|"PUTS THE LIE TO THE PARTY'S CLAIM TO BE INCLUSIVE"|
|Saturday, 02 April 2005 00:00|
The Liberal party faithful defeated a resolution to ensure 50% female representation in Parliament and the party hierarchy at their national convention in March 2005. The resolution, proposed jointly by the party's women's commission and the women's caucus, was defeated by a vote of 452 to 347. The result prompted bitter recriminations from some delegates, who charged that the vote puts the lie to the party's claim to be inclusive. ... Several delegates objected to setting quotas for female representation and referred repeatedly to women as a minority. That prompted a furious outburst from New Brunswick delegate Bethany Thorne Dykstra. "I will tell you I'm insulted, absolutely insulted, to be called a minority. We are in the majority as women . . . We have a problem because we don't have something between our legs," Dykstra shouted to a mixture of gasps, jeers and applause. "I think it's a sad day, in the year 2005, when we're still debating so passionately that women have a right to be at the table and I do wonder why that would be debated so much more than such big issues as ballistic missiles," she told reporters. Where are we today? Have we not moved?" Dykstra said the defeat "definitely counteracts what the Liberals have been claiming" in portraying themselves as the progressive party of equality.
21% of MPs and 24% of Liberal MPs are female. The party has struggled to meet promises that at least 25% of candidates in elections are women.
The women's commission reassured delegates that the resolution was intended to set a goal for equal female representation. A good number of objections were leveled by female members of the party's youth wing, which usually prides itself on advancing equality rights as enshrined in the Charter of Rights. However, one young female took to the microphone to oppose equal representation for women, saying "I don't want to be filling a quota. It's okay to encourage women but to set a number is wrong." Toronto MP Maria Minna pointed out the hypocrisy of that position, noting that the party already has quotas to ensure 50% of convention delegates are female and one-third are youth. Oakville MP Bonnie Brown said the resolution was defeated "not because of the ideas in it but because of the practical" impact of the resolution on local riding executives, most of which are dominated by men. She said executive members, many of whom are delegates, are likely wondering where they would find women volunteers to fill executive positions and "which of our males is going to have to step down" to make room for them.
- Excerpts from Bitterness follows Liberal vote against 50% representation for women, Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press, March 4, 2005.