Candidate Gender Equity Act

An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Kennedy Stewart  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Defeated, as of Oct. 19, 2016
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to reduce the reimbursement each registered party receives for its election expenses if there is more than a 10% difference in the number of male and female candidates on the party’s list of candidates for a general election.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Oct. 19, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2016 / 7:10 p.m.
See context


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured in this moment to thank the people of Nanaimo—Ladysmith for supporting me, working hard for my election, and electing me. I have many allies throughout the riding, and it does make all the difference around who prevails. For us, with the nomination and election, it was almost a two-year campaign. I am thankful.

I am going to talk first about the imperative for the bill. In 97 ridings across the country in last fall's election, voters had no opportunity to cast their ballot for a woman from a major party. That is a significant gap. Even if people wanted to vote for women who had a chance of forming government, they did not have that opportunity.

Election after election, the uneven addition of women to ballots throughout our country means we are not electing enough women to Parliament. That is why we are getting these tiny incremental gains. This is supposed to be the parity Parliament. We have 26% of women elected, with 52% of the population being female, and we have only made a 1% improvement from 2011. Canada, embarrassingly, ranks 61st in the world. We have to get to almost page 3 of the international list before we can find our country's name. I want us to change that.

At this rate, Equal Voice, which is a terrific advocacy, non-governmental organization, calculates that it will be 89 years until we reach gender parity in Parliament. That is a change that is painfully slow.

That is why I think this is a problem. When Parliament does not reflect us, then sometimes it is possible for voters to disconnect from the parliamentary process. It might be that a parliament that does not reflect the country perhaps has priorities that are a little different from what people sitting around the kitchen table would like to see. That is perhaps why we do not have universal child care in our country. That is perhaps why we do not have affordable universal pharmacare. That is perhaps why we do not have a good palliative care program.

We know that women disproportionately end up looking after their families, both at the beginning and the end of life. If we could get them here in these seats, they might help us to adopt the policies that would take the pressure off everyone.

This is perhaps why first nations kids are so embarrassingly discriminated against at budget time. Even now, we have had the human rights tribunal say that Parliament over decades has had the wrong priorities.

In turn, these lack of policy supports may well be keeping women out of both community life and off the ballot, so there is an interesting circularity of this argument. When woman are squeezed by family obligations, they decide not to run, and then they do not get into these seats and they do not vote for front-line family support issues.

Parliament was conceived well before women had the right to vote, and it has been fairly static for over 100 years. Parliament has just not innovated, and the bill is an innovation. Therefore, I appreciate the people who are here for the discussion and are willing to bite into this to see how it could work.

Much has changed in the hundred years. We got the federal right to vote in 1918, the right to run for office in 1921, the Persons Case in 1929, admission of women into the army in 1980, and inclusion of women's equality in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Also, just a few years ago, we got changing tables added in the parliamentary bathrooms. We innovate where we can. All of these changes reflect the evolution of our society.

There is a lot of attention being paid to the gender-based cabinet, and I applaud the Prime Minister for appointing men and women equally to his cabinet. It is not the first time that this has happened, though. In 2008, Quebec made that commitment. In 2015, Premier Notley, in Alberta, made the same commitment. That did not get more women on the ballot. It was a good move, but we want to at least have a chance to elect women. We want equal opportunity.

Canada still has no laws in place to promote gender equity in our democratic process. How can we make it change? I have a list of programs, such as Equal Voices' Daughters of the Vote, which is a fantastic way to get young people thinking early about what it would look like for them to be sitting in these seats. I applaud that work.

Second, we can support women in nomination and election processes, and I am very grateful for the people who got all of us here to the House.

Third, proportional representation would help. In countries around the world and in almost every western democracy people are elected using proportional representation. They all elect more women than we do.

Fourth, when I was at the United Nations this spring, I heard a fantastic presentation from Italy, a country that was so proud that because it had legislated gender equity on candidate slates, it went from 21% women in just one election to 31% women. That is 21% to 31% just by virtue of getting a balance on who was on the ballot.

