Jordan: If there’s one thing Canadians can bank on from a re-elected Justin Trudeau, it’s that he will make sure you know, he is a feminist. And he will be fighting for women’s issues and he will be choosing a gender balanced his cabinet and on and on. But regardless of what you think of our prime ministers brand of feminism and results are mixed.
Last week’s election saw real results for women in politics and Canada, and that continues a recent trend. Things may not be nearly equal, but gains are being made and they should be celebrated. And they were a little bit, and then a couple of days later we realized just how far we have to go.
News Clip: Many call it one of the most divisive and nasty election campaigns in history. Well, that nastiness didn’t end on election day. Katherine McKinnis campaign staff discovered this vulgar slur for the female anatomy spray painted on her campaign office window in Ottawa. It comes just days after McKenna won her writing of Ottawa centre.
This is really beneath us Canadians. Um, I am. Angry, and quite frankly, really disappointed
Jordan: At a time when more women than ever before are choosing to enter politics. Are we doing enough to make sure they feel safe and secure as they try to get into office, our parties, building the infrastructure and making the choices that will eventually lead to a quality.
In the house of commons and in the aftermath of what was a pretty nasty partisan campaign. Is this something that all Canadian politicians should be able to work together on? I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings, and this is the big story. Sarah bows. Feld is a freelance journalist, a sometimes host. Of the big story, and she covered this campaign for Chatelaine with an eye towards women in government.
Sarah: Hey Jordan.
Jordan: How’s it going?
Sarah: I’m doing while I’m recovering after this election campaign. I didn’t even cover it that hard. I’m just tired.
Jordan: Listen, we took a week off from politics after. This is our first political discussion since the election.
Sarah: Well, I’m glad to help you dip back in.
Jordan: Good. So first I guess just tell me how was the 2019 election in terms of representation for women in government?
Sarah: There have been no massive headlines about this, sadly, but we have elected a record number of women in parliament. This is not happened before that we have, you know, 98 women elected into office.
No, we had 88, um, in 2015 and that was the big year for women. Right. There was like the gender balance cabinet. That’s when all the talk started, you know? And now we actually have more. And that’s significant. I think like it’s, it’s inching up. It’s not quite right. Where it would really make a difference in terms of parody.
That’d be something more like a 103 seats, um, to make like a 30%, which is not parity, but it’s like, at least you can make more of a difference around that. I think there’s a gig, a UN number that kind of, uh, has that as the global benchmark for the sort of representation that’d be really good to have for women and in governments around the world.
So we’re not there yet. But like big story, you know, it’s like just to keep on brand with the five guys. Big story over here. Um, we now have more women than ever before. And Ottawa,
Jordan: Here’s a question. Is it– is it good that it’s not a big deal that it keeps going up?
Sarah: I kind of like that you asked me that. Yeah. Um, I do appreciate that actually. I, because it should be a normal, perfectly fine, wonderful thing to have women alongside men. I do think though, in the whole narrative of women’s progress, you know, that we should be cheering things on as they go because, uh. Guess what?
In the past, maybe we haven’t made it to record levels, but we have dipped backwards. You know, we have had, I mean, there’s always going to be a record before we started making noise about it.
Jordan: Not like a constant upward trend.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah. It had been something like 15% for a long time. Hovered around there, dipped below, like back in.
2006 you know, there were, there was a 16.8% representation in Ottawa, and then in the 2008 election, it went down to 15.5 so there’s been like, you know, pull backs before, you know, things aren’t always on an upward trajectory.
Jordan: Who are the women elected to office, and I don’t mean name them,
but who are the key figures who both in government and in the opposition, who we’ll be hearing about for the next few years.
Sarah: Yeah. So the big names are certainly a, you know, a Michelle Rempel in for the conservative party has a lot of name recognition and then a ton of liberals got reelected.
So someone like a Catherine McKenna, who’s a, been sort of the minister of climate and, and foreign affairs minister, Krista Freeland, um, right down to some of the less prominent, um, you know, cabinet ministers, uh, mayor. She actually just got through on a squeaker like it was. It was close for some people.
There’s actually a huge loss for the NDP, which is interesting given the fact that they actually ran a gender parody slate of candidates. They actually had 49% women running. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and I mean, the conservatives had a lot more women than ever before. I think they had something like a 12% increase, which is a huge for the conservatives.
