Good afternoon to all.
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to share some of my observations and understanding about women's engagement in politics.
As a woman who has been actively involved and engaged in politics for the past 15 years, I believe that a study of this topic is long overdue. I have participated in politics as a volunteer in various municipal, provincial and federal capacities. These experiences allowed me to have a very clear understanding of the challenges of many courageous and capable women who have faced, in the past, the same challenges we are still facing today while being part of the political process.
I call them courageous, because as we all know, it takes courage to run for political office and face the challenges that come with it. I had spoken to and listened to women from across the political spectrum before deciding to be a candidate in the last election for the Conservative Party of Canada.
After the election, we spoke again. At this point in time, I came to the conclusion that I did not want to be a mere female statistic in politics. On the contrary, I want my merits, hard work, knowledge and experience to be appreciated and recognized in order to keep me engaged.
I must give credit where credit is due. My nomination process was fair and transparent. I received support from the party, but not enough to win the elections, and this was coupled with an unfavourable political climate at the time for us. Nevertheless, I have received as much support as humanly possible from the Honourable Jason Kenney, who at the time was minister of national defence, and Quebec senator Jean-Guy Dagenais.
In fact, the real problem for getting women engaged in politics lies within the organization of the parties. The leaders of the parties are seen as gods, surrounded by judges who most of the time elevate themselves to the level of demigods. This trait of character goes for both men and women surrounding the leader in any given political party setting. Unfortunately, some of them are very poor judges of character and experience, yet they are the people who decide whether a woman is fit to be a candidate or not.
Aside from the organizational problem of the parties, there are a few reasons why women are reluctant to take part in the political process. One, a woman with a strong voice and independent opinion is perceived as a threat rather than an asset, which is not the case for a man with the same qualities, who is perceived as a stand-up guy and a principled man.
Two, a woman with drive in politics is seen as dangerous, because there is little faith in her capacity to achieve.
Three, there is a subtle discrimination through labelling, by the organization of the party and media alike. For example, the whole idea of a star candidate creates negative competition among candidates. This approach discredits deserving women candidates and their merits. They are the first victims of this.
Only a very small number of women get winnable ridings, as most important ridings are given to men. A woman has to struggle to ensure her finances during an election year, as parties do not make any effort to financially back women to ensure a successful campaign. Women feel abandoned.
Once you become a candidate, the media will form its own narrative, which may put women in danger. The opinion of the media does not go unnoticed by the population. Therefore, a woman candidate will suffer consequences such as humiliation, harassment, verbal abuse and sometimes even death threats. I have experienced them all.
In my opinion, political parties need to create conditions to encourage and give women equal opportunities to run for office. Nevertheless, as women, we must also realize that if we want to have an equal voice to that of men, we must make an effort to put partisanship aside and work together. It is up to us to choose whether to be divided based on partisanship and ideological lines, or to work toward a compromise to ensure women get elected in the Parliament of Canada. Instead of making politics a scavenger's playground, we could work together.
At the same time, we must take a good look around the House of Commons and see how many members of Parliament who have passed retirement age are still serving. Retirement age is also an important factor to be taken into account. If parties genuinely want women to get involved in politics, they must allow and give them the space, tools and means to carry on.
Unless we form a non-partisan coalition that makes the election of women a larger priority in order to get them elected into the Parliament of Canada, we will never succeed. Unfortunately, women will remain unemployable statistics for having carried one party colour or another and for being equally forgotten by their own parties at the end. It is very sad, but it's true.
In conclusion, I would say that after having experienced and witnessed the pain, struggle and disappointment of my colleagues of all parties who have lost their elections, including me, we may all carry different logos, but in our own ways we all have the best interests of Canadians at heart. This is why I have accepted to testify here today.
Personally, I do not know how my story will end. What I do know is that one day I want Canada to have a woman prime minister who will last longer than three months in Parliament and where women's voices are as strong and as many of those of men. For that, I am ready to work with all of you to make this happen. This can be achieved only through balanced compromise. I personally remain committed to helping to empower women's and girls' aspirations to become members of Parliament, because the responsibility remains with us to ensure that in the future there should be a place for every woman and every girl who wants to make a difference in the House of Commons to serve our country.
Time is too precious to be wasted. In terms of the acceptance of being a statistic, women and girls deserve more than being a collective statistic. Most women I know who are engaged in politics are competent, experienced and knowledgeable individuals with intrinsic values in terms of pursuing political careers and being able to make a difference in the lives of Canadians.
Thank you very much for your attention.