Despite local achievements, women in politics still face challenges

Elizabeth May helped form a new all-party women’s caucus to tackle some of the issues facing women in politics.

  • Dec. 31, 2011 3:00 p.m.

When Christy Clark became Premier on March 14, it marked the first time in 20 years that B.C. has been led by a woman. Mere months later, another woman made history by becoming became the first Green Party candidate elected as a member of parliament. And then there’s the fact four of the seven MLAs on the South Island are women.

However, before declaring a golden age for women in politics, Saanich-Gulf Islands MP and Green Party leader Elizabeth May says the hard work is just beginning.

When May was elected to the House of Commons on May 2, she began contacting other female members and soon helped form a new all-party women’s caucus to tackle some of the issues facing women in politics.

The group, led by New Democrat Francois Boivin and Conservatives Nancy Ruth and Rona Ambrose, includes every woman member of the senate. The aim is to discuss challenges in a non-partisan light.

“I’ve exchanged horror stories with other women who have experienced similar things,” May said, singling out comments about weight and fashion that female politicians must constantly deal with. “I’m hoping political culture can change.”

Janni Aragon, a professor of political science specializing in gender politics at the University of Victoria, calls May a voice of reason.

“I think it’s a little early to say that she’s some kind of harbinger of hope for all female elected officials,” Aragon said. “If anything, what we’ve witnessed here is that she was able to effectively run a campaign in a new riding and win. I don’t think that speaks so much to her gender as to the politics of the day. People were so unhappy with the previous MP, Gary Lunn.”

Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James, who was ousted from her position as provincial leader of the NDP in late 2010 as a result of party infighting, says it is getting better for women in politics.

Despite the personal insults and heckling, the atmosphere in what is still a mainly male-dominated environment has improved over the seven years James served as opposition leader, she said.

“We still have a long way to go for women in politics and I don’t think that’s unique to British Columbia; I think that’s common across the country,” James said. “There are many women, myself included, who believe in doing politics differently.”

When James was vocal about her desire to lessen the hostile environment at the legislature, she felt she was regarded as weak or unable to keep up with the cut and thrust of the political games, she said.

By retaining her position as MLA despite the public scrutiny she endured, James hopes to set an example to other women and contribute to a positive change in the political scene.

“I certainly wouldn’t say that it’s all related to gender,” James said.

“The more that we’re able to elect people – women, young people, folks from the multicultural community, people who do politics in another kind of way and get more diverse faces in the system – that’s how I believe we’ll be able to make the change.”

May remains hopeful that the women’s caucus will gain momentum and more females – especially young women – will strive to be political stars, rather than playing supporting roles.

“We’ve got a sense that maybe things are coming together,” May said.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Women in Politics

Local Members of the Legislative Assembly

•  Carole James, Victoria-Beacon Hill

• Maurine Karagianis, Esquimalt-Royal Roads

• Lana Popham, Saanich South

• Ida Chong, Oak Bay-Gordon Head

Local Members of Parliament:

• Elizabeth May, Saanich-Gulf Islands

• Denise Savoie, Victoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Saanich police break up Canada Day gathering of nearly 200 youth in Mount Douglas Park

Officers observed underage drinking, public intoxication, lack of physical distancing

Loaded gun, hundreds of rounds ammunition seized in Victoria

Victoria police focus on Project Burnside Gorge Connect

Undercover operation exposes prominent human trafficking problem in Greater Victoria

VicPD’s Operation No More took place in mid-June at a local hotel

Langford approves permit for 124-unit mass timber building

Tallwood 1 to be completed by late 2021

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

Major B.C. salmon farm tests new containment system to curb sea lice infestations

System “essentially eliminates” contact between wild and farmed fish stocks, says Cermaq

US unemployment falls to 11%, but new shutdowns are underway

President Donald Trump said the jobs report shows the economy is “roaring back”

Ottawa jail inmates argue anti-COVID measures a breach of charter rights

The prisoners allege guards did not wear masks until April 25

Epstein pal arrested, accused of luring girls for sex abuse

Ghislaine Maxwell was in an intimate relationship with Epstein for years

B.C. repairs COVID-19 emergency order for local government

Ombudsperson shut out as his recommendations implemented

No doctor assisted death allowed at Hamlets in Duncan

Faith-based company that owns facility believes in sanctity of life

More than 50,000 Coronavirus cases reported per day in US

Coronavirus cases are rising in 40 of 50 US states

Trump plans huge July 4 fireworks show despite DC’s concerns

Despite health concerns from D.C.’s mayor, no one apparently will be required to wear masks

Most Read