Evidence of meeting #110 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was elections.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Roxanne Fairweather  Co-Chair, Women for 50%
Norma Dubé  Director, Women for 50%
Dawn Wilson  Executive Director, PEI Coalition for Women in Government
Sylvie Asselin  President, Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale
Marjolaine Gilbert  Coordinator, Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale
Natalie Pon  As an Individual
Louise Cordeau  President, Conseil du statut de la femme
Susan Torosian  Executive Director, Policy and Public Affairs, Elections Canada
Carole Saab  Executive Director, Policy and Public Affairs, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Yolaine Kirlew  Third Vice-President and Councillor, Municipality of Sioux Lookout, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Jeff Merrett  Director, Regulatory Affairs and Systems, Elections Canada

4:25 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I call the meeting to order.

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the 110th meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

First of all I would like to apologize to the panellists. We did have votes, so we were delayed.

Before I go through formal introductions, I'm going to pass the floor immediately over to Roxanne Fairweather since she has to leave very shortly. I'm going to open it for Roxanne to do her opening remarks, and then we'll be able to ask Norma the questions that have to go with those remarks.

Roxanne, please go ahead.

4:25 p.m.

Roxanne Fairweather Co-Chair, Women for 50%

Thank you very much for inviting us to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Good afternoon. My name is Roxanne Fairweather. I am CEO of a company called Innovatia in New Brunswick, and I'm also co-chair of Women for 50%, along with Aldéa Landry. I am accompanied by our heavy lifter here—she does all the heavy lifting—Norma Dubé, our executive director. We're going to be doing the presentation in English, but we can accept questions in either official language.

We launched Women for 50% 18 months ago, in January of 2017. We are a group of 12 very passionate women from different areas of the province, with great representation right across the province and with different backgrounds, including business, academia, politics, and public service.

At the core, we were all very dismayed with New Brunswick being the laggard across the 10 provinces, having only 16% representation of females in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly. This is unacceptable. It has to change, and we need to have our voices heard and have equality on the legislative floor.

Our overarching goal was to achieve 50% female candidates in the 2018 election, which is coming up in September. In order to change that 16% representation, we first have to have women on the ballots.

There were three strategies that we deployed. One was to create awareness, because I have to say sadly that I wasn't aware, back four years ago when I sat and watched the legislature begin, that we had such a dismal representation issue. We really started by trying to create awareness of this need for more women to be elected and to support those women by nurturing a public dialogue and creating public awareness and by explaining the immense impact that women have and can have when they hold office and the impact of not having women's voices heard, and by publicly tracking the progress towards the 50% goal and holding our political parties accountable for achieving that result.

Second, we encourage women to run—and we have talked to hundreds of women across the province—by demystifying what's involved in running for public office. We lend tangible support to interested women across the province who need information and education. Norma will get into that a little bit later on. We work very closely with political parties, and in collaboration with them we have created tools and resources that we make available to all through our website.

We do build and we have built a sustainable infrastructure—we continue to do that—by enlisting the support of party leaders and those in the party and inviting them to publicly share their support, their plans, their targets, and their progress and by holding them accountable.

We also provide input to the New Brunswick electoral reform process and work with well-established resource partners who can conduct outreach and be a continuing source of education and support and mentoring for women who are considering the opportunity to be candidates in this election.

We believe that in our short span, 18 months, we have made significant inroads, but there is a ton of work to do. This is a mammoth job. It's 200 years of an endemic issue that we have, and social change really has to occur to make any significant change.

Now with just over three months left before the provincial election, we need to continue to encourage and nurture public awareness around the need to have more women run in politics. Again, we are talking to hundreds of women every day.

This is about gender-balanced politics. It's about ensuring that our political representatives better reflect the people they represent, 50% of us. It's about the female voice being heard and respected.

Repeated intense research by many sources proves that better outcomes result from gender-balanced decision-making, with faster decisions, more effective actions taken, and better financial outcomes. Women bring a unique perspective to all tables, a perspective that must be reflected in policy-making at the top of our legislative system.

I'll now turn it over to Norma to speak to some of the challenges we heard about from the hundreds of women we talked to. She will tell you what we're doing about some of those issues and what we're doing about breaking down some of the barriers.

4:25 p.m.

Norma Dubé Director, Women for 50%

Merci, Roxanne. You might want to leave if you want to catch that flight.