My colleague's bill is not that kind of legislation, but it does tell us what our options are.

Turning to my colleague's bill, Bill C-237 would give parties incentives to nominate more women. It would not take away freedom. It would not tell anybody how to do it or even whether to do it. However, if they do choose to nominate an equal slate, then they would have a financial incentive to do that. The fine print is 45% female, 45% male. Members will notice that the math adds up so there is a 10% fluidity there, whether that is transgendered or gender-fluid, people who just do not identify, that gives them flexibility.

Again, this would be an incentive for people to put gender equity measures in place. They would determine how and whether to do it. This would also work in any voting system: first past the post, proportional representation, anything.

The idea of linking public subsidies to gender equity measures is not new. Canada had a royal commission in 1991 that recommended just this thing. This has since been implemented in quite a few western countries.

If we do get to this point that we are electing more women to Parliament, what might the impact be? We could enact policies that would appoint equal numbers of women to our crown corporations and agencies. We could establish a national action plan to end violence against women, something that embarrassingly the country has not done yet. Even Australia and places that we do not think of in this way have already made this connection. We can support more work on domestic violence. We can take action to close the pay gap between men and women. We can ensure safe and equal access to reproductive rights and reproductive health care. As well, we can address those policies that might be keeping women off the ballot or out of participating in public life: daycare, home care, palliative care, early childhood education support.

The United Nations Security Council did a study a few years ago on peace, security, and women. Part of the conclusion was that when women's groups were able to influence negotiations or push for a peace deal, an agreement was almost always reached. Agreements reached with the participation of women were 35% more likely to last for 15 years or longer. We want to have women involved internationally around the table, and advocating for peace and security as well.

I was so honoured to be part of the Canadian delegation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I am grateful to the Minister of Status of Women for including me in the delegation. We heard from every woman leader all over the world that we had an unprecedented opportunity in the world right now to bring gender equality. It is not just about Canada. As well, we heard again and again that women's rights and social justice were key to global sustainable solutions. If we empower women, if we end violence against women, and if we bring and educate young girls into the system, we would solve some of the difficult problems this planet faces, whether environment, food security, or anything. We need all hands on deck, full participation, all intellect, and all diversity and opinions to solve the problems that face us.

As Equal Voice says, women got the right to vote 100 years ago. It should not take another century for women to have an equal voice.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2016 / 7:15 p.m.
See context


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Burnaby South on bringing forward Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act, and initiating a very important conversation about how to achieve gender parity in politics in Canada.

Having spent much of my professional career working with women around the world, I have studied best practices in how to increase women's representation in parliaments. Legislative solutions, such as those outlined in Bill C-237, including financial incentives or penalties to encourage political parties to nominate more women, are considered by UN Women, UNDP, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and other major international organizations to be commonly recognized methods to achieve greater gender parity. In fact, I facilitated an international round table in Oslo on financing rules for women in politics in 2009, and this was one of the key recommendations.

Many countries around the world are going much further than this bill in their legislative frameworks. Today, Canada ranks 61st in the world when it comes to women in Parliament. We rank behind countries like Sudan, Iraq, and Cuba.

In virtually every case where countries have achieved gender parity in Parliament, it has been done using mandatory legislated measures, regardless of the electoral system. In Canada, at the current rate, even with party leaders who have a strong commitment to electing more women, we will not achieve parity for another 90 years, unless we make some changes which, in my view, cannot be left solely to the goodwill of political parties.

I am proud to speak in Parliament with men and women who are fighting for gender parity and equality. More women are serving in this Parliament than ever before. We have an unprecedented cabinet that reflects and represents all Canadians. The political parties took new measures to encourage more female candidates to run, and many of those who were elected worked tirelessly to establish new support networks and systems.

However, as a nation, we are not leading the way and we cannot trust that we will improve things voluntarily or that we will always have the right leadership.

Women have never held more than 26% of the seats in the House. We have not seen a dramatic increase in representation since 1993. It is true that we have seen progress, but we cannot just assume that progress will be inevitable. If we choose to settle for the incremental, then we risk losing everything we have accomplished.

