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Men, money and democracy


 

Sheila Gervais argues all sorts of things, some of them no doubt contentious, about women in politics.

Pierre Lortie, realizing that successful jurisdictions with respect to gender balance placed emphasis on inducements to elect more women (as opposed to just nominating them), proposed that in implementing the per-vote subsidy, an increased amount should be provided to each registered party on the basis of the number of women they get elected.

The augmented subsidy would remain until the appropriate threshold (30 per cent to 50 per cent women in Parliament) had been achieved and maintained for a reasonable period of time, say 15 years or four elections. This time would allow deportment in the House to be influenced by a greater gender balance in decision-making, and for the electorate and parties to appreciate the improvements achieved.

Our systems and processes have been designed for a male culture. And what speaks to the men who run our elections? Money. It’s the best incentive there is.


 

Men, money and democracy

  1. No. There's no need to financially bias the system towards women. And the idea that "deportment in the house [would be] influenced by a greater balance in decision making" – ie, that more women would make things more civil – is bunk. Women who go into politics are, in general, no more or less civil and courteous than men who do.

    • I tend to agree. Why create a taxpayer funded subsidy that's geared towards one identifiable group, which by definition excludes all others?

      Don't other countries have a better record of electing female legislators, and is there something they're doing that maybe we could look at? Or do they simply resort to gender-based subsidies?

  2. Ricky Gervais argues all sorts of things, some of them no doubt contentious, about politics and religion.

  3. This would just open a can of worms because there are so many distortions of representation in the system. Yes, women are underrepresented. So, are minorities. Should we do the same to fix that disparity? If they get fixed, then what? Lawyers are clearly overrepresented in parliament which means people with other educational backgrounds are underrepresented. Maybe we should subsidize parties to elect more engineers, nurses, or tradespeople so their views can get represented better.

    • Well, I'd certainly argue that the under representation of women is a substantially and demonstrably more important disparity than the under representation of engineers, or even visible minorities, but maybe that's just me. This seems like an overly interventionist solution to me, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't be exploring the problem. We have, basically, the same political system today that we had before women were granted the right to vote. I don't think it's a bad idea to look into whether or not a system, created by men, for men, at a time when only men could participate, is perhaps systematically biased against the success of women.

      I get your slippery slope argument, but I think things are a bit different when you're talking about a population that makes up about 51% of the whole only having about 22% of the seats in Parliament then, say, the 15% of the population that are visible minorities only being reflected by 7% of the Parliament.

      Aliens from Mars looking at just our Parliament might conclude that Canada is about 95% white instead of 85% white, but the more worrying issue, to me, is that they'd conclude that Canada is 78% male.

  4. Only four elections in 15 years? You call that democracy?

  5. Quick question. How would 3 to 5 out of ten women in parliament be able to achieve gender balance (in policies and practices, I assume), where 5 out of ten women in broader society have not been able to?

    • Well, as we live in a "representative" democracy, where decisions about public policy are made by elected representatives, not the population as a whole, I think one could certainly argue that if the entire system (which, for what it's worth was built by men, for men) is engineered in such a way as to be disadvantageous to women, that it really doesn't matter that they represent 50% of the population as a whole. We don't govern ourselves by referendum, so to me it seems pretty obvious how having 30-50% of the power in the place where decisions are actually made and policies crafted would allow a group to have more influence on policy formulation than simply having 50% of the population as a whole. To me, your question reads like, "How is it that parliament has more control over our public policy than the total population as a whole does?" to which the answer is "Because that's the system of government we have".

      If you were interested in making changes in Canadian public policy, which would you rather have, 51% of the population behind you, or 51% of Parliament behind you? Parliament can ignore the majority of the population. Sadly, the majority of the population is not allowed to ignore laws passed by the majority of Parliament.

      • A road built by men is in no way less driveable by women.

        When we're talking about fairly significant policies of democratic engineering, I'd like to see more specific evidence or anticipated outcomes put forward to justify them, no matter how well meaning the motives are.

        So let me rephrase the question a bit: what particular legislation or debate might we anticipate from a parliament with more women in it?

        • Combining federal and provincial jusrisdictions:

          The argument I have heard isn't so much that they have been actively as passively discriminated against in many fields of legislation and public policy. For example, the majority of society still tends towards the woman being the primary home maker and child raiser. For biological reasons, they are the child bearers, as well, obviously. They might have strong takes on EI, health care, the criminal code, family law, property law, and tax law that is influenced by their experiences as women and which have been overlooked through the bliss that is ignorance.

          Sound reasonable?

          • Reasonable, yes. But hardly guaranteed. I'm not comfortable with the assumption that a high vagina count in the legislature will likely result in more equitable social policies. And often, there seems to be an underlying theme that somehow parliament would be more harmonious if there were more women.

            I'm not arguing against the broader goal of gender equality (or irrelevance, as I would rather see it become). But there's something of a paradox in using the very categories one wishes to demolish (in the case of policies targetted particularly at women), there's a certain essentialized view of women that predicts their behaviour in organizations, and there remains the very real dilemma of broader societal and cultural views which will still be prevalent in the form of free votes in elections.

          • I wasn't trying to suggest a guarantee, and I agree that there would be none. A lot of other influences in a legislature constrain candidates and dictate their actions, regardless of gender, race, etc… Party rules, whips, natural human behavioural psychology all lead politicians to go in line with what the leadership says and the leadership increasingly relies on its pollsters and political advisors to determine policy.

            Nonetheless, butterflies in China and all that. But for such a vague outcome, I would rather allow nature to take its course and agree with CR below that it's coming, just invisible to our crystal ball.

        • "A road built by men is in no way less drivable by women".

          Well, sure, but maybe (it's a big maybe for sure, but maybe) if women made up more than a quarter of the House they wouldn't build the road. Or they'd build a better road. Who knows?

          Is it crazy of me to think that a Parliament which is 78% male is a problem in and of itself, REGARDLESS of how (or even if) a more balanced Parliament would actually act significantly differently? I guess I just don't think we've left bias and prejudice so far behind us that this shouldn't concern us. Sure, hypothetically a Parliament that was 100% white and 100% male could get things of importance done for women and minorities just fine. And in some hypothetical future, I might not have a problem with a democratic election in which we elected an entirely white and male Parliament. I'm just not there yet.

          A 90%+ white Parliament doesn't really worry me too much, because we're a ridiculously white country (85%+) for all our thoughts of diversity, and our system just tends to skew that just slightly in Parliament. A Parliament that's 78% male though, that still makes me apprehensive.

          Is it wrong to think that women should be better represented in Parliament just for no other reason that women should be better represented in Parliament? 'Cause I certainly don't think it's crazy to imagine that maybe the reason women are woefully underrepresented in the House has something to do with our 19th Century male-designed political system more so than just being some inherent trait of the natural universe.

          • "Is it wrong to think that women should be better represented in Parliament just for no other reason that women should be better represented in Parliament?"

            Absolutely not. But it may well be wrong to try to force the issue through artificial means. It could well perpetuate the notion that women aren't up to the job, since they 'need' extra help.

            I agree with you more than I'm probably coming across as. It just seems like the rationale, the expected outcomes, and the motivations all rely on assumptions about the root of the problem, the means to fix it, and the results, that are often ethereal in nature.

            And we jump from accusations of a "male" parliament (its culture, for lack of a better term) to very precise measures regarding the acceptable number of women to see there. I guess it's the back and forth play between counting heads precisely while having only a fuzzy sense of the problems that I find hard to deal with.

  6. The electoral system favours loudmouth drama queens of whatever gender. We should have a subsidy for people who are quietly competent.

    • Instead of a subsidy – since that word has so much baggage – how about this plan:
      – base MP salary is (let's say) $100K
      – if the MP says nothing all year they get to keep it all
      – for every word spoken the salary is reduced by a dollar
      – words spoken in the H of C while someone else 'has the floor' cost five dollars each
      – each MP will be matched up with a 'lucky' citizen who gets to keep all the lost salary for themselves

      I volunteer to monitor John Baird.

    • Instead of a subsidy – since that word has so much baggage – how about this plan:
      – base MP salary is (let's say) $100K
      – if the MP says nothing all year they get to keep it all
      – for every word spoken the salary is reduced by a dollar
      – words spoken in the H of C while someone else 'has the floor' cost five dollars each
      – each MP will be matched up with a 'lucky' citizen who gets to keep track AND keep all the lost salary for themselves

      I volunteer to monitor John Baird.

      • Every dollar you made out of that deal would have to be rolled into your therapy sessions.

        • You are probably right.

          OK, revision 1, some MPs might need a tag team approach; any volunteers to help me with JB?

          • Perhaps we could train a service dog for the task.

          • Interesting possibilities…in John Baird's case we could also train the dog to bark when JB is in imminent danger of spewing spittle over anyone within 2 meters.

            OK, OK, I know, the barking could get out of hand, but da**it, people should be warned.

          • Interesting possibilities…in John Baird's case we could also train the dog to bark when JB is in imminent danger of spewing spittle over anyone within 2 meters.

            OK, OK, I know, the barking could get out of hand, but people should be warned.

  7. What about transgendered candidates? Would they be entitled to an augmented subsidy, or is that privilege restricted to Canadians who were born with two 'X' chromosomes?

    In all seriousness, I think the augmented subsidy is a terrible idea. Both genders should receive equal treatment.

    Forty years ago, a strong majority of Canadian university students were men. Today, 55% of university students are female. Give it time. I predict that more than 50% of our elected representatives will be female by 2030.

    • You know, CR, I think you are right.

      • Women generally have better sense than to get involved in a racket like this.

    • I agree about the subsidy, but I'm less sanguine I think about the future just taking care of itself.

      Certainly, both genders should receive equal treatment. I guess I just still question whether or not a political system designed in the nineteenth century, by men, for men, is actually giving them equal treatment.

  8. Good grief. I think the last thing we want to do is make our poltical parties into pimps. Is this the start of Shiela's new book, "Ten Steps to Tokenism"?

  9. Good grief. I think the last thing we want to do is make our poltical parties into pimps. Is this the start of Shiela's new book, "Ten Steps to Tokenism"?

    If we want to get more women into politics we need to first start respecting politicians so that more of them have an interest in running. Unfortunately, that's going to require politicians we respect.

    • There you go! That's the answer to the question, I'm thinking. Women tend to be more detail-oriented while men tend to be more big-picture stuff, and a woman looks at the job of MP and says, no damn way. Why would she want to put herself through that, especially when she can make more as (insert career here). Now, if it were a RESPECTED profession, and the woman felt she could genuinely contribute something more than a body in a seat for a vote, then things might be different.

      For me, it would have to be okay to cry. :)

      • Serious question: Cry when you got home at night, or cry at committee meetings, or in the H of C or all three?

        I'm curious why you mentioned that.

        • Serious answer: Wherever I cried. I'd say "wherever I felt like it" but I don't necessarily feel like crying when I cry. I just cry. When I'm angry, when I'm hurt, when I'm tired. And I don't know why I mentioned it, except that I was being honest. And honestly, its the first thing I think of when I think of ME (a woman) running for public office. Don't worry everyone, I'm not about to do so. But that's why.

          • Thanks (for the reply).

  10. Being a woman is not a disability so subsidies and other half-baked solutions are not necessary.

    How about parties start nominating women people will vote for.

    • Being a woman is not a disability, but I still think it's possible, if not probable, that being a woman is a disadvantage in our system, and that shouldn't be.

      That said, I agree that this proposed solution is both a non-starter, and inappropriate. I just don't think we should assume that there isn't a problem, or that it will just fix itself.

      Our system of politics wasn't handed down by God from heaven. It was created, by men, in the nineteenth century, before women were allowed to vote. I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude that MAYBE it systematically disadvantages women. If we could establish that with some certainty, we should try to remedy it.

      Admittedly though, establishing cause and effect in this instance isn't simple, and any possible solution wouldn't be at all easy. I'm not sure "how about parties start nominating women people will vote for" is exactly helpful though. I mean, it seems to me that women make up about 20-30% of the candidates, and end up making up about 20% of the House, so I'm not sure they're really that significantly less electorally successful than their male counterparts (which suggests that there may be other systemic issues keeping the number down). I think the small numbers of women elected is more a product of the small number of women nominated, than the quality of the nominees. It also seems to me that the systemic problem is as much a factor of our party politics as it is of our electoral policies, probably more so (i.e. women are often quite successful when put forward as candidates, but are still not put forward as candidates as often as we might like).

      It's certainly a complicated issue though, and I think MUCH more complicated than "the women parties tend to nominate are duds".

  11. Something just occurred to me: why don't we simply fund a 'women only' political party?

  12. Something just occurred to me: why don't we simply fund a ' women only' political party?

    • Feminists, very much to their credit, recognize that their issues are pervasive throughout society and next to nothing can be achieved through the traditional political party system.

      • Which is why any scheme to shoehorn more women into parliament ought to be carefully approached, if the goals are anything more substantial that symbolic demographics.

    • "why don't we simply fund a 'women only' political party?"

      Who is 'we'? Why don't women start their own party and see how that works out for them.

      I wonder if a female only party would be legal. Wouldn't it be discriminatory? Idle thoughts, not seriously thinking about this.

      • I haven't thought about anything seriously in years. :)

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