4:25 p.m.

Co-Chair, Women for 50%

Roxanne Fairweather


Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

4:25 p.m.

Director, Women for 50%

Norma Dubé

Roxanne will miss the fun part when your questions begin in a few minutes.

We've been looking forward to this since we got the invitation to appear before the standing committee. Actually, Roxanne came back two days early from a business trip to India in order to be here today, so she'll be here in spirit in terms of continuing.

None of the points I'll be raising today should be of any surprise to members of the standing committee. I am convinced that they've been raised again and again and again, but we need to raise them again so that they can be heard and actions taken. When we started hearing it from the women themselves, it made it very real for us. It gave us a sense of urgency, a little bit like Roxanne sitting in the gallery of the legislature and asking the question, “Well, where are the women?” There is a sense of urgency in advocating for change and advocating for solutions.

We've had so few role models in New Brunswick in terms of elected women in office. We've had 37 elected; 32 are still living, and we've lost five. I had the pleasure of working with all 37 elected women. I was in the public service for 38 years, and I knew all of them—all very strong women, but not enough of them to provide role models for women and girls.

Many women have never imagined themselves in this kind of public political role, and thus have to be approached and approached again, and sometimes a third time—and a fourth time, and a fifth time—before they actually make that decision to throw their hat into the ring. We generally do not like to work in a confrontational environment, and politics can sometimes have that flavour. It's a system that we've given ourselves over time, and it's not one that women always enjoy. We prefer to work in a collaborative kind of environment. We prefer building together as opposed to opposing for the sake of opposing. There again, there's a little bit of a culture issue that's not necessarily attractive to women in terms of entering that field.

We don't appreciate the media's portrayal of women in politics. They do seem to be more interested in our appearance and our demeanour, as opposed to our positions or accomplishments or opinions. We don't have the same types of networks. Caregiving is a significant challenge.

We would also guess that part of the challenge in New Brunswick and everywhere else, we suspect, is that our local riding associations are very male-dominated. Naturally we tend to surround ourselves with people who look like us. It is a barrier for women entering at that particular level.

I am skipping several pages here because we were told to hurry up.

We feel that in the 14 months since we were born, we've made a difference. The corner of my kitchen table is exactly where we're doing Women for 50%, like most women's organizations do, and we are making a difference. We are seeing and sensing and hearing a different conversation in our province. We are working very, very closely with the political parties. We've built tools with them, all of them, at the same table at the same time. There are many examples of good things in New Brunswick.

I will wait for your questions.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

4:30 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

You're amazing. Thank you so much. I am sorry about having to rush you.

We do have some other groups here. I'll do the formal introductions now.

Norma Dubé is from Women for 50%. From the PEI Coalition for Women in Government, we have Dawn Wilson, executive director. From Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale, we have Sylvie Asselin and Marjolaine Gilbert. We have Natalie Pon here as an individual. From the Conseil du statut de la femme, we have Louise Cordeau, president, by video conference from Quebec City.

Although we usually allow seven minutes for opening remarks, we are in a time crunch today, so if we could reduce that to five minutes, it would be greatly appreciated.

If you don't mind, then, we'll start with Dawn Wilson for five minutes. Thanks.

4:30 p.m.

Dawn Wilson Executive Director, PEI Coalition for Women in Government

It is an honour to be here today with all of you. On behalf of the Coalition for Women in Government, thank you for the invitation.

For those of you who may not be aware, the PEI Coalition for Women in Government is a multipartisan coalition of individuals and organizations that came together in 2003 to identify strategies for increasing women's election to all levels of government in P.E.I.

As you know through your consultations in this committee, the under-representation of women in government persists in jurisdictions across the country, including Prince Edward Island, and despite more women than ever before being elected to the House of Commons in 2015, that number rose only slightly, to 26%. The numbers are even more concerning in Prince Edward Island, where women are only 18% of currently elected MLAs, just slightly better than New Brunswick. In comparison, we're among the lowest in the country in regard to gender in elected office, and well below the 30% critical mass identified by the United Nations as needed to make meaningful change.

Much of our work focuses on identifying and addressing barriers to women's participation; however, I think it's important for us to focus on why we do that work and the benefits that women and diverse perspectives bring. I won't touch too much on that, because Norma did such a great job of outlining some of those benefits.

