QUEBEC — Human backdrops at the party leaders’ photo ops have come to characterize the 2015 election campaign, designed carefully to personify the daily policy announcements the politicians dole out.
But Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was on the defensive in Quebec City on Wednesday for the makeup of his backdrop, as he stood in front of a wall of 14 male candidates from the region.
Trudeau had wanted to focus on reforming the relationship between Ottawa and the provinces. But instead, he wound up explaining his party’s system to recruit female candidates.
Trudeau said his party held open nominations across the country and the Liberals are proud that about a third of their candidates are women.
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“We, of course, would like it to be more,” Trudeau told reporters ahead of a rally held in the federal riding of Louis-Hebert, currently held by the New Democrats.
“I believe that my pledge to ensure that the federal cabinet will be made up of 50/50 men and women will go a long way towards demonstrating that the Liberal party is committed to ensuring that women’s voices are heard just as loudly as men’s in a future Liberal government.”
In French, Trudeau also suggested Wednesday’s all-male backdrop was an accident of geography.
Grit spokesperson Zita Astravas sent a note to reporters travelling with Trudeau to indicate Marie-Josee Normand, a candidate in the Quebec riding of Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere-du-Loup, was not able to join area candidates for the media availability.
Astravas said Normand attended the rally that followed.
NDP candidate Peggy Nash took aim at the Liberals following the event.
“Mr. Trudeau claimed that using 14 male candidates as a backdrop was an accident,” Nash said in a statement. “Is it also an accident that only seven of the 22 candidates on his economic team promoted on their website are women? With women making up more than 40 per cent of the NDP’s team of candidates, Tom Mulcair knows that the underrepresentation of women in politics is anything but an accident.”
Equal Voice, an organization that advocates to elect more Canadian women to all levels of office, said data from the end of August indicated the overall percentage of females nominated for the main five parties hovers at around 31 per cent, which is the same as the 2011 election.