By Rebecca Lindell via Global News
Monday, January 14, 2013
OTTAWA – The rise of women to the top positions of political power in their provinces appears set to continue as Sandra Pupatello and Kathleen Wynne took the lead in the race to replace Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
A win by either woman would make history as the first time Canada’s most populous province was lead by a female.
It would also continue a trend that’s been sweeping the country. A female premier in Ontario would join five other women at the helm of their provinces or territories: Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland, Pauline Marois in Quebec, Alison Redford in Alberta, Christy Clark in British Columbia and Eva Aariak in Nunavut.
Such a breakthrough would also see 87 per cent of Canadians represented by a woman at the provincial level.
With the exception of Aariak, all of those women have risen to power in the past two years. Previously, just five women have ever served as premier in any province or territory.
“It’s wild,” said Nancy Peckford, executive director of Equal Voice, a multi-partisan organization that encourages women to run for political office.
Peckford attributes the development to a growth period for both female politicians and the electorate.
“The women were always there . . . they just hadn’t attained, at the provincial and territorial levels, the highest seat of power,” she said. “They were garnering the experience, getting ready and probably waiting for the right opportunities to come forward.”
Peckford’s hypothesis certainly holds true for many of Canada’s current and would-be premiers.
After taking a two-year break, Pupatello is coming back to provincial politics where she served as a member of provincial parliament for 16 years. Her careers included six cabinet positions covering policy areas like education, trade, social services and women’s issues.
Wynne was elected to the Ontario legislature in 2003 and has also served as a cabinet minister, including portfolios like education, municipal affairs and housing, transportation and aboriginal affairs.
Clark, Redford, Dunderdale and Marois all had significant political experience before taking the reins of their respective parties and provinces.
While the number of women represented in provincial legislatures is still well below the 53 per cent in the general population, those that do manage to break down the barriers are highly-motivated, according to Sylvia Bashevkin.
“Many of these women are extremely experienced and they are prepared to stay there in the long haul and continue to keep competing,” said the author of Women, Power, Politics: The Hidden Story of Canada’s Unfinished Democracy.
Along with the politicians, Peckford says, the electorate has become more accustomed to and confident in female leaders.
“The timing is right for both the electorate and the women seeking those leadership opportunities,” Peckford said. Read full article>>