Through our work on the Engaging Island Women for Political Action project, we aim to work directly with individual women, as well as to address structural and systemic change. Through the project we asked participants how parties benefit specifically from more gender diversity. The top three responses included increased perspective at decision-making tables, more role models and mentors for women, and better reflection of the diversity of the island population. I think those responses support the research out there, which was outlined earlier.

However, the coalition's work over the past 15 years reveals that women face barriers and challenges to political leadership because of their gender. There are individual barriers, maybe, like lack of confidence, but more often they are structural and systemic barriers.

Through this project, the coalition undertook a needs assessment process to determine barriers to women's participation, and participants identified a number of them, which I will discuss.

One was sexism or an old boys' club mentality within society generally, but maybe also within political parties, resulting in some women feeling unwelcome in participating in politics.

Another was home and family commitments, which Norma touched on earlier. Although gender roles are changing in society, with more men taking on caregiving responsibilities, we still hear from women that they continue to perform more of the unpaid caregiving for children, vulnerable adults, and elders in the home.

Financial inequality or lack of resources was cited. Women in Canada continue to earn less money than men over the course of their lives. This gap is even wider for women from diverse backgrounds, such as indigenous women or women with disabilities. As a consequence, women have less access to financial resources to run for office in the first place.

Online harassment and violence against women in politics is increasing, and it negatively impacts women in deciding to run for office.

One of the biggest barriers we've identified over the years for women in Prince Edward Island in particular lies with getting women's names on the ballot in the first place. We heard earlier that to have women elected, we need their names on those ballots. This is not unique to P.E.I. In the 2013 book Stalled: The Representation of Women in Canadian Governments, jurisdictions across the country identified this as a barrier as well.

History and examples show that the number of women in government will not rise naturally on its own; at the current pace of change, it would take Prince Edward Island 105 years to reach gender balance in the legislative assembly.

We feel a concerted and sustained effort is needed to increase the number of women elected, and it must include a combination of approaches to address individual barriers as well as structural and systemic ones.

I know you've received excellent recommendations from individuals and organizations during your consultation period. I'd like to take a moment to echo the recommendations you've heard from some of those folks, including Equal Voice, who work more closely at the federal level than we do. We very much work at the provincial level.

I will share some recommendations that we sometimes make provincially that might be helpful: increased funding for women's organizations that seek to advance gender and diversity in leadership through skills building or structural and systemic change; adherence to fixed election dates; financial incentives for political parties to run more women candidates; ensuring open and transparent nomination processes for parties; implementation of policies that support increased gender and diversity; support for caregiving, with access to affordable and accessible child care; and implementation of sexual harassment policies and codes of conduct for elected officials.

One thing we focused on most recently in Prince Edward Island is restructuring the hours of the legislature to accommodate members with caregiving responsibilities

In closing, we all have a role to play in terms of increasing the number in elected office, whether it's individuals, legislatures, community organizations, parties, or political institutions.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to provide some input into your process. We recognize it's not easy, but legislation, plans, and policies that not only ensure the equal involvement of women but encourage it are vital to creating an equitable future for all of us.

I look forward to your recommendations.

4:40 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent. Thank you so much.

We're now going to turn it over to Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale; I'm practising my French, since Joël is here.

We'll turn it over to Sylvie.

Go ahead, Sylvie. You have five minutes.

4:40 p.m.

Sylvie Asselin President, Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale

Madam Chair and members of the committee, I would like to thank you for allowing me to speak today about some aspects of the realities that women face in municipal politics.

Politics at the municipal level are one of proximity, and often serve as an incubator or a springboard for moving to other levels of provincial and federal politics.

We are going to talk about what we have experienced in plenary committees and municipal councils, but you often face the same situations at your caucuses and parliamentary committees.

For the purpose of this exercise, we noted two important aspects where intervention, education, mobilization and tools are necessary.

The first aspect is recruitment. We have to make sure that there are several female candidates at the next elections, and we are working hard for this to be the case. The second aspect is retention. We have to determine what obstacles women currently face in municipal politics and which make them not want to run again.

To adequately meet the needs of this committee, we focus on recruitment and retention.

The mission of the Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale is to encourage women who are interested in politics to make the jump into municipal politics and to remain there, either by encouraging networking or offering other tools.