Um, you know, but at the same time, like there weren’t a ton of gains there. Actually, a big story was the bloc Quebecois got a lot of women in. So, I mean, the landscape looks a bit different, you know, but I think there are mostly incumbents and back in Ottawa.
Jordan: So no new faces or few new faces.
Sarah: Yeah, there are definitely some new faces. You know, there’s some really interesting ones. So I mentioned how the NDP didn’t have as great as showing for women. They actually only got nine women and which, you know, I can’t remember what the exact number was before, but for running a slate of like 50% women candidates, only nine, you know, there’s 338 writings y’all like, like that’s not very many people, but there are some exciting ones, you know.
The NDP actually now represents one of the biggest writings in Canada, which is none of it. You know, a young woman, a 25 year old, her name is mama LOC Kukoc, and she’s that none of it’s next MP for the NDP. And she, uh, you know, at a Leona glue, CAC was up there before for the conservative party for a while.
And so no longer, you know, so there’s some really exciting faces too. And actually another one, uh, the green party in Fredericton, uh, has a woman. In that seat now, and that is of course, you know, you talked a lot on this program about the green party’s rise and a provincial legislatures, and so now Elizabeth May on election night was talking, which is really the only one talking about gender progress.
Jordan: Shockingly. I wonder why.
Sarah: Yeah, she was like two thirds have like three people in Ottawa are women for that party, so good job. Elizabeth May.
Jordan: So when you were watching the results, aside from the raw numbers and in the days afterwards, what were your takeaways. From, who got elected, where they got elected, which party they belong to, incumbents.
You mentioned they were mostly incumbents.
Sarah: Yeah. That was my big observation. You know, I was lucky enough to, to sort of have a huddle with equal voice beforehand. Um, before I covered, um, the, the Knight for shadowing on social media, and they are basically Canada’s largest, most visible. A body that is, uh, advocating for equal representation in Ottawa.
And so there are mostly focused on women. Uh, I think, you know, they do have an eye to all genders as well. Um, but they are trying to get Canada to that affirmation, sort of UN, uh, parity level, which is around 30% women. So they were really hoping on election night to have about 103 women get into office.
And you know, we have 98. It’s very close. It’s like, that’s like painfully close. That’s five women off from this. This target that they, that they met, that they wanted to meet. So, I mean, uh, you know, that, that to me though, they given me sort of a list of, here are all the incumbents and I, you know, one after the other as the major, you know, flow of, of ridings came in with.
Ontario and Quebec. It was just like in combat after incumbent after and comment that we’re women actually, interestingly, that are very, very few incumbents in Atlantic Canada that are women. You know, there’s like two, so that was a very slow part of the night. Um, you know, I was really interested to see some, um.
People who didn’t win, but they came very close. Like they were actually really important challengers. And I think in, in Atlanta, Canada, there was a lot more women running for the green party. And those were, those were people who were almost gonna eclipse it, sort of a liberal or conservative out there.
Um, and then of course, you know, there were certainly some women running in Alberta, but we saw how big of a blue wash out that was, you know, for any of the liberal writings for the NDP there. I mean, the one riding that is not conservative in Alberta. Is writing that is now represented by a woman who is an NDP, one of those few NDP women.
Um, and then of course, Jody Wilson Raybould winning her writing as an independent, but, but Jane fell pot not winning her writing as a, as a, an independent, you know, so I think that was interesting to see them not. Both have that success. Um, and then Lisa, right, losing her seat in Milton. So the GTA was going to be a really important, uh, area for all the parties, but particularly the liberals to hold on and for the conservatives to hold on to whatever they had.
And so she’s out, you know, to have a, uh, kind of a superstar liberal candidate, a former Olympian, Adam Vancouver, it ends now gonna represent Milton. So I think that was a crushing loss for the party. And it is a loss for, uh, for, uh, you know, someone on that. On that side of the aisle that represent women and to speak for women’s interests.
She’s, she did a lot of that legwork for the conservative party.
Jordan: You’ve covered women while they run for office and spend time with a lot of them. Speaking to the fact that most of the women elected were incumbents. What are the challenges that a new woman running for office would face? That obviously it’s harder to run than to run as an incumbent for anybody running for office, but, uh, for women in particular.
Sarah: Yeah, I mean, you know, we did a piece for Chatelaine that came out in September, just really talking and grilling down, grilling a number of the women who are in Ottawa now or were in Ottawa before. Um, the house Rose for this election and the big takeaway was that the house is not built for women.
