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Gains and Pains: Women’s Municipal Representation in Ontario October 30, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Politics.
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Two Toronto elects:newcomer Mary Fragedakis and elected incumbent Paula Fletcher

Monday October 25, 2010 was Municipal Election Day in Ontario. While my Facebook news feed was full of people fearing the repercussions of a possible Rob Ford victory in Toronto, I was hoping for historic gains in women’s representation across the province.

Prior to E-Day, women’s representation in municipal politics stood at just 23% (Canada-wide). Women’s voices (in all their diversity) are simply not being heard in City Halls across the country.

I attended a mayoral debate in Ottawa where the only female candidate running, Jane Scharf, was denied an invitation. She took to the stage during the live TV taping, demanding that she had a right to speak alongside her four male competitors. While her tactics were questionable, her point was not.

I also came across a story written about a Waterloo ward meeting where one of the female candidates, Melissa Durrell, stated that she was at home with small children. The two other male candidates then stated that they were the best person to elect because they didn’t have to look after small children…. Seriously?

Back to E-Day, I was paying close attention to 3 cities: Ottawa, where I currently reside; Toronto, my hometown; and Waterloo, my home last year.

I’ll start with Waterloo. Going into the election the city had gender parity on its eight-person city council, including a female Mayor. Amazingly, with the election they were able to gain on this and the council now has a female majority! Women hold five of the eight seats, including the Mayor. Wow.

Toronto managed to elect a critical mass of 33% women. A gleeful reporter in The Star began her article declaring – “Women, we have arrived!” With 15 females elected out of 45, women have (finally) gained a strong voice at Toronto City Hall. 8 females were re-elected as incumbents, 4 beat ward incumbents, and 3 won in open races. Huzzah!

And then there is Ottawa. Of the 130 candidates who ran, only 21 were women (16%). Also in 12 of the 23 wards – there was not one woman running. How many women were elected you may wonder? Good question, I could not find one source that reported specifically on this. But from my own unofficial count, the answer is 4.

Well, there you have it. It was a certainly a historic night in Waterloo as well as Toronto for women in politics. As for Ottawa … next time!

-E. Cain


FFFF: Babe Bennett on Politics October 29, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, FFFF, Politics.
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This is an oldie, from 1994, but in 16 years we’ve only gone from 18% to 22.1% of the seats in the House of Commons filled by women.

Have a great weekend!

The Round-Up: Sept. 17, 2010 September 17, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in feminism, Politics, Pop Culture.
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FFFF: 22 Minutes on John Baird June 4, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, FFFF, Politics, Pop Culture.
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Because it’s related to E. Cain’s post from this morning, I thought I’d share this clip from This Hour Has 22 Minutes about John Baird’s temper for your Friday Feminist Funny Film.


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Baird is Parliamentarian of the Year?: Oh Hell No! June 4, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, Politics.
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Today I want to write about the antiquated masculine culture which permeates Canadian Politics. If you’ve ever watched Question Period, then you know what I’m talking about.  Politics is one of the few professions in this country where is considered acceptable (even encouraged) to point fingers, scream, yell, bang on desks and berate your colleagues.

One politician who has built a reputation for himself based on this abhorrent behaviour is the Conservative Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, John Baird. The Globe and Mail writes “[Baird has] gained a reputation as an attack dog, screaming responses to opposition questions, insulting and snarling at any who have the audacity to challenge him.”

Minister John Baird

Charming right? Well, today Baird was named Parliamentarian of the Year in Macleans magazine. This honour is bestowed by the Canadian Members of Parliament. They are asked to vote in several categories (their votes are converted into a points system to ensure that larger parties don’t have an advantage). This year, 202 MPs voted (nearly 70%).

The accompanying Maclean’s article gushes about Baird, including: his leadership marshalling the Accountability Act and overseeing billions of dollars in federal stimulus money; his role as Harper’s #2; and his behind-the-scenes ability to schmooze with the best of them.

While this may all be true, when I heard that Baird was the recipient of this honour, my first reaction was: Oh Hell No!

John Baird is one of the most disrespectful politicians in the Canadian government. This is his public persona. This is what he is known for. In a previous blog article on gendered media coverage of politicians, I wrote about Baird’s ‘emotional outburst’ last summer which resulted in him telling the city of Toronto to ‘f- off.’  Sadly, this is not unusual behaviour for Baird. In fact, on the very same day he was named Parliamentarian of the Year, he showed up uninvited to a committee hearing. He then berated the Chair, Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi, implying she was unintelligent and referring to her by her first name, and lashed out at another committee member Liberal MP Siobhan Coady.

To hammer home my point – the confrontational, adversarial nature of Canadian politics is identified as one of the main reasons why women don’t run for political office. This does not mean that women are weak. It means that many women don’t want to go to work every day and have to deal with disrespectful men. It makes for a hostile working environment, it’s demoralizing and downright counter-productive.