Our network covers 58 municipalities, 6 of which are regional county municipalities (RCMs). There is the RCM for Charlevoix-Est, the RCM for Charlevoix, which you now know, the RCM for Île d'Orléans, the RCM for Côte-de-Beaupré, the RCM for Jacques-Cartier and the RCM for Portneuf. In addition to these RCMs, there's also Wendake. There is also the greater Quebec region, which covers the cities of Quebec, Ancienne-Lorette and Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures.

Our network has been in place since 2011. We are a non-profit, non-partisan organization. We provide support through our coordinator, and our board is made up of company directors, business leaders, local councillors and former councillors, etc.

Since I have little speaking time, I'll try to move ahead quickly.

We have to speak to a certain number of women to find out how to influence the culture and the operation of their organizations and agencies, and also how to contribute to performance improvement. The University of Western Ontario conducted a study in 2006 stating that gender diversity on boards can bring various points of view, raise more discussions and allow for better decisions to be made.

For municipal politics to be able to benefit from the unique contribution of women, for every seven elected representatives, three would have to be women, which represents 43%. Right now, in Quebec city, 31% of elected representatives are women. Therefore we are far from having a more inclusive culture for women.

When a survey was conducted right before the last municipal elections, mayors told us that they had a hard time recruiting women. This is the case for all political parties, and specifically for women under 35 years of age.

Our network examined this issue, and I will allow Ms. Gilbert to tell you more about this topic.

4:40 p.m.

Marjolaine Gilbert Coordinator, Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale

What can we do to attract more female candidates? We believe that young women should be encouraged while still in school by including presentations, testimonies, mentorship possibilities and even tours of town councils in CEGEP and university courses. In order to accomplish this, through their experience and their passion, young elected women need to show that it is accessible and that there is support from women from within.

We need to organize female student gatherings in town councils, internships for female students. We also need to offer them attendance incentives. We must demystify the role of a woman that has been elected, and work long in advance. We must implement a plan that will foster a work-life balance by taking the following measures: change the preparatory meeting times from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., including dinner, daycare, and homework help; provide for a distance operating mode on computer gateway during work sessions; review the wages of municipal representatives, which range, in the smallest municipalities, between $8,000 and $18,000.

Within community organizations, we need to diversify our work by creating networks of business women and of indigenous women. Women have proved that they can contribute to these organizations, where often they hold management positions. We need to invite them to build the future by being heard in the public sphere and by getting involved in politics.

Having been unable to find official data on the retention of municipal representatives, in 2015 the network conducted a study on their perseverance in municipal politics. The network asked itself the following question: why encourage female candidates?

Our findings led to the nine following points associated with the organizational environment that would encourage them to persevere: find meaning, confidence, independence, co-operation, support and mutual help, recognition, respect, transparency and work conditions.

How do we face the issues of retention? We must implement an integration mechanism for newly elected men and women, offering them mentorship and networking activities. Our network believes that a permanent tool needs to be designed for municipal representatives so that they can assess the climate of plenary sessions or of municipal council sessions.

Thank you very much for your attention.

4:45 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you.

I'm sorry for rushing you all; you have so much to add.

We're now going to move to Natalie Pon for five minutes.

June 19th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.

Natalie Pon As an Individual

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you all for having me here today.

It's an honour to come before you today and speak on this topic. As a woman and also a volunteer in politics who hasn't actually held a paid role in this environment, I'm looking forward to developing how we can improve the representation of women in politics as we move forward here.

As a volunteer who's been involved in nomination campaigns, leadership campaigns, and general election campaigns, I don't want to be here reciting statistics and studies. I want to tell the stories of women and what they're experiencing on the ground when they're campaigning, and most importantly, I don't want my comments here to be interpreted today as partisan. Although I do come from one particular partisan background, I think these experiences can be appreciated and understood across all political parties.

In my opinion, we are failing women in the candidate recruitment and nomination process, and this is largely due to the inherent biases that we as a society still hold today. I have door-knocked and campaigned for both men and women over the past 10 years, and in my experience and the experiences of the women I've spoken to over the last little while, women receive prying questions that men do not seem to get at the door, questions like, “Are you married?”, “What does your husband think about you doing this?”, and “How are you going to take care of your children if you're an elected official?”

I recently ran for the board of directors of my own provincial political party and I received similar prying questions at party AGMs and party board meetings. Men who were also running for those positions didn't seem to get questions about their marital status or whether they had children or how old they were.

