Thank you, Madam Chair, and good afternoon, members of the committee.
I'd like to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to be present today and to speak on the issue of the barriers facing women in politics.
My name is William McBeath, and I have had the privilege of working for a number of outstanding women politicians during my time in politics, including the honourable Diane Finley, member of Parliament for Haldimand—Norfolk, and the former Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development; former member of Parliament for Calgary Centre, Joan Crockatt; and the former leader of Alberta's official opposition, and Wildrose Party leader, Danielle Smith.
I'd like to begin by noting that my comments are, of course, second-hand observations. While I may have had the opportunity to work for and with many women candidates and elected officials, I cannot offer a first-hand perspective given that I am not a woman. Given this, I have decided to focus my comments today on something about which I have gained a substantial amount of experience, and something I believe we need to improve if we are to elect more women candidates at all levels of government, namely, the candidate recruitment and candidate nomination processes.
At the provincial and federal levels, I've overseen candidate recruitment and nomination processes for literally hundreds of candidates. In the 2006 and 2008 federal elections, I was directly involved in the recruitment and nomination process for federal Conservative candidates in Alberta and the three northern territories, and I also oversaw candidate recruitment and nominations in the lead-up to the 2012 and 2015 provincial elections for Alberta's Wildrose Party.
In each of those scenarios, one of our goals was to identify, recruit and nominate a slate of outstanding, talented and experienced women candidates who could take on senior roles in future governments. I'm sorry to say that in each of those cycles, I believe, we fell short of that goal despite nominating and electing some incredible women to public office.
I believe that in order to meet the goal of nominating and electing more capable women, we need to reverse course on what has been a trend of late about the provincial and federal levels; namely, the reduction or outright elimination of third party involvement in political party nominations.
Modern-day politics is, as we know, fiercely competitive, and political parties wage aggressive and targeted campaigns in their bids to win seats. The team-based nature of politics means that multipartisan efforts, such as those by Equal Voice—which is an outstanding organization that I've done volunteer work with—will never have the same impact or effectiveness as will groups that are aligned with one single party or section of the political spectrum.
The work of winning a nomination can really be broken down into four areas: recruitment, training, fundraising and networking. It involves identifying, and occasionally persuading, a candidate to seek office; mentoring them when they encounter challenges; building a team of volunteers and professionals to support the nomination campaign; raising money to pay for nomination campaign activities; and connecting the candidate and her team with key stakeholders, influencers and voters in the constituency to build a winning coalition of members or supporters.
The creation of these groups would require changing election legislation, which limits or precludes third party involvement in registered nomination contests. I think political parties also have to review their current nomination processes to allow for the involvement of third party groups with a mandate to help those political parties nominate slates of candidates who reflect the full measure of Canada's diversity.
That brings me to the other solution that has generally been advanced to address the lack of equality when it comes to nominating and electing women candidates, and that would be quotas.
In my opinion, the quota approach is the wrong way to address the problem of recruiting more women candidates, for several reasons. The biggest one is that, I believe, it causes more harm than good to the goal of electing women to public office in the long term.
First, quotas are arbitrary. They are a metric established, and once that quota target has been reached, it sends the message that no more work needs to be done—we have our quota list, and the issue has been managed. Oftentimes, in order to meet the quota, political parties will nominate candidates in ridings in which they are unlikely—or even highly unlikely—to be successful. If they're not going to win in a general election, then this does nothing to further the cause of electing more women candidates to public office.
Second, candidates elected under a quota system frequently face the often unfair perception that their ability to fulfill the role of being an elected official is secondary to their gender. It leads some to call into question the merit of their candidacy and their ability to perform the job.
Third, it creates conflict between the quota and non-quota groups. Canada's diversity includes gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, profession, education, and a whole host of other things. To set one apart through a quota is to set one against the rest, and in doing so foster resentment and discord when the goal should be promoting full diversity, equality and participation for every group.
Ultimately I believe that having third parties aligned with political parties or a section of the political spectrum who are committed to the cause of nominating and electing more women to public office is a significantly better approach than political parties adopting quotas for women candidates in their candidate slates.
Again, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to present before you today, and I very much look forward to your questions.