Over the years, countless politicians – of both genders and of all political stripes – have called for a change in this ‘blood sport’ mentality present in Canadian Politics. For this reason, I have to say that I was shocked John Baird was named Parliamentarian of the Year! He represents the epitome of what needs to change in Canadian politics. He should not be rewarded; a better course of action would be to reprimand him for his unacceptable behaviour and recommend anger management.

-E. Cain

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Two Views on Helena Guergis: 2) No Sympathy April 16, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, Politics.
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And here’s another take on it from Darcy A.

Helena Guergis: No Sympathy

I must admit, I’ve been waiting for the online Globe and Mail to post a headline without Helena Guergis’s name in it for more than a week now. As much as I wish this story had never happened or for it to just go away already, allow me to keep it alive for one more headline.

For those of you who don’t know, this is a story about a female politician—a cabinet minister at that—who erupted in the Charlottetown airport (over being asked to obey the very laws her government enacted), caught the fascination of the media, turns out to have made some very bad (possibly illegal) choices and now finds herself marred in scandal and expelled from the Conservative caucus.

There are women I know who are enraged over the hard treatment Guergis has received. “If she was a man,” they say, “none of this would have happened.” Or “If she was a man, the Prime Minister wouldn’t have been so quick to dump her.” While I agree with them, I still find it hard to sympathize with Guergis.

I’m not going to disagree with anyone who says that women are held to different (Higher! Tougher!) standards then their male colleagues and that this is unfair (Unjust!). In my mind, all the more reason to be angry with Guergis. She’s a woman who made it pretty darn close to the top, only to support policies that reduced the power of women in Canada, and then put on a public display that reinforces the negative stereotypes of women in power.

Just because a politician is a woman doesn’t mean she actually supports women’s interests. Guergis is part of a party that doesn’t care about women’s shelters, childcare, LGBT rights, or poverty. Furthermore, one of the first things the Conservatives did when they came to power was dismantle the Ministry for the Status of women, making it more difficult for women across the country to access their Constitutional rights because they can’t personally afford our justice system. If Guergis had no problem sitting at the helm of that enfeebled ministry, I have no problem not defending her.

-Darcy A.

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Two Views on Helena Guergis: 1) R-E-S-P-E-C-T April 16, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, Politics.
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It’s pretty hard to find Canadian media not talking about Helena Guergis, and we’re not going to be the exception. Today we have two differing viewpoints on the continuing coverage of the scandals surrounding Guergis. To start, here’s a piece from E. Cain.

Helena Guergis

Helena Guergis: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Last month I wrote about the biased, unfair media attention which plagued Conservative MP, Helena Guergis in response to her ‘emotional outburst’ at the Charlottetown airport.

Since then, media fascination with Helena Guergis has not subsided. The scandals have kept coming:

Guergis’ office assistant was caught sending letters praising the Minister to the local newspaper posing as a regular voter. Guergis claimed to have had no knowledge of these letters. 

There were accusations that Guergis was given a mortgage for the full $880,000 amount for a home in Ottawa. This alleged arrangement reeked of preferential treatment which would have been in violation of the conflict of interest code. Liberal MP, Marlene Jennings wrote to the federal ethics commissioner asking her to look into this matter.

Last week reports surfaced that, Guergis’ husband, Rahim Jaffer was boasting to business contacts about his access to Harper’s inner circle and made promises to obtain government funds for them. This directly impacted Guergis because it is reported that Jaffer wrote personal emails using one of Guergis’ parliamentary accounts on a government issued blackberry.

Opposition MPs have been calling for Guergis to resign for over a month and just last week they finally got what they have been asking for – Guergis resigned from her cabinet position. She will remain MP for Simcoe Grey but she was asked by the Prime Minister to sit outside the Conservative caucus while the RCMP investigates ‘serious allegations’ over her conduct (no more specifics were given).

So, what’s to make of this Guergis saga?

There is absolutely no doubt Guergis made mistakes – some of her own doing and I also believe the actions of her husband contributed to her demise. However, the media coverage which plagued Guergis has been nothing short of humiliating and it has been going on for months. I have a really difficult time understanding why our society has so much interest and fascination in watching the demise of a female politician. What happened to respect, compassion, empathy and all that good stuff?

I also find it particularly disheartening that with all this discussion about the Minister of State (Status of Women) there has been hardly any discussion about the real issue – her job. In particular, how well she is doing her job? What has she been doing to improve the status of women in this country? This is what should be considered newsworthy

Guergis will answer for her actions in the next election, should she decide to run again. In the meantime, I am still hoping we will be able to move on and focus on the real political issues.

-E. Cain

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