While these questions may appear innocent and while men do sometimes receive these questions, I was receiving them when male colleagues were not. Female candidates often receive these questions when male candidates do not, and I found that when I was attending events with male colleagues or friends, or when women go door-knocking with men, they don't receive these questions as often. These women have also told me on the nomination campaigns and general election campaigns that they receive a better response at the doors when they're with a man. They can focus on policy, they can focus on politics, and they don't have to answer questions about the personal life choices they have made to get to the point of running for office.

These are women in their thirties. They have young children oftentimes. They're bright, brilliant, smart women who would represent their ridings well, but when they get these questions, they start to doubt their ability to do their jobs because of their personal situations. It's almost as if they're asked why they never thought about this in the first place or why they haven't asked these questions.

The bias I see here is that society still thinks that a woman's main role in society or in the family unit is as the caregiver. We default to assuming that the man is the politician and maybe the woman is not, a lot of the time. Society is still very surprised to see women in politics and has no problem verbalizing that surprise. This is why we need to be speaking out about this issue. We need society to start recognizing that it's normal to see women in politics, and that we should expect to see more women in politics as well.

A friend recently told me she didn't realize how much attention would be directed at her ability to be a mother when she was campaigning, and she felt a lot of guilt about that and about her family's decision that she run for office. I think what's even more surprising is that when I'm door-knocking, I often hear women at the door say, “My husband isn't at home, and he usually makes the political decisions in our family.”

When we hear these things, we're constantly being reminded that politics has historically been a man's game and it's a surprise for women to be making those decisions or for women to be at the door campaigning. Politics is a daunting exercise. I don't need to explain that to anyone here, but these kinds of questions can seriously cause someone—anyone, but particularly women—to seriously doubt their ability to do the job, because society is questioning it.

In my experience, women have had to work harder to earn that respect that men seem to get naturally, and I think there are a number of things we can do about this. A lot of these biases are generational. If women can continue to look past these comments and put their names forward, we will see more women in politics. They will win elections, and it will be common to see women in politics as well.

I got involved because when I was growing up my MP was a woman and a minister, and I looked up to her. Looking back, I have no doubt that she received a lot of scrutiny that her male colleagues did not and had to work a lot harder than the men to be taken seriously, but I didn't realize that until I started getting involved myself.

On the other hand, I don't want to hold up the female politician as the poster child for success or what could happen for other women. We all come from different stories and different perspectives, and I think to say that one woman is the homogeneous example or the role model that we can all strive to emulate does a disservice to the cause as well. We can't assume that everyone is going to come in with the same experiences or will have the same experiences in politics.

When I speak to women about this issue, they're often surprised to hear that other women going through the nomination process have experienced the same thing. This goes back to what I was speaking on earlier, about how we're not talking about these issues. So many women experience these barriers or these judgments at doors, but they don't talk to other women about it, so it's not known that it's as common as we may think it is. We need to be able to talk about these issues without being told that we're complaining, that we're not tough enough, or that we need to suck it up. I think these are real issues that we need to be talking about without judgment.

We also need to be calling out people when we experience these biases. I've been so lucky to have the support of both men and women through the political process who are really good at steering that conversation away from personal matters and towards the politics itself. If you are asking someone a question, I think we all need to be asking ourselves if we would ask that question to a man.

To support women, I think we really need to be supporting them: donating to them, knocking on doors for them, and selling memberships for them, and not just saying, “I support you”, but really putting actions in place of words if we want to help women achieve success.

We don't really need to talk about why diversity is a good thing; we all know why it is such a good thing—

4:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio


4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Natalie Pon

I'll try to wrap it up here.

4:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio


4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Natalie Pon

I think one thing that we look to as a solution is gender quotas or quotas for representation. While I think they're well intentioned, I look at them in the same way as we all seem to approach nepotism, which is that you create doubt on why someone is there in the first place, and I really don't want to open up women to that doubt in the first place.

4:50 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Absolutely. Natalie, thank you very much.

If you have your statements, please send them to us so that we can make sure we share them with all of the members of the committee. If there are tidbits we've missed, we'll be able to make sure we read those and have those in our briefs.

Now we're going to hear from Louise Cordeau, president of the Conseil du statut de la femme.

Go ahead, Louise. You have anywhere between five and six minutes today.

4:50 p.m.

