concerned over how many City Council seats are won, by women, ought to sound
alarms well before the ballots are counted.
By then, how many (or how few) women ran and what percentage are elected,
is merely a point of history.
completion of returns, Sheilagh O’Leary the Mayoral contestant in St. John’s, was
quoted, saying, the failure of St. John’s to elect a single woman was “disgraceful”. NDP MHA Gerry Rogers called it
possibly these responses, to the exclusively male Council, were ill-considered.
Words like “unfortunate”, “disconcerting”, “upsetting” or even “disturbing”
might have been more measured and more appropriate, too. But, I would not over emphasize anything said
within minutes of a mentally and physically draining, foot slogging, and unsuccessful
politics is a tough business. This
scribe has been awaiting the return of his deposit from the Province’s Chief
Electoral Officer, since 1975. It is beginning
to dawn on me that I may not have garnered the requisite number of votes to
inspire that Official to consider such an act of generosity.
what inappropriate words may have been uttered in a moment of frustration? Not a whit.
of gender politics is still a sensitive subject; though often misunderstood, it
is still damned important.
Sheilagh O’Leary was in grade school when women like, Ann Bell, Lynn Verge,
Luanne Leamon, Donna Butt and others lobbied newly minted Premier Brian
Peckford to have the Provincial Government fund the Advisory Council on the
Status of Women. They found, in
Peckford, a sympathetic ear. Evidence
that all our institutions, both elected and non-elected were under-represented
by women, was patently obvious.
political parties and lobby groups all had a stake in making gender equity an
ideal that moved beyond good intentions.
argue that the playing field has been substantially levelled over the past
thirty years, even if we have farther to go.
The Peckford Administration was not all about offshore management; solid
progressive social policies, though not all related specifically to women, came
out of that time and out of the Moore’s Administration, too.
as well as policy-minded Premiers, prodded by serious, focussed and articulate
activist spokeswomen, have made major and irreversible strides in bureaucratic
circles and elective politics, too.
appointments to the public service, boards and committees elective politics is only
partly within the ambit of political leaders to influence.
are completely open to both genders.
Provincial and federal politics differ only insofar as the process is Party
based and each screens potential candidates, requiring them to win a nomination
surprisingly, activists frustrated with the paucity of female members in the
House of Assembly, often complained that the ‘backroom boys’ conspire to keep
politics a male domain. I never did agree
with that view, not having witnessed interference, with female participation,
Premier Moores’ spending a princely sum of money polling and re-polling the
Province, district by district, to determine who might have the best shot at
winning. Moores could not afford to
alienate anyone. Following the 1972
defeat of Smallwood, traditional Liberal supporters soon migrated back to their
political roots. Male or female, if they were found to be potential winners,
Moores did his utmost to cajole them into running. He may not have advanced gender equity a
great deal but there was no thwarting of female electoral aspirations.
the other hand, took a wide-ranging approach to the gender equity issue and produced
entering provincial politics, the Nomination process is a huge hurdle. It is an important screening and inclusive process
that is influenced by personal popularity, organizational skills and
money. People who have a history of
engagement in municipal politics and community organizations always have a leg
up on competitors, for obvious reasons.
female leadership constitutes an important segment of the ‘farm team’ for
provincial and federal politics. The
Premier is one such example.
provincial and federal politics, though, at the municipal level it is every
person for himself/herself. No Party
system is available to provide coaching, professional image making or
a Council similar in size to communities with a population of a few hundred. Hence, competition for seats is fierce. Name recognition in advance of the Vote helps
but, like all elections, even organization and money cannot guarantee success.
a lot of things including luck and timing.
The best of either is useless if few women actually run. St. John’s municipal elections have never attracted
a lot of female interest. The recent historical record is evidence enough:
35 men ran against 8 women; 3 women elected
36 men ran against 5 women; 2 women elected
30 men ran against 5 women; 1 woman elected
27 men ran against 4 women; 3 women elected
men ran against 4 women; 0 women elected
statistician calculating the probably of the current female shut-out, might
have made such a prediction some years ago, if not in 2013, then sometime soon.
voters, male and female, politics is gender neutral. Voter bias is all about
which candidate is perceived to be the best fit from what is frequently a
women on City Council?
job is far from over. They are still needed
in the trenches.
to be set for 2017. We need just as many
women to run as the number of men, this year.
The result may not be an all-female Council, as did Branch, but never discount