Globally, in the period following the 1995 Beijing Declaration, there were significant increases in women's representation, largely as a result of the introduction of quotas and other temporary special measures in many countries. However, since 2010, many countries have reached a plateau between 25% and 30%, and in some regions they have even regressed. Canada is falling further and further behind as countries outside of Europe and North America begin to advance beyond the 30% mark.

Confronting inequality demands the deployment of unequal measures. As a demographic, women in Canada continue to become highly educated and still continue to make only 73¢ for every $1 that men make. Women in Canada have less access to money networks from which to fundraise for political campaigns, but studies have found that elected women in Canada outspend their male opponents by about 10%. This means that women in Canada need to work harder and spend more money than men to achieve the same results.

Financial incentives to political parties for nominating more women would only be rectifying an existing imbalance. This is the reason that in 2003, under the Chrétien government, the Liberal women's caucus was so active in ensuring that nomination contests were included in the spending limits and disclosure requirements in the 2003 electoral financing legislation.

I am proud of our government's historic and ongoing commitment in this area. It introduced legislation that had a real impact on women during the election. The importance of the 2003 election financing act cannot be overstated.

During the last election, 29.7% of candidates were women. These same women won 26% of the seats in Parliament. Studies conducted by Equal Voice showed that, when a woman's name appears on the ballot, she is elected almost 50% of the time. Canadians are not what is holding women back. The problem is getting women's names on the ballot in the first place. Elections are not where women face the greatest inequality.

Women have a disproportionately small number of opportunities and unique financial constraints. They lack access to informal political networks. Despite all proof to the contrary, they have to overcome the preconceived idea that they will not be elected. They tend not to volunteer and tend to be discouraged by what is still a very male-dominant political culture .

It is true that Bill C-237 does not propose a solution to all of these problems. It is not all encompassing. In fact, it is by necessity minimalist in its scope. However, it does initiate an important conversation, and it would be a true disservice for us to allow that conversation to end without being studied at committee.

As I travelled the globe, talking to women on five continents, managing a network with staff spread over eight countries, the barriers faced by women were the same, differing only in degree. Women, even in Canada, still carry a larger responsibility for caregiving than their male counterparts. That is why the procedure and House affairs committee is studying how to make Parliament more family friendly.

We have heard from several witnesses who have indicated that measures such as a more efficient work schedule, better child care facilities, and reducing heckling would lead to more women on the ballot. Women still face stereotypes and biases in the media that men do not face, and female leadership characteristics are not given the same weight as male leadership styles. Part of this is because of the lack of strong female role models in powerful positions, something that is finally starting to change now that the Prime Minister has appointed a gender-equal cabinet.

Recruitment and training are essential for women in politics, and several parties have implemented measures to ensure that women are being recruited, including mandating that women be included in the candidate search committee, or refusing to allow a local association to hold a candidate selection meeting unless there are women on the ballot. Many parties also have specific funds to raise money for women candidates.

The electoral system itself also presents a major obstacle to more women getting elected. The 10 lowest ranked countries in the world in terms of the number of women elected to public office are all countries that use a first-past-the-post system. That should be a major point to consider if and when consultations are held on changing Canada's electoral system.

Despite all the other reforms that can improve women's representation, the evidence continues to show that, regardless of the type of electoral system, there are limits to the effectiveness of voluntary measures by political parties. The most common argument against mandatory legislative solutions is autonomy of political parties. However, the overwhelming evidence goes against this.

Sweden is the only country I am aware of that has achieved parity by relying only on voluntary measures. In that case, the parties have willingly adopted a zipper system, where every second candidate must be a woman, something that is not possible under our current electoral system.

This bill is not about putting Canada ahead of everyone else. It is about helping Canada to catch up. Financial incentives are one of the least intrusive measures that can be used to achieve political equality. Under this approach, the political parties will still be free to select candidates and make appointments.