Louise Cordeau President, Conseil du statut de la femme

Hello to you all.

I am very pleased to be with you today. We would like to thank you for the invitation and we are extremely pleased to contribute to the reflection on barriers that women face in politics.

As you know, the Conseil du statut de la femme is a government organization that does consultation and carries out studies. Its mission is to advise the minister and the Government of Quebec as well as to inform Quebeckers on everything associated with gender equality. In November 2017, we were invited to take part in an initiative launched by the Commission des relations with Quebeckers. We submitted a brief on the place of women in politics. This brief reiterated the recommendations that our council published in 2015 in a paper entitled “Les femmes en politique: en route vers la parité” [Women in politics: headed towards equality]. If I may, I will go over the major points of this paper and of this document.

In this paper, the council studied the measures that have been adopted in Quebec and elsewhere around the world to increase the presence of women in politics. It also questioned 18 women that were candidates or that were elected in federal, provincial or municipal elections. We know it, women are still underrepresented in politics. Their presence at the National Assembly has remained stagnant at 30% for the past 15 years. The obstacles that elected women face have been well documented through research. According to the Conseil du statut de la femme, the difference in how girls and boys are socialized, the unequal sharing of family responsibilities, and the culture of parties and political institutions are the main factors that hinder a fair presence of women in politics.

Based on the findings of the interviews conducted by the council, it was only after a rigorous assessment of their abilities and on the effect that political life would have on their personal lives and professional lives that the majority of the women interviewed chose to actively get involved in politics. We must admit that the current parliamentary organization was designed and implemented by men, at a time when they could avoid family tasks to fully dedicate themselves to public life. But this situation is no longer suited to a time where most fathers and mothers have a parental role as well as a professional role. Despite this common responsibility, work-life balance is a burden that affects women more particularly. In the world there are a number of support measures for parenting that can facilitate a balance between parliamentary work and parental work.

The council also believes that the masculine culture of political debate is based on a combative idea, one of jousting, which continues to discourage women who as a whole do not see themselves in this type of exchange. Given the stagnation in women's representation, we believe that binding measures need to be adopted so that here, in Quebec, we can reach parity for candidates, which would mean between 40% and 60% for both genders.

Through our research, we noted that very little work had been done on the profile of elected women. Without making any specific recommendations, the council hopes that political parties take diversity into account and that they facilitate the access of women from all social categories to the political sphere. We also believe that it is important to maintain the funding of projects that seek to support political action by women. Meeting inspiring people as well as participation in social and political activities are also determining factors.

The numbers that I will share with you may be surprising. We thought that it would be interesting to analyze the presence of young women during parliamentary simulations that took place in the National Assembly of Quebec in the past few years. Recently, in 2016, the student Parliament for grade 6 students included 65.6% of female participants. The youth Parliament for those in their third and fourth year of high school included 65.2% of female participants. The student Parliament at the college level included 43.6% of women participants and the one for young women between the ages of 18 and 25 included 31.9%.

Given these results, we are forced to conclude that even today, despite all of the work that is done, there is a clear decrease in women's interest and involvement in politics as they age. There is no easy and single solution that will resolve the complex issue of the underrepresentation of women in politics. Notwithstanding the measures that were discussed previously, we need to act upstream.

The Conseil du statut de la femme recently issued an opinion on gender equality in schools, which recommends a mandatory gender equality class be given in schools from the beginning of primary to the end of secondary schooling. One part of this course could in fact focus on the equal socialization of girls and boys with regard to politics.

We know that Quebec is one of the most advanced societies in the world when it comes to gender equality. Unfortunately, the lengthy stagnation of women's political representation indicates that goodwill is not enough. A thorough change of approach and concrete legislative measures are necessary to reach political parity, a principle which is at the heart of gender equality.

Thank you for your attention.

4:55 p.m.


The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you, Louise.

Because we are on limited time, we're only going to be able to do the first round, so that would be seven minutes, seven minutes, seven minutes and then back for the last seven minutes. If you wish to ask extra, just make sure you coordinate on that among your groups.

We're going to start off with seven minutes to Emmanuella Lambropoulos.

4:55 p.m.


Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Hello. Thank you for being here to answer our questions.

Thank you to everyone who is here to give us some insight for our study.

The first question I'm going to ask is for Natalie. You said you have about 10 years of experience working on campaigns for male and female candidates and you've noted the difference in questions that women and men are asked at doors when they are campaigning and in election mode.

