Thursday, February 8, 2007

refuse to allow men to run for nominations ....

i can see encouraging women to run. i can see offering women more support to help ensure a win in their riding. but that is after they win the riding nomination fairly. this reminds me of years ago, when all of a sudden large corporations had the 'token' women executive. i find it appauling, in this day and age, that we have to revert to this; and this is the direction the liberal party is headed towards.

Liberals set to bar men in some ridings in bid to boost female candidates
February 8th, 2007

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is prepared to take "extraordinary measures" to boost the ranks of women candidates in the next election, including barring men from seeking nominations in some ridings.

During last year's leadership race, Dion promised that under his watch at least a third of the party's candidates in the next election would be women.

But campaign organizers have concluded that the ambitious goal will be impossible to reach without some intervention to secure nominations for female candidates.

So-called green-light committees, set up to run the party's nomination process in each province, have been empowered to ensure the 33 per cent target is met. Among other things, the committees can set dates for nomination meetings and approve or reject nomination papers from those seeking to carry the Liberal colours.

Where necessary, the committees will be able to simply refuse to allow men to run for nominations in some ridings.

"We're trying to find the techniques that are consistent with our democratic processes to the greatest extent possible," said Gerard Kennedy, Dion's special adviser on election readiness.

Local riding associations are being encouraged as much as possible to find women to seek nominations. But, with an election possible as early as next month, Kennedy said the party simply doesn't have the luxury of a lengthy recruitment drive.

Consequently, he said the party will have to use more drastic measures to ensure a sufficient number of women wind up on the Liberal election roster.

"We're still studying and discussing some of the techniques that we might use, such as women-only contests or what have you. But I think those measures will be somewhat exceptional," he said.

The leader retains the power to simply appoint women candidates, bypassing the nomination process altogether, but insiders say Dion wants to use that power sparingly, if at all. Appointments have in the past set off controversy, particularly from would-be candidates who frequently had spent months preparing to fight a contested nomination.

Dion's campaign strategists contend that declaring certain ridings off-limits to men at the outset will ultimately be fairer to all concerned. Still, they acknowledge that the measure is bound to be controversial.

"We're going to pay some price," Kennedy said.

"We'd like it to be a relatively small price . . . but the price we're paying is because we didn't quite make as much success as we should have (recruiting women in the past) and everyone has come to the realization that we have to take extraordinary measures, that the Liberal party has to become a political organization that reflects the face of Canada."

In last winter's election, only 26 per cent of Liberal candidates were women, although women make up slightly more than half the Canadian population.

The challenge of reaching 33 per cent next time is all the greater because Dion has promised to protect all incumbent MPs from nomination challenges. Currently, only 21 of the Liberals' 101 MPs are women.

Dion needs to come up with at least 80 women to run in ridings currently not held by the Liberals to arrive at 33 per cent overall. In other words, almost 40 per cent of the candidates in unheld ridings must be women.

Equal Voice, an advocacy group dedicated to increasing the participation of women in politics, applauded the move to reserve some ridings for women only.

"Right now it looks as if 80 per cent of the ridings are reserved for men," said Rosemary Speirs, founder of Equal Voice.

"So I don't see that this is imposing a quota or tokenism or anything else. I think it's just an effort to make sure the party reaches out to women and gets some in there."

Speirs added that leaving ridings to their own devices to recruit candidates "doesn't seem to work for women."

Canada has dismal record of female participation in federal politics. Only 20.8 per cent of 308 MPs are women, putting Canada in 46th place in the world - right behind Singapore.

Kennedy said any outcry over perceived favouritism toward women should be limited by the fact that all leadership contenders, including himself, echoed Dion in promising to substantially increase the number of women candidates, with the eventual aim of reaching 50 per cent.

Nevertheless, even men who support the goal of boosting the ranks of women aren't likely to be thrilled if their own hopes of becoming a candidate wind up being dashed as a result.

"I'm sure everybody wants it to happen in all other ridings but not their own," joked Richard Mahoney, a two-time Liberal candidate in Ottawa Centre who is still considering whether to make a third try at becoming an MP.

The riding, currently held by the NDP, has two probable, high-profile women candidates - Isabel Metcalfe and Penny Collenette. Scott Bradley is already campaigning and Mahoney may yet join the fray.

Some Liberals contend Ottawa Centre is the exactly the kind of riding where men should be barred from seeking the nomination, although Kennedy suggested there may be no need to intervene.

"In ridings where women are well established and don't suffer any disadvantages and so on, there's no reason why we can't let a competitive outcome get us the result we need."

Mahoney said staging women-only nomination contests is probably the best way to resolve the under-representation of women. But he admitted it would "tough" to be told he can't run.

Similarly, Bradley acknowledged he'd be "disappointed." While he too supports the goal of 33 per cent female candidates, the 37-year-old said that has to be balanced against other worthy goals like renewing the party and bringing in new blood.

However, Kennedy said the party's dismal record in recruiting women in the past "justifies disappointing some and requiring accommodations from others and generally doing a hurry up in trying to make us fully open and fully fair for qualified women who want to contest."


Drew Adamick said...

I am planning on seeking the Liberal nomination for Cariboo-Prince George, and while I do believe this country needs more female politicians, we can't just simply bar males who do want to try to run from doing so- that in itself is gender discrimination, though unfortunately many do not see it that way.

audacious said...

i wish you well. it is good to see younger people venturing into politics!

Mark said...

I think this it is patently hypocritical to impose this ban while allowing a male-dominated caucus to run, unopposed, in every incumbent riding. For some of these folks it's been 19 years since they faced a nomination challenge.