You know, it is not a flexible place, so it’s not an easy place to have a family, although the parties are trying very hard to make sure that they let them. You know, like, uh, a member come in with their child if need be. Um, you know, Niki Ashton, who, uh, also got through in her, her Manitoba riding, but had a lot of really strong women challengers there.
She, she had twins, she’s twins now, and she’s still on a daycare wait list in Ottawa. You know, and I think like, I think I heard from them a lot of challenges with some of the polarization in the house. The way that heckling and performing for the, the, you know, the question period cameras is a lot of pressure to put on, um, anyone, you know, but certainly women, um, you may, you know, tend to have a harder time with that depending on who you are.
Um, there’s just a lot to navigate in Ottawa. But I mean, the one thing I took away from doing that piece was that there does seem to be, you know, I don’t want to say the sisterhood that’s settled so lame, but like, the idea that there is. Women are helping each other out in Ottawa. I think they really are wanting that
Jordan: Across the aisle though?
Sarah: Yeah, I think so. A little bit. I mean, not everybody is reaching across the aisle. There’s certainly a lot of partisanship and, and I did the interviews. Um, you know back in the summer when everyone’s sort of heating up
Jordan: Before we started hating each other even more.
Sarah: Well, yeah, and it was like silly season. It was just, there was a lot of partisanship and, but there was a lot of disappointment that some of the women expressed about how they, they, they came into a lot of optimism that they could really make a difference.
And that that is, you know, the research shows that it is really a primary reason why women get involved in politics. They want things to be better for their kids. They want to You know, they, they see that they have a skill set and they wanna make things better. And I think a lot of the narratives that, that Jody Wilson Raybould and Jane Philpott and Elizabeth May have put forward about doing politics differently has resonated with some women.
Um, but I think there is, there is still disappointment when you arrive in Ottawa that this is like, uh, an old. S, you know, stilted place that has its formalities that are built around the time, you know, of Confederation when it was just men in there. Um, there are still a lot of challenges for women and also to go back to just, um, the, the high number of women incumbents getting back to Ottawa and the lower number of women who ran for the first time and didn’t make it in or ran for the first time for the party.
Like that’s disappointing to see, right? Because it shows that parties, as much as they are upping their number of candidates. That are women. All the parties did that. Um, they still haven’t succeeded in, in having women run in winnable seats. And I mean, there’s only so much algebra you can do before an election, but th th you know, the parties know, you know, how, how likely is it that we’re going to win that seat if they, if they, if they run a woman up against a guy who has, has been an office for years and years and years, you know, it might be their,
Jordan: They get to look good for a minute, but they know their.
Probably not getting that person in any way.
Sarah: Yeah. I mean, you know, things could go. It also depends on the larger, you know, how things are playing out in the larger landscape too. But
Jordan: Even casual political observers know where like the safe seats are. If I wanted to run a liberal or a conservative, I don’ know, the first thing about a internal polling, but I could pick a few writings where I’m sure they would get,
Sarah: Oh yeah. Like the writing where I grew up, it’s leads Grenfell you know, um, that has been conservative for years and years. You could, you know, like I’ve, I’ve talked to like, you know, sort of old farmer residents in that area, and they were like, you could run a dog and this riding and it would be for the conservative party and they would get in, you know, so it’s just like, it’s, you know, at the same time though, I talked to a lot of women candidates and.
And they want to win. Obviously they want to make that difference, but they’re, they’re running for lots of different reasons too. They’re running to, to really learn about their communities and to connect and to maybe eventually make it somewhere in off. Honestly, hats off, you know, to someone who even just invest that time and effort and, and pretty much knows they’re not gonna to make it to Ottawa.
Jordan: So we know that parties want to run more women and they are running more women. Do we know if more women in general are trying to, or choosing to run for office?
Sarah: Yeah, we do. And I think I can say that with confidence because you know, there are parallel things going on to the United States that obviously, you know, we don’t have that same fervor of, uh, we have, you know.
A precedent in power. Now that is a–
Jordan: Good with not having the fervor.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. I mean like there are there, there’s less inflammatory stuff to react to here in Canada because in the, in the U S there’s been a huge uprising of women getting involved for the very first time. Yeah. You’re in Canada, though.
There are echoes of that, you know, and there weren’t a lot of women marching in the women’s March for Canada, you know, in Canada for lots of different reasons. Um, you know, the NDP ran boot camps trying to get more women involved. So did the greens. They did something like that as well, where they, they had a huge amount of interest from.
