while Mr. does not.
The Conservatives boosted their representation of women in the last election but only 15 of 22 current female Tory MPs prefer to be called Mrs., a review of House transcripts shows.
By contrast, just five of 20 women in the Liberal caucus and one of a dozen New Democrats go by Mrs.
The preference for the traditional term among Conservative MPs does not appear to be generational. There is little difference in the average age of the women in the four party caucuses, with the Liberal women on average slightly older than the Tory and NDP female MPs.
“It provides people with a really good understanding of the fact that I am married, without having to explain it,” said Kelly Block, 48, a first-term Conservative MP from Saskatchewan.
“ I think of myself as a wife and a mother, and then a member of parliament.”
Block went from Miss to Mrs. when she married and has never been a Ms.
In the House, MPs refer to each other using their riding names. Family names are heard only when roll is called during recorded votes. New MPs are asked by the Speaker’s off ice which honorific they prefer in each official language.
Of the 11 Conservative female MPs f irst elected in 2008, seven chose the traditional honorific Mrs.
Six Bloc Québécois MPs list Mrs. as their chosen honorific in English, although this is a technicality and never used in the House. In French, all the women are called Madam.
There are currently no Misses or Mademoiselles, a term that has fallen out of common usage. Former Reform Party MP Deborah Grey was the last Miss in the House, until she married.
The Tory benches gained a Mrs. when MP Helena Guergis married and dropped the Ms., although she did not take her husband’s last name.
In the last parliament, London MP Irene Math- yssen was the sole New Democrat Mrs., but she has since switched to Ms. MP Carol Hughes is now the only Mrs. in the NDP caucus. She says she was accustomed to it after 27 years of marriage and never thought of changing.
“ There was no thought given to it. It was just automatic that I’m a Mrs.”
Mrs. is a contraction of mistress and traditionally used only with the name of a woman’s husband, as Mrs. John Smith, for example. Miss with a maiden name is used for a single woman.
Ms. came into common use in the late 20th century and is now the default term of address for women, married or otherwise.