Ottawa Citizen

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.

 ?? CHRIS WATTIE, REUTERS ?? but Ms. Lisa Raitt.
CHRIS WATTIE, REUTERS but Ms. Lisa Raitt.
 ?? CHRIS WATTIE, REUTERS ?? It’s Mrs. Leona Aglukkaq …
CHRIS WATTIE, REUTERS It’s Mrs. Leona Aglukkaq …
 ?? PAT MCGRATH, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN ?? but Mrs. Marlene Jennings
PAT MCGRATH, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN but Mrs. Marlene Jennings
 ?? DAVID AKIN, CANWEST NEWS SERVICE ?? It’s Ms. Hedy Fry …
DAVID AKIN, CANWEST NEWS SERVICE It’s Ms. Hedy Fry …

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada