The eternal question


A few interesting reads from the weekend: Susan Delacourt looks at new research into the electability of women in Canada, Alice Funke adds her own analysis, and Linda Silver Dranoff reviews Canada’s Unfinished Democracy. From the latter.

She points out that this “women+power=discomfort” equation makes people focus on the contests that women lose and extrapolate from that, that women are losers. Many do run in ridings they have no chance of winning, or for parties that have no chance of governing.

The examples she provides are persuasive, including Agnes MacPhail, Thérèse Casgrain, Kim Campbell and Belinda Stronach, but the one that resonated with me was Flora MacDonald. In 1976, she was considered a shoo-in for the Progressive Conservative leadership; members of her party had promised her enough votes to assure a win. But when they went into the voting booths, they didn’t vote for her. Has Bashevkin provided the explanation about 30 years later? Were MacDonald’s supporters just plain uncomfortable with a woman in power? It would seem so.

One other way of looking at this: what precisely is the model for female political leadership in Canada? Who would you tell a 25-year-old women thinking of getting into politics to model herself after?

Sheila Copps? Audrey McLaughlin? Alexa McDonough? Kim Campbell? Anne McLellan? Belinda Stronach?

Better yet, limit your options to the current Parliament. There are a dozen compelling options—Martha Hall Findlay, Lisa Raitt, Diane Finley, Megan Leslie, Libby Davies, Marlene Jennings, Olivia Chow, Kirsty Duncan, Siobhan Coady—but are any of them thought of as future prime ministers? Who is the next woman to lead a national political party in this country? If Messrs. Harper, Ignatieff and Layton resigned on mass tomorrow—hey, there’s an idea!—is there a woman right now who would be considering anything but a long shot to replace one of them?


The eternal question

  1. You forgot to include Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, who were widely watched in Canada over the past year. Certainly as a young woman, I was inspired to become involved in electoral politics in part after the vice-presidential nomination of Geraldine Ferraro.

  2. I have a few thoughts:
    If Martha Hall Findlay were to distinguish herself as a cabinet minister in the 2010s, I suspect that she would be a competitive leadership candidate in the 2020s. The same could be said of Rudy Dhalla.

    Belinda Stronach makes for a very interesting "what if", as in what if she had voted with the conservatives to defeat Martin's government. Then what if, the conservatives had lost? Would she have had a good shot at replacing Harper. What if, they had won? Would Belinda have been the key to a Harper majority?

  3. Pete – agree with your comment re: Martha and think you can up the timeline to the late 2010s if conditions present themselves appropriately. As for Ruby, there's no substance there -and so a horrible leader in the making. Her skill set will allow her to be an effective junior cabinet minister at best -at least that's my assessment.

    • Even your luke-warm approval of Ruby is generous, IMHO

  4. Ditto on Clinton and Palin, though you seem to be deliberately restricting yourself to Canadian options. You might have included Rona Ambrose or Leona Aglukkaq as well, or Christine Elliot if you were to include provincial politicians.

    Layton's replacement would probably be the most likely to be a woman but we're a long way from an NDP leader as a potential Prime Minister. I don't think anyone on the CPC or LPC benches is a potential PM in waiting yet. Before the Jasmine Macdonnell nonsense I would have picked Raitt as the most likely combination of talent, charisma, and political acumen to make the leap.

    • Would you say that Rona Ambrose and Leona Aglukkaq are roughly equivalnet? I'd put Rona head (and shoulders) above Leona.

      How much longer will it take Rona to recover from her stint in Environment? I figure she is almost ready to have another shot at a major department. Btw, she did quite well in that portfolio considering the help she got from the PM and her colleagues.

      On second thought, she is Minister of Labour right now, is she not? Haven't heard much from her during these somewhat tough times for labour; perhaps she is still on a tight leash?

  5. I suspect that if Findley ever begins to look like a serious player she will be quietly bought off by someone else with the promise of a court appointment.

  6. Carbert's observation:
    "In fact, it's rural women themselves who seem reluctant to buy into a political system they don't particularly trust or admire. The very features of rural life – close community values, knowing and working with your neighbours – make women reluctant to enter the field of politics, with its partisanship, shifting relationships and power plays."
    raises the catch 22 associated with women in any organization. If we had more women in politics, the gamesmanship would be reduced and it would be easier to recruit more women politicians. Hopefully we get to critical mass soon.

  7. "Who would you tell a 25-year-old women thinking of getting into politics to model herself after?

    Sheila Copps? Audrey McLaughlin? Alexa McDonough? Kim Campbell? Anne McLellan? Belinda Stronach?"

    Why model yourself after those fishwives?

    If I was going to model myself after someone, I would choose a winner, surely. Why not look at Thatcher, Meir or Gandhi.

  8. "Who would you tell a 25-year-old women thinking of getting into politics to model herself after?

    Sheila Copps? Audrey McLaughlin? Alexa McDonough? Kim Campbell? Anne McLellan? Belinda Stronach?"

    Why model yourself after those fishwives?

    If you are going to model yourself after someone, surely you would choose a winner. Why not look at Thatcher, Meir or Gandhi.

  9. "Why model yourself after those fishwives? "

    Uh, jolyon, you may have inadvertantly exemplified the very point made being made by Professor Bashevkin. Was it really necessary to make such a sexist comment?

    There was a kinder more gracious way to make the point you wanted to.

    • On the topic of sexist comments, I feel I must confess that I too am, perhaps, guilty. When a previous commenter stated above that Rona Ambrose is head and shoulders above Leona Aglukkaq, I thought to myself, "Tits and ass, too."

      • And still, you felt you had to share that.

  10. "en masse"
    "a 25 year-old woman"

  11. The scariest part of those stories Wheery linked to so uncritically? The suggested creation of:

    "A media-monitoring program with court-imposed sanctions is the book's proposed way of challenging biased portrayals of women in politics."

    Batsh*t insane.

    • So according to Sylvia Bashevkin's plan, if a journalist writes a so-called "biased portrayal" of a female politician, she (the journalist) could face court-imposed sanctions? That is nuts.

    • Makes you wonder what other potential solutions were considered, and then presumably discarded as inferior.

  12. Thatcher out-masculined most men. I hope the women of tomorrow don't feel the need to over-compensate like many of their predecessors

  13. hardmouth, could you please explain what you mean by the term "over-compensate" in this context?

  14. As a young female who is very interested in politics, I think that Nicki Ashton and Megan Leslie are both great role models, for their achievements outside the House as well as those inside.