Ottawa Citizen

More women, fewer chances

- By andrew duffy

More women than ever before will stand for election in this federal campaign, but many face difficult-towin contests, according to a national advocacy group.

Equal Voice, a non-partisan organizati­on that wants more women elected at all levels of government, has analysed the list of official candidates — nomination­s close Monday — and has found that most political parties have increased their female representa­tion.

The Liberal party is the only one to take a step backward: 33 per cent of its candidates this year are women compared to 37 per cent in 2008.

Still, the Liberals continue to field more women than the Conservati­ves. Of the Conservati­ves’ 254 confirmed candidates, 24 per cent are women. It is the lowest rate among major political parties, but represents an improvemen­t over 2008 when 20 per cent of Conservati­ve candidates were female.

The NDP leads all parties in gender equity: 38 per cent of its candidates are women. Women will represent the Bloc Québécois in 32 per cent of its ridings. The Green party, led by Elizabeth May, will field women in 30 per cent of ridings.

“It’s not where we want all parties to be, but there has been some improvemen­t,” said Nancy Peckford, executive director of Equal Voice.

The organizati­on has challenged all parties to recruit, promote and nominate female candidates. It wants at least one-third of candidates to be female.

“And we need a good majority of those candidates to be in winnable ridings — and we’re not seeing that right now,” Peckford said.

Equal Voice assessed each candidate’s chance of victory based on previous results. It concluded that the Bloc has placed the highest proportion of its female candidates (36 per cent) in winnable ridings.

The 2008 federal election sent 68 women to the House of Commons, where they occupied 22 per cent of its 308 seats.

Canada ranks 52nd in the world in terms of women’s representa­tion in national parliament­s, according to informatio­n compiled by the InterParli­amentary Union.

It ranks behind such countries as Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Nepal and Senegal.

Other countries have managed to put more women in government by using proportion­al representa­tion systems that reward parties with seats based on their share of the vote.

Peckford said Canadian parties have to work harder between elections to find, encourage and promote female candidates.

“It is very important to approach female candidates: men tend to self-identify,” she said. “Women tend to underinfla­te their skill sets while most men overinflat­e them.”

Equal Voice also wants the government to consider financial incentives for parties that recruit and field significan­t numbers of female candidates.

“You can’t have a meaningful impact on the political culture or on policy outcomes unless you have one-third women in the House,” Peckford said. “We have a ways to go.”

In a recent article in Canadian Parliament­ary Review, University of Toronto political science professor Sylvia Bashevkin argued that raising the tenor of political debate would also help attract women to Parliament Hill.

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