Women in politics in Canada

Research shows progress in representation…

Date published: 2013-03-08 12:00:00 PM

In 2013, Canada has six female premiers leading five provinces and one territory. We can see that we have made impressive progress if we look back to the mid-1960s when the federal cabinet had only one female minister.

“Until the 1980s, the presence of women in Canadian politics was a thing of folklore and anecdote. Today, political parties that leave no room for women quickly have the finger pointed at them,” says Manon Tremblay, who has carried out several SSHRC-funded research projects dealing specifically with women’s participation in politics in Canada as members of parliament and ministers.

While some progress has been made, the researcher, a professor at the University of Ottawa, has noted a certain amount of stagnation since the late 1990s. According to the world classification of parliamentary systems, established by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Canada placed 45th in February 2013, with 24.7 per cent of its member of Parliament positions occupied by women. Provincially, this percentage ranges from 11 per cent in the Northwest Territories to 33 per cent in Quebec.

Tremblay, has observed that the most important factor contributing to the advancement of women in politics is their entry into the labour market, which gave them more visibility and allowed them to demonstrate their ability to lead. She believes that the implementation of a gender strategy forcing political parties to recruit an equal number of women as candidates is one avenue that should be explored.

Will women change politics?

“Women are able to take a fresh look at certain issues,” says Tremblay. “However, to be successful in politics, you must follow certain prevailing rules that cannot change from one day to another. In other words, there is still a lot to be done.”