Potential women candidates saying like, I, you know, I w I think this is a great Avenue for me to get involved. I believe in your politics as well. And, and, you know, the liberal party you, Canada told me too, that, that, uh, you know, having a feminist government, uh, inspired a lot of women to get involved because they actually saw government caring about and naming some women’s issues.
And certainly there’s a lot of problems with that as well. And the conservatives benefited from having a feminist. Uh, you know, an air quote, feminist government because there were a lot of conservative women who were like, this is, you know, I’ve had enough of this, you know, this doesn’t speak to my interest.
This approach is not, is rubbing me the wrong way. It’s not something that is, uh, is resonating my life.
Jordan: You’re discussing feminism in the halls of power.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. So I mean it, depending on your ideology, uh, it is, it has invigorated, uh, women in whatever way. And so I think that’s exciting.
You know, it’s, it’s diff, it looks different from the United States, but there are, there are similar rumblings going on about women seeing other women in power and seeing women behind the scenes involved too, and seeing some potential there for their own involvement.
Jordan: So if the election was by the numbers and representation, mostly positive, tell me what happened after the election.
Sarah: Oh, well, I mean, I think there was a little bit of, you know, congratulating quietly, like on Twitter and so on. And then, you know, I opened my Twitter about two days later, and I see tweets about Katherine McKenna’s a constituency office to faced with a sexist slur. Um, you know, and, and she has been, uh.
You know, it was just disgusting where the most disgusting word you can call woman, basically right over her face on the door of her constituency office. And she had to walk right past that. And you know, bless her, she actually addressed it. I mean, I don’t know how you don’t and talk to reporters, but the unfortunate thing about Catherine McKenna is that she has basically spent her entire four years in office having to talk about how she’s being trolled constantly on social media.
She is like the target for trolls. Um, you know, and, and there’s, I don’t even want to surmise all the reasons for why that is, you know, you could
Jordan: Too bad cause that’s what I was gonna
Sarah: I can, you know what, actually, how about I do that? I, I, and I have had these conversations with her too, and I almost sort of feel bad asking her about it cause, uh, you know, I think, I think she really does.
Um. Well, she has a very important file for the government. I think that is one reason why, and I mean, there are global conversations about, um, women who are talking about climate being trolled, you know, so Catherine McKenna is our Canadian example, but it’s happening in other countries around the world too.
It’s just, um, these kind of like lightning rod issues, right? Like, you know, how dare this woman speak up in a, in a, you know, thoughtful. A powerful way about an issue that I’m not sure I believe in. You know, both of these things are sort of threatening to a certain cohort of people for various reasons, but it’s calling the confluence of factors there and that one person,
Jordan: It’s one thing to say, I don’t believe in Katherine McKenna’s policies.
I think she’s stupid. I think that she should be voted out of office, whatever. Um, she gets a different kind of hate.
Sarah: Oh yeah. She gets like next level hate. She, you know, her Twitter account is just a cesspool, you know, and we’ve talked about that before. You know, how she has her kids even seeing things that, that people are talking about online, you know, and she had to have a security detail.
Um. On her, uh, you know, back in the summer, I guess after somebody in person, um, you know, made some comments at her. I thought she, she had told me way back, like in June, I guess this had happened to her and she sort of laughed about it then. And then like, closer to the election, I heard about the security tilt, which sounded like very much the same incident.
I, I’m not sure if it was exactly, but I was like, Hmm. You know, that interesting
Jordan: She’s dealing with it all the time.
Sarah: I don’t know. But like, yeah, like she’s. When it starts to creep into your day to day life, like that’s a problem. You know? And that’s, that’s not something that is okay. And, you know, just to have the, you know, the fortitude to sort of keep doing your job through all of that.
You know? And I think the reason that she speaks out about it is that she doesn’t want. It’s like, it’s, it’s like a chicken and the egg though. It’s like she draws attention to it and so then more of it happens, but she also wants to make sure that, that she doesn’t look like she’s cowering or that she’s, uh, it’s deterring her in any way because that’s another, that’s not a good message to send. Women who are watching or young
Jordan: What is the message she sent out afterwards. What did she say?
Sarah: Well, she was just like, you know, this is, this is an unfortunate reality of my life as a politician. This has happened to me. This is not okay. This is actually going to be harmful to two people.