You also mentioned that society isn't where it should be when it comes to gender stereotypes and sexism. I'll let you agree with me or not that this is still an issue and that if nobody does anything about it, as it stands, we're not going to get anywhere.

Do you agree?

5 p.m.

As an Individual

Natalie Pon

On your first point, when I campaign with men and they're asked about their family situations, it's usually out of curiosity. When women are asked about their family situations, it seems to be a basis for measuring their competency.

I'm not sure what the solution to that is. A lot of it is generational, and as people closer to my age start to get more involved in politics, maybe things will change. Moving forward, we all need to be aware of it, and as volunteers on the ground we need to be calling out these things when we see them and encouraging our other volunteers to do so as well.

5 p.m.


Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

I am 27 years old. I was elected last April, and I can tell you that door-knocking is probably the most effective way to get elected, because you're meeting your electors and motivating them to go out and vote for you. I was asked by almost all of them how old I was. I was asked, “Aren't you too young to run? What's your experience? Are you a student?”

These are things that wasted the time in which I could have been selling my platform and talking about ideas that are important. Instead, I was just trying to justify being there at their door. I feel I was given less of a chance than a man running against me would have been given. Luckily, in my nomination, there were no men running against me. I think that helped.

You say that quotas are not a good option. What do you think could be done to increase the number of women we have running for office?

5 p.m.

As an Individual

Natalie Pon

I really want to see fifty-fifty representation in politics. It is important, but I don't want to do it falsely. Whether quotas get us to a false fifty-fifty or not is irrelevant, but it opens us up to some scrutiny, which is unnecessary in the first place.

Women are already questioned about their place at the table in government and in the business world, and if we're also then mandating that we need to have 50% representation, it opens up that question, warranted or not, of whether they deserve to be there at the end of the day.

The biggest thing, from my perspective as someone who is involved on the ground, is that if you see a female candidate who you think is going to do a good job, you need to step up and help her. It's easy to say you're going to support someone, but until you're out there delivering memberships.... If you can deliver them 100 memberships, you've helped them. If you can help them to fundraise a couple of thousand dollars, you've actually quantifiably helped them.

As volunteers and party members, we need to start delivering measurable results to female candidates we think can do a good job, and that's going to be the best place to start.

5 p.m.


Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

All right. Thank you.

Ms. Asselin, Ms. Gilbert, you spoke of municipalities. We know that a majority of female politicians work at the municipal level, probably because this is closer to the home and because it is the first step. You said that some mayors have trouble finding female candidates. Can you tell us why?

Personnally, I do not think there is a lack of willing candidates and that people do not want to enter politics. In Montreal, I know various women who took part in a nomination process in various federal ridings. I do not know what the situation is at the municipal level; however, I know that in Montreal, more than 50% of representatives are women.

Could you tell me why mayors are having trouble recruiting female candidates?

5 p.m.

President, Réseau femmes et politique municipale de la Capitale-Nationale

Sylvie Asselin

We need to start by talking about the disparities in our RCMs. We have RCMs and towns with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. On these town councils, the mentalities are often very masculine. Women don't feel like they have a place on these councils. When women do want to carve out a space, they are given files that are often managed by women.

When it comes to women's participation in politics, small municipalities have not yet made the same advances. Let us take as an example the region of Quebec City, which includes Quebec and L'Ancienne-Lorette. In Quebec City, there is a good level of representation by women.

On the other hand, we must recall that mayoral candidates also have a lot to do with this. Some mayors feel that recruiting women is very important. They take the time to meet with us and to meet with the Conseil du statut de la femme. They look for possible solutions, and that shows a real openness.

However, I would say that in Quebec, small municipalities and RCMs play a large role in representation. That is where we need to change a few points so that women can understand that they have a role to play.

We also need to help these women develop capacity. Over the last three years, things have gotten worse. One of our problems is that women who are elected end up becoming discouraged and get tired of constantly fighting the very masculine mentalities on the council. They decide to throw in the towel and go back home.

Thus, we need to help these women and provide them with a network. As was mentioned earlier, they often don't have the network, and we need to provide one for them.

In these municipalities, councillors receive a yearly income from $8,000 to $18,000, as was mentioned earlier. This is why the positions are often filled by retired women, but rarely by young women.