In just one general election the Northwest Territories went from having the least representation by women in its Assembly to the most in the country. Moreover, women MLAs were elected to fill four of six cabinet positions and to be the premier. In this article, the author suggests these dramatic changes are a response, in part, to a significant discussion and debate members of the previous legislative assembly undertook to improve women’s participation and representation in the territory. She reviews the proposal for temporary special measures as a way to build representation, outlines other recommendations MLAs made to encourage more women to participate in territorial politics, and explains why this environment ultimately led many more women to put their name son the ballot in 2019.
Following a Legislative Press Gallery protest – about whether clothing that revealed bare arms was appropriate work attire in British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly – BC’s Speaker Darryl Plecas asked the Acting Clerk KateRyan-Lloyd to explore and update the institution’s largely unwritten dress guidelines. In this article, the author recounts the “Right To Bare Arms” drama, outlines the steps the Acting Clerk took to create new guidelines, and explains what kind of input her colleagues offered during the process. She concludes that revisiting the Assembly’s dress code and guidelines – especially in light of an increasingly diverse workplace and contemporary ideas about gender identity – was a valuable endeavour and encourages other parliamentarians to consider similar issues if they engage in a similar process.
In some ways, the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories has been a trailblazer in terms of diversity of representation in Canada. Since full responsible government returned in 1983, a majority of its MLAs have been Indigenous, as have all but two of its premiers. Moreover, Nellie Cournoyea became the first Indigenous woman to become premier of a province or territory in Canada and only the second woman ever to hold a premiership in the country. In terms of electing women to the Assembly, however, it has lagged behind many other jurisdictions. Currently only two MLAs are women (10 per cent of the Assembly) and since 1999 the Assembly has only surpassed this number of women MLAs once – three (or 15.8 per cent in 2007). In order to become a more representative body, the territorial Assembly unanimously adopted a motion to ensure at least 20 per cent of MLAs are women by 2023, and at least 30 per cent of MLAs are women by 2027. In this article, the author explains the concept of temporary special measures to achieve this goal. She outlines the experience of Samoa, another small jurisdiction with Westminster roots in which women were substantially underrepresented in parliament, to demonstrate how the NWT might reach these benchmarks. She concludes by noting that temporary special measures are one way of increasing women’s representation in assemblies, but others may work as well depending on the jurisdiction’s political culture and institutions. Continue reading “Temporary Special Measures: A Possible Solution to Get More Women Into Politics”
It’s undeniable that there are systemic barriers which prevent certain people from fully participating in society. Inside and outside of parliamentary politics, there has been much discussion and debate about the kinds of barriers women face. In this article, the author explores how a tendency for women to take on caregiving roles for children, and increasingly the elderly, is one such barrier to full participation – particularly for caregivers who are single. She writes that parliamentarians can and should lead by example by finding creative ways to eliminate these barriers in their own organizations and professional development activities. Continue reading “Inclusive and Diverse Leadership in Parliamentary Politics and Beyond”
Manitobans are immensely proud that their province holds the distinction of being the first to give some women the right to vote. In this article, the author recounts how early suffragists waged a successful campaign to extend the franchise and profiles famous suffragette Nellie McClung’s role in the battle. She concludes by outlining some of the celebrations held in honour of the centenary in 2016 and by calling for everyone to ensure we continue the work of these pioneer women by striving for full equality for women in our democracy.
On January 28, 1916, Manitoba was the first province to grant some women the right to vote. One hundred years later Manitoba celebrated this centennial in a grand way. I was very honoured to be part of these celebrations in 2016. It was extra special for me because 2016 was also the year I became only the fourth female Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature.
For politicians, shaking hands, kissing babies, cutting ribbons and being on the receiving end of angry diatribes from unhappy members of the public, all come with the territory. But women parliamentarians have been speaking up and speaking out about a particularly gendered form of social media bullying, harassment and threats that appear to have become more prevalent. In this roundtable three current or former women parliamentarians discuss the abuse they’ve encountered, how they’ve responded to it, and what they believe needs to be done to combat it.
Editor’s note: This roundtable contains unparliamentary language and, in particular, a derogatory slur. Prior to publication, the editorial board had a fulsome discussion and debate about whether to run this slur uncensored. Proponents of running the term uncensored noted that Hansard policy is to run slurs in an unedited form. Moreover, as women parliamentarians have had to hear or read these terms while serving the public, there was a sense that it would be hypocritical to censor the words for other readers in an article of this type. Alternatively, some members of the board felt running the slur unedited would revictimize women by perpetuating it and that it was beneath the dignity of the magazine to do it. And, in a very practical matter, it was noted that publishing these terms unedited could influence Web search engines to lower the Canadian Parliamentary Review’s ranking on these pages. By way of compromise, we have opted to run the terms with an asterix in place of a vowel to clearly indicate the slur or language being used, but to blunt its impact and eliminate search engine concerns. However, we include this note to explain that our decision to censor was not done without careful consideration and it is a decision we do not take lightly. We invite anyone who disagrees with the decision to send a letter to the editor, and have given all participants in this roundtable the opportunity to write a response which we will print alongside this article if they disagree with our decision.
Approaching the 100th anniversary of the election of BC’s first woman Member of the Legislative Assembly in 2018, the author reflects on some of the achievements of the first 100 women MLAs elected in the province. She notes that these women have often proven to be excellent role models for young people aspiring to a career in politics and public service.
Although parliamentarians and public figures with disabilities have attained a heightened profile in Canada over the past decade, new research suggests that people who identify as having a disability are not seeking public office in numbers representative of their place in the general population. In this roundtable the Canadian Parliamentary Review gathered scholars, parliamentarians and public officer holders who have an interest in disability and politics to discuss the state of parliamentary politics for persons with disabilities and strategies for making political life more accessible to Canadians.
CPR: Prof. Levesque, your recent research suggests persons with disabilities are not seeking elected office in numbers representative of their place in the general population. Why is participation in elected politics among persons with disabilities so low?
Members of the Legislative Assembly in Canada’s smallest province are not provided with a budget to establish their own constituency offices. Instead, as Deputy Speaker Paula Biggar explains, backbench MLAs must do constituency work and hold meetings in a variety of locations including their offices in the capital buildings, local government-run information access centres, libraries, coffee shops or even in their own homes. Biggar notes that while PEI MLAs are the lowest paid in the country, they tend to be, and are expected to be, the most accessible to constituents.
CPR: Constituency offices seem to have developed haphazardly across Canada over the past 40 to 50 years and are now well-established in many jurisdictions. Why do you think Prince Edward Island has not adopted them for provincial politics?
In this roundtable discussion, three MLAs from rural/northern parts of the Northwest Territories reflect on the unique challenges parliamentarians face when doing constituency work in remote communities. They explain that offices often tailor themselves to the needs of the community. For MLAs, an office helps to create work/life balance, offers a source of much-needed local employment, and provides an additional connection to the seat of government. They are also the office of last appeal for constituents frustrated by bureaucratic decisions.
CPR: When you represent a geographically vast district, how do you decide where to set up your constituency office(s)? How do you balance where you spend your time?