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

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

That's excellent. Thank you so much.

We're now going to Rachael Harder for seven minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you, Chair. I'm going to split my time with my partner in crime, Stephanie Kusie.

Thank you so much to all the witnesses for taking the time to be here with us today. We really appreciate it. Again, I'm so sorry about the votes throwing things off.

My first question is for Women for 50%. I'm wondering if you work with all parties. If so, I'm wondering how you ensure that you remain non-partisan so that anyone from any party feels welcomed and secure in coming forward for assistance.

5:05 p.m.

Director, Women for 50%

Norma Dubé

We work with the four major political parties in the province of New Brunswick. All were invited to participate. We made it very clear from the beginning that the only way we would work with them was by having them sit side by side with us in a room with other political parties where we could work together, because we wanted to build some tools and some systemic changes together. The four major parties are absolutely at the table.

I think you earn that credibility of being non-partisan by your actions and probably by your reputation. New Brunswick is a small province. I was assistant deputy minister of women's equality for the province for a good number of years and worked with successive governments of different political ilks. I think that assisted us in getting off the ground, and then our actions spoke for themselves.

Without the political parties in place, we're just a group of 12 women with no funding except for a few gifts that we've received along the way. If we did not have the political parties at the table, we would not necessarily have.... As for the success that I think we've had in the conversations we've been having, I know we've earned that reputation, because I'm getting personal phone calls at home from women who have particular affiliations with all of those parties.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

That's excellent. Thank you so much.

My next question is for Louise.

Louise, in your opening remarks you made a really great statement. You said that politics should “encompass diversity and make space for all”. I'm wondering if you can clarify for this committee whether you truly believe there should be a diverse spectrum of opinions, values, and beliefs represented in this place, or if there are some that are just simply inappropriate to be here.

5:10 p.m.

President, Conseil du statut de la femme

Louise Cordeau

For the Conseil du statut de la femme, on the matter of diversity, we are talking about diversity of social categories, diversity of sexual identities, diversity of backgrounds. We know that the women who run for political office come from an environment that supports it. If they have around them women who are in places of power, places of decision-making, places of influence, they will have easier access to different networks. There must be a variety of expertise and candidates coming from different social backgrounds.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Okay. Thank you.

Go ahead.

June 19th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

First of all, thank you for being here.

Natalie, I have two questions that I think are very relevant to our province.

Leaders say they would like more women to run and win in nominations. What do you think is the extent of their obligation in terms of doing that?

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Natalie Pon

Just to clarify, is it the leader's responsibility—

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Correct.

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Natalie Pon

—in seeking those candidates out?

I think there's a lot at the top that needs to be happening here. If the leader is actively seeking out qualified female candidates, that's a large first step in making it very clear that there is an expectation in this or that political party that women will be putting their names forward. Whether that means sitting down one on one with them and explaining the process to them or the support available to them or making those connections they need to make in order to be successful, I think that needs to be happening.

If you identify a woman candidate who may be unfamiliar with the process, then connecting her with a campaign manager or a team or explaining how the nomination process works is going to be a great first step in achieving that.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

My second question is a two-part question.

Do you think women really support other women in politics? That's the first part of it.

Second, coming here after being a diplomat for 15 years, I feel a lot of pressure to be mean and not diplomatic. I'm wondering if you see this as a common theme in your evaluation of women in their performance as politicians. Thank you.

5:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Natalie Pon

That first one is a loaded question.

In my experience there aren't as many female organizers and volunteers as there are male organizers and volunteers. Maybe that's part of the answer to your first question. I have met a lot of wonderful, amazing, competent female volunteers and organizers in Alberta, as I'm sure you have as well, but they're in the minority. EDA boards are largely populated with men and volunteer teams are usually men, so I think that we'll need to see more women getting involved in the grassroots process and in volunteering and on campaigns before we see some measurable change. I'm not sure that it's women not supporting women intentionally; I think it's just that there aren't as many women in the process in the first place.

To your second point, I think that some of the biases that we hold would label a woman's behaviour as mean when a man wouldn't be called mean in the same circumstance.

I've been told on a number of occasions by other female politicians—and not maliciously—to watch the tone of my voice in order to be taken more seriously. They tell me that if I raise my voice at the end of a sentence, I'll sound like a valley girl, or that I need to ground my voice to be taken more seriously because when women get excited, they can get shrill.

I'm not sure we need to be meaner. I think it's just that there are some biases that we still need to overcome in terms of how we just are biologically different from men in how we act and speak. There needs to be more recognition of things like that.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent.

I'm so sorry, Stephanie.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

I have 20 seconds. I am sure of it.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

You don't, actually.

We're going to now move on to Kennedy Stewart for seven minutes.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Thanks very much, everybody, for coming today. This is actually my last day in Parliament, but this is an issue I'm very concerned about. I've written about it as an academic for years, and I have put forward private members' bills to change this situation. Bill C-237 was a private member's bill to provide incentives to get more women into Parliament.

Again, it has been a great pleasure to be here on the committee.

I have a couple of things. First, I see this as an issue of fundamental justice in Parliament. If it's not 50% women, then it's an injustice that has to be corrected. I don't see it as.... Often this is framed as supply and demand; that's how it's looked at. I've heard both sides of the very good stories and very good evidence here. I tend to look at it as a demand-side problem of women being kept out rather than failing to access elected office, so I look for demand-side solutions.

Also, what helps sometimes is looking at the raw numbers. If we look at Prince Edward Island, it has 27 seats in the legislature. This means that you need only 13 women from the entire province in order to have 50%. There are already six women in the legislature—five? Okay, so we need seven more women from the entire province of P.E.I. in order to get parity.

To me it doesn't seem to be a supply-side problem. I think that if you went across the province, you would find seven women who could easily.... You'd find many more than that, so why is it that we can't ever get parity in any of our legislatures? For me, it's always a problem of demand. It's the same in New Brunswick, with 49 seats, right?

5:15 p.m.

Director, Women for 50%

Norma Dubé

We need 100 in order to have 50% candidates.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Why is that?

5:15 p.m.

Director, Women for 50%

Norma Dubé

Do you mean why can't we find 100?

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Can you find them?

5:15 p.m.

Director, Women for 50%

Norma Dubé

I could name you the 100 competent women in New Brunswick who could actually be on the ballot.

I agree that it's both a demand and a supply problem. In that context, there are barriers on both sides and obstacles on both sides.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Why is it supply? If in Prince Edward Island we need seven more women, why is there a supply problem? What we're saying here is that we can't find seven. What is your explanation for why we can't find seven women? Is it that women are in adequate supply, but there's something keeping them from accessing these seats?

I would say it's political parties, myself, but I'm wondering what your opinions are. I'd be happy to hear from anybody on that.

5:15 p.m.

Director, Women for 50%

Norma Dubé

I can start.

Yes, political parties have a big role to play in terms of the solution and the commitment. Surely we can find 100 competent women in our province to be on the ballot—that's our line. What I've been hearing from the political parties in New Brunswick is that efforts are being made in this round, efforts I feel have never been made before, so there is a commitment by the political parties.

What I'm hearing, based on my own conversations and those of other members of Women for 50% with potential candidates, is that you have to go through the whole litany of challenges that I've raised and that these wonderful women beside me have raised. You have to ask them once, twice, and sometimes five times. You have to convince them that this is a good place for them. They've seen what politics is all about and they are not sure they want to get into that. Maybe they're too smart—sorry. I didn't say that. It's being taped.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Can I stop you there?

5:15 p.m.

Director, Women for 50%