Certainly women and girls who are watching politics and, and wanting to, you know, who saw that there are record number of women in. You know, elected to office, and then this happens. You know, why would you, why would you get involved in politics if you see this happening? And so, you know, she had to stand up and say that she had to walk by this slur that was directed towards her after she’d already had threats to her safety and public.
You know, I mean, when I said earlier that, you know, she, she laughed about it. You know, that’s a reaction that people have, even when they’re not, when they’re shuck. You know, and I, you know, we certainly know that when we’ve been discussing a lot of other acts of violence against women, you know, sexual violence to unwanted touching behavior like that.
Like, how do you, what do you do butts go, ah, you know, you’re not necessarily at lethal risk or, you know, going to be harmed in an assault situation. It’s a reaction that you have. And that’s, that’s, that’s the reality of having, you know, this role that she’s filled. And. You know, I hope she’s feeling supported by her party and I don’t know what needs to happen next to, to make it better, but I’m, I’m glad that she’s still sticking it out and that she’s, you know, continuing to be a voice against this kind of behavior.
Jordan: What’s the reaction been, uh, in Ottawa and elsewhere since she spoke out? I think a lot of people kind of knew this was going on, but it hadn’t been this, uh, front and center and discussion.
Sarah: Yeah. I think people have been largely supportive of her, um, of her right to sort of speak. Out against it.
Obviously it’s more than a right, you know, but I wish I w you know, yes. On Twitter, people are like, this is awful. I can’t believe this is happening. I just would like to see More people across party lines talk about how it’s not okay and I need more than just a tweet. Like it just gets sort of hedged into something that’s just part of her narrative where I think it’s a bigger problem and a lot of women are having to deal with this and not speaking up about it because she’s just sort of the one with, you know, who’s the brighter target, you know?
Jordan: And that’s how does it go beyond. This is not okay. I disagree with it. At Catherine McKenna, you have my full support and move on to addressing it. Is there anything politicians can do to discourage it beyond simply talking about it on Twitter?
Sarah: Oh, it’s so hard. I mean, you’re asking me to solve like a very difficult problem right
Jordan: now. We’re not gonna solve it. I wish it was
like, what does that reaction look like? That that’s not just a tweet. Like I saw Lisa raid, who we talked about before, uh, expressed support for, for Catherine, and that’s great. It’s nice to see it from the conservative side of the aisle. What should she have done instead of, or as well as just tweeting her support?
Sarah: Honestly, if they all like, I mean, I’m not asking people to like travel far distances to like stand shoulder to shoulder with someone, but I think like a visual and actually going to be there to be like, this is not, this is not okay. You know, like something that just shows a lot more effort than just a tweet, you know, that or like, you know, or just kind of, you know, F I honestly get more women into office and it’s so hard because.
You know, women are not gonna allow this to happen. And I’m not trying to say that men just think it’s okay, but I don’t think men get it at the same visceral level, like how damaging it is to a woman who already has to overcome so many more hurdles to get anywhere near elected, as we’ve just described.
You know? Yes, we’ve made some progress, but there some real backtracking that has gone on. I dunno. Like I really think if we have more women in office, like it just, this sort of thing is going to be normalized. Like you said earlier, isn’t it kinda good that nobody like stood up and clapped for hours that we made record number of women in Ottawa?
It’s like, yeah, but we have backtrack before as we also discussed. And I mean. I just think like you have to get to that 30% and then some in order to actually change the ecosystem. Because right now it’s still a place where, um, that’s just kind of a side show that happens to like, this woman over here, you know?
And then all the attention gets put on her and it’s just her narrative. And that’s just, that’s just not the case. You know? There needs to be so much more sustained effort to make sure that this, that, you know, it’s a less hostile. Place to be in Ottawa. It’s a less hostile environment online as well, and there’s a lot of role modeling that can go on between men and women in that regard.
Jordan: We have a way to go to.
Sarah: Thanks Sarah
thanks for having me.
Jordan: Sarah Boesveld felt one of our favourite guests and hosts on The Big Story. For more from us. You can head to thebigstorypodcast.ca. You can also find us on Twitter at @thebigstoryfpn. You can also, as you usually do, find this podcast on your favourite podcast player, Apple or Google or Stitcher or Spotify, and if you like us and you haven’t rated us yet, why not?
What are you waiting for? Get on it. Thanks for listening. I’m Jordan, Heath Rawlings. We’ll talk tomorrow.
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