Yesterday, NDP leadership candidate Paul Dewar made a proposal targeted at increasing women’s participation in politics (and likely also targeted at increasing his appeal among female NDP voting members).
Women currently make up less than 25% of our Federal Parliament.
Dewar suggests more women would be elected if there were more incentives for political parties to put forward women candidates. While Harper is working on phasing out the per-vote subsidy, he would like to bring it back – with some modifications.
Dewar’s “improved per-vote subsidy model would require political parties to nominate a minimum of 30% women candidates to qualify for the basic subsidy of $1.50”. The amount of subsidy would increase up to $2 per vote according to the percentage of female candidates.
The argument behind such a proposal is that gender equality is far from a reality and that women and political parties need extra incentives to run for office. I’m not sure whether to feel offended or flattered.
While I agree that we have not reached gender equality in Canada (given such things as income disparity and gender-based violence), I’m still never sure how I feel about measures which hint of preferential treatment.
Women only won the right to vote and run as candidates in 1921 (in my grandparents lifetimes). That year, Canadians elected a woman to office – Agnes Campbell MacPhail who served until 1940 in the Federal Parliament and went on to serve 5 years in the Ontario legislature.
In our last election, a record number of 452 women (28.5% of 1,587) ran for office. Manitoba had the highest percentage of female candidates (33.8%) and Nova Scotia the lowest (13%). Of the major parties, the NDP had 40.3 % women candidates, the Greens 32.6%, the Bloc 32%, the Liberals 29.2% and the Conservatives 22.1%.
Of those who ran, 76 (24.7% of 308) won their seat. Of these 76, 38 were elected for the first time and a there was also elected a record number of women under the age of 40 (18 in 2011 compared with 5 in 2008).
So it seems we are steadily moving in the right direction. Would a financial incentive help? Perhaps. Is it necessary? I’m not sure.