B.C. NDP gender equity rules find support

The launch of Harry Lali’s campaign for the leadership of the B.C. NDP last week put the party’s gender provisions in the spotlight, after the Nicola-Fraser MLA called for the elimination of what he called “equity quotas” for elections.

Prior to the 2009 election, the NDP set a goal for 30 percent of nominated candidates to be women or minorities, according to North Island MLA Claire Trevena.

Lali called this quota “reverse discrimination” last week and said he would welcome “older, white males” to join his campaign and the NDP.

“I think we need to empower women and equity groups through incentive-based and target-based approaches, but not through setting of quotas,” he told the Straight following his leadership announcement on January 6.

“Equity quotas are anti-democratic and discriminate, specifically against older, white males, and as leader I would welcome back older, white males into our NDP family.”

But as discussion about the gender provisions continues, some say the quotas serve a critical purpose in encouraging more women to run for political positions.

The debate comes as the B.C. NDP leadership race, which is just beginning to get off the ground, has yet to produce any potential female candidates.

Veteran political observer Norman Ruff said it’s concerning that no women candidates have yet to emerge in the NDP contest, while two women are participating in the B.C. Liberal leadership race.

“Here’s a party that prides itself on being very strong on...gender-related issues, but there is not a single woman’s name that I’ve heard mentioned as a possible contender,” Ruff told the Straight by phone.

Kennedy Stewart, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University’s school of public policy, conducted a study of women NDP candidates in the 2005 election for an upcoming article in the journal Party Politics.

He found that while the number of women wanting to run as NDP candidates was comparable to men, women were five times less likely than men to win nominations.

“Mr. Lali has suggested perhaps the NDP should give other incentives to encourage women candidates, but our findings suggest that this wouldn’t help at all,” Stewart told the Straight by phone.

Stewart said having gender equity quotas in place is “the only thing that works” to encourage more women to run.

“The last election, where the NDP had this, 49 percent of their candidates were women,” Stewart said. “It definitely worked. The problem is, a lot of these women won in seats that were not winnable. But that’s something, when you keep these quotas in place, eventually it’ll balance out and you’ll have half of the NDP MLAs will be women.”

Trevena said despite some concerns about the system when it was introduced in the last election, the quota seemed to be successful in bringing more women into the provincial ranks.

“We clearly got more women running. We got more women elected,” Trevena told the Straight by phone. “The concerns are always that...the best candidate will come forward, whether that’s a man or a woman. But it’s proven time and again that it takes a woman a lot longer to decide to run.”

The rule is currently being reviewed by an NDP committee.

Trevena, who has acted as NDP critic for childcare, early childhood development and women’s issues, said encouraging women to run for politics is “a huge challenge for any party”.

“I think that is something that every party is aware of and every party’s trying to address, of how we actually get women wanting to run for elected office, wanting to take part,” Trevena said.

“Women don’t think of themselves in the same way that men often do, that they could run and win a nomination,” she added.

Trevena noted that it’s often still women who are taking on the role of caregiver to their children.

“In many different reasons, you see that women just don’t take that step of actually running for politics,” she said.

She said other incentives need to be created to encourage women to run, such as having female politicians mentor other women, or addressing the need for childcare for mothers who want to run for politics.

“We’ve got to address basics like that, and that’s the same for all working women, and all working families,” she said. “We’ve got to look at how we ensure we provide those supports.”

You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.



Taxpayers R Us

Jan 12, 2011 at 4:43pm

lol this article is laughable.

You can't decry discrimination based on gender and then discriminate based on gender by banning men from running in ridings. It's unethical, illegal and worthy of a very large class action lawsuit.

Encouraging women to run is fine-and commendable, but banning men from running and holding too many positions is the ugliest kind of gender discrimination and it's costing the NDP alot more votes than they're aware of.

Baker's Dozen Already Reloaded

Jan 12, 2011 at 4:45pm

Here you have two members of the Baker's Dozen, Trevena and Lali, taking completely opposite positions on an issue. Yet there are no head-on criticisms of each other's statements, let alone anything personal.

There's real, serious discipline among the Baker's Dozen! They remain a crucial force whose power to blackball any potential leader they don't like cannot be over-estimated.


Jan 12, 2011 at 5:38pm

The party had a female leader. Four political assassins from within the party step forward to go outside of the party's constitution to affect this assassination. Four of 13 assassins were women. Now there are no women willing to step forward to fill this still blood-stained position and the conclusion drawn are the likes of a lack of mentorship or even better, a lack of childcare.

I am speechless.

Ernie Seedhouse

Jan 12, 2011 at 6:12pm

I believe that women