Equal representation is more than a matter of justice or optics. Equal political participation is a pre-condition for policy and principles that are truly democratic and inclusive. This is not a matter of symbolism. I have seen women the world over risking the security of their own person, their families, their bodies to take their place at the table and I have personally experienced what a difference it makes having women in the room. Different experiences, different perspectives, must have a voice at the table or they will not be represented.

I believe that Bill C-237 is a positive contribution to the ongoing dialogue that will lead to a future where women's voices will be equal to men's in this House and in the country.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2016 / 7:30 p.m.
See context


Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on this private member's bill, Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act.

Let me begin by clearly outlining what this bill would do. Clause 4 of this bill would change the Canada Elections Act to require political parties to run an equal number of male and female candidates. If the party failed to keep the difference between male and female candidates to fewer than 10%, then the party would be punished by being provided with a reduced subsidy following an election.

We want to encourage more women to seek office. I do not think there is any doubt about that. Of course we want to see women in positions of power who are engaged in business, politics, in the private sector, and in the public sector.

When I heard my colleague say that we now have women role models because the Prime Minister appointed a gender-equity cabinet, I would argue that there are many women, not only in this House, on both sides of this House, but within the private sector and the public sector who are excellent role models.

When I ran in the federal election, there were five candidates, four women and one man. As the first elected female mayor of the City of Surrey, along with a majority of women councillors, in fact, my political party had more female candidates than male candidates. We were all elected as a majority of women since 1996.

I have had the privilege over the years to work with many young women. In fact, I felt that it was incumbent on me as a woman to make sure that younger women and younger girls had the opportunity, and had every opportunity we could afford them; and incumbent on me to make sure that we were empowering them and encouraging them to pursue their dreams, and to help them reach their full potential.

In fact, I am sure that all of my female colleagues in this place, regardless of political affiliation, would agree that we all have a distinct privilege of being in positions where we can provide support, mentorship, and guidance to women, not only within our own country but around the world as well.

All of my female colleagues stand in this House today not because a political party was required to fill a female quota to get its expenses covered, but rather because they earned the respect and the trust of their constituents who believed that they were the best candidate to represent them in Ottawa.

I want to see more women stepping forward in politics, not because a political party wants to make sure its expenses are covered to the full amount, but instead because they believe they are the best people to represent their community. I want to see people from all walks of life, regardless of age, ethnicity, or gender, representing Canada in this House.

The Conservatives appointed the first Canadian female cabinet minister in 1957. Half the candidates who ran for the position of Conservative interim leader last year were female. At present, the Conservative Party is the only party with official status in the House of Commons that has a female leader.

All of these successful women got to where they are because they were the best for the job, not because there was a female quota to be filled. Furthermore, this bill would erode democracy by forcing political parties to have a hand in local nomination races. This would do nothing to encourage parties to run the best person to represent the people in the riding.

It is for this reason that I cannot, as a woman, support this bill. I support the efforts of women who want to make their lives better, whose lives we should help make better, but I cannot support a bill that would force me and my colleagues into a quota system. It is not democracy, and that is not progress.

Candidate Gender Equity ActRoutine Proceedings

February 25th, 2016 / 10:15 a.m.
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Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity).

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand today and table the candidate gender equity act. This act seeks to amend the Canada Elections Act to create financial incentives for political parties to nominate more women, and to move toward gender parity in the list of candidates put forward in elections.

The Prime Minister voluntarily put in place this country's first gender-balanced cabinet. However, we need to make laws that reinforce the idea that men and women are intrinsically equal and that, because we are equal, the entire membership of this place should also be gender balanced. A record 88 women MPs were elected in the 2015 election, but women still hold only 26% of the seats in the House of Commons, which places us 53rd in the world when compared to other countries. This is unacceptable.

The bill I submit here today is based on successful measures found in other countries, such as France and Ireland. It has been drafted with the aid of a dozen international experts, including my wife, Dr. Jeanette Ashe.

We need real action to move toward gender parity in this place because, to paraphrase the Prime Minister, it is 2016.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)