Saturday, May 26, 2007

Most women ever elected in Manitoba

There are a lot of good new women MLAs in Winnipeg. Even the Tories managed to elect five women including in a rural riding near us Minnedosa. The Brandon West constituency is still not definitely decided but it looks as if the Conservative Borotsik won.

Women win more seats than ever
Manitoba beats all other provinces

Thu May 24 2007

By Mia Rabson

NELLIE McClung would be proud.
When the Manitoba legislature reconvenes next month, almost one in every three MLAs taking their seats in the house will be female, more than in any other provincial or territorial legislature in Canada.
"Wow," said Raylene Lang-Dion, chairwoman of Equal Voice, a national organization dedicated to getting more women elected to all levels of government.

"That's where you really want to be, where you have a critical mass."

It has been 91 years since women could run for office in Manitoba, and 88 years since the first woman was elected to the Manitoba legislature.

The roster of one-third of Manitoba's MLAs as women is a step forward for both politics and women's equality in Canada, where women make up more than half the population but have generally made up fewer than one-fifth of our political leaders.

In the last federal election, 64 women were sent back to Ottawa, one fewer than had been there before the writ was dropped. It was the first time in four decades women's representation in the House of Commons went down.

A quick history of women in the Manitoba legislature:

1916: Women are given the right to vote and run in provincial elections in Manitoba, the first province to do so in Canada.

1919: In the first election after getting the right to run for office, four women are on the ballot in the Manitoba campaign. One wins. Edith Rogers becomes the first female elected to the Manitoba legislature.

1984: Sharon Carstairs becomes the first woman to lead a major political party in Manitoba when she is elected leader of the Liberals.

1988: Sharon Carstairs becomes the first woman to become leader of the official opposition.

The proportion of women also dropped in the Quebec National Assembly in that province's election last March. There were 38 women in the National Assembly before the election and 31 were elected in March.

Eighteen women were elected Tuesday -- 13 NDP and five Tory -- five more than were elected in 2003 and the most ever elected in Manitoba.

They make up 31.5 per cent of Manitoba's 57 MLAs.

Prince Edward Island, at 25.9 per cent, has the second-largest proportion of women.

New Brunswick, at 13 per cent, has the lowest among the provinces. Nunavut and the Northwest Territories both have 10.5 per cent. Just under 21 per cent of Canada's MPs are female.

Premier Gary Doer was pleasantly surprised to hear the Manitoba legislature is No. 1 in women.

"I didn't know that," he said. "I think everyone in Manitoba should be proud."

He said having more women in the legislature means there is a broader perspective brought to the debate.

Sharon Carstairs
"It means what happens around the caucus table mimics something that happens around the kitchen table," said Doer.

Doer said during the election he is hoping to increase the presence of women in his cabinet if possible, though he said he will make the choices based on merit, not gender.

He has at least one open spot in cabinet due to the defeat of Competitiveness Minister Scott Smith in Brandon West Tuesday. Before the election one-third of the 18 cabinet ministers were women.

Status of Women Minister Nancy Allan, re-elected in St. Vital Tuesday for the third time, said she is thrilled to have so many females in the house.

"I am just so excited about it," she said. "I just think it's time to give up the old tradition of male politics."

Lang-Dion said two royal commissions have studied the issue of women in politics -- one in 1970 and another in 1990 -- and both identified similar barriers women face to being elected, including family pressure and responsibility.

But she said women will see politics as a viable career as more of them are elected.

"The mentor or coach of women in politics is invaluable," she said.

Allan said she thinks the giant leap Manitoba took this week also bodes well for Manitoba having a female premier in the not-too-distant future, particularly with more than one-third of her party's caucus members being women. "If we're looking at a leadership race down the road, I think there will be a woman in the running," said Allan. "I wouldn't be surprised."

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