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Friday May 29 2015
8:15 PM EDT
2014-01-22 at 16:09

Gender gap

Former Liberal leader Lyn McLeod on Wednesday said women face obstacles entering the political arena.
Leith Dunick,
Former Liberal leader Lyn McLeod on Wednesday said women face obstacles entering the political arena.
By Leith Dunick,

Lyn McLeod says the political world is still a male-dominated one, something she’d like to see start to shift in the other direction.

The former Ontario Liberal leader said decades after she was first elected to public office, women still only make up about 25 per cent of all elected officials in Canada – yet they total 51 per cent of the country’s population.

There’s plenty of room for improvement, the 71-year-old said Wednesday, prior to making the keynote speech at Thunder Bay’s Women in Politics forum.

“We’re really only tapping half of the resources of some pretty talented people that are out there,” McLeod said.

“And we need good people in politics.”

Government decisions affect everyone’s lives, she added, and what better way to have a say then by holding public office.

McLeod said she was one of the lucky ones. Women running for office in the late 1980s didn’t face many of the obstacles they might have elsewhere in Canada.

At the local level, she was fine. But during the four years she held the reins of the Liberal party, from 1992 to 1996, she said discrimination would, from time to time, rear its ugly head.

“There’s no question that our candidates found there was some resistance to the idea of a woman leader,” said McLeod, telling her audience later she’s proud that Canadians at present have four women premiers, three of them elected, her comments coming hours after Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale stepped down, bowing to public and party pressure.

“I think it was particularly a challenge because when I was leading the party it was a very tough economic time and there are still stereotypes out there whether women can handle things in tough economic times. I’m hoping that kind of stereotype and prejudice is slowly disappearing. But it was certainly real then.”

Encouraging women to run for office is not much different than encouraging most men to run.

The starting point is having a clear focus on why they want to run.

“I think that one of the things that’s held women back in the past is that they haven’t always been confident about what it is they can contribute,” McLeod said.

Balancing work and family responsibilities is another question that must be answered.

Polls say while there is a greater sharing of responsibilities between men and women, the latter typically take on the greater share of the load, McLeod said.

“That’s very tough in a political career.”

Coun. Rebecca Johnson knows all too well the challenges of holding office as a woman. One of just two women on Thunder Bay’s city council, she said in a lot of ways politics is still an old boy’s club.

“I feel it’s time we break that down,” Johnson said. “Some individuals say well, why would you go out and want more people to run against you. I say the electorate will decide who is on the council. The important thing is to get more women there. If we don’t get their names on the ballot, we will not get them to sit around the tables,” said Johnson, strongly hinting she plans to run at-large again in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

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We've improved our comment system.
supersavage says:
Why am I not surprised the Liberals are attempting to divide the electorate again. Just another distraction from scandal after scandal. Remember ORNGE, Gas Plants etc. This is extremely petty.
1/24/2014 6:03:55 PM
hadenough says:
Candace Bergen? When did "Murphy Brown" enter Canadian Politics?
1/23/2014 5:08:53 PM
S Duncan says:
Im sure she didn't like dealing with her maiden name that much, especially during the Murphy Brown years.

She used to go by Candace Hoeppner (actually Candice, I spelt it wrong)

Shes from Manitoba. Portage Lisgar..

Read more here

Shes very well spoken and easy on the eyes too. The CPC and her constituents are lucky to have her.
1/23/2014 7:45:34 PM
S Duncan says:
We don't need women politicians. We don't need men politicians.

we need good politicians. What sex they are is irrelevant. The political climate doesn't have to change to suit women in particular, women must change to meet the political climate.

I certainly beg to differ with the comment that we need more women in politics. We have plenty.

We have 3 women premiers. Clark, Redford, and *shudder* Wynne. We have a loud voice and powerful woman provincial NDP leader Andrea. Women are well represented in the house of commons.

Most of the NDP's parachute candidates in Quebec were women. The Conservative Majority Government has many strong and great members like Cheryl Gallant, and Candace Bergen come to mind.

Women are very well represented.
1/23/2014 9:14:50 AM
bttnk says:
S Duncan - Thanks for that refreshing post. I agree wholeheartedly.
1/23/2014 4:45:15 PM
jonthunder says:
Correction on above post; that should be the great role "women" play in elementary education.
1/23/2014 4:50:59 AM
progress now says:
I would like to see more vehicles for the pubic - men and women - to participate in local government in a meaningful way.

Public participation in local government is a horror story, particularly as local governments look for increasing responsibilities and funding on the basis that they are closer to the people than senior government.

Its all about democracy.

No one hands you a win when you run - male or female. You have to work for it and I am sure no one wants it any other way.

As for Lyn McLeod, she beat Mickey Hennessy on her first attempt, became cabinet minister and stayed as long as she wanted to. If anything, her example belies her argument.

1/22/2014 9:48:43 PM
Back-in-the-bay says:
I fundamentally respect Rebecca Johnson, however, her claim that politics is 'an old boy's club' is disrespectful to men and the electorate at large. The root cause is simply too few women run, and when they do, the electorate doesn't always select them. The typical Canadian electorate is comprised of more female voters by population, so is the real issue not then that voters in general are either voting for men because only men are on the ballot or voting for the best candidate, which isn't always a female? Either way, that issue does not seem to be a result of politics possibly being a male dominated 'old boys club'
1/22/2014 6:27:19 PM
jonthunder says:
I agree with promoting the greater direct participation of women in politics - very much so. But it should not be based on quotas; that would not be very democratic. I also believe in the participation of women in other sectors where they are under represented; similar to the great role of men in some area i.e. elementary school teaching and the role/gender models they could play with male students. In short, I believe in the equality of opportunity of and for genders. How to meet this challenges over the short and longer term may require time and cultural shifts....
1/22/2014 5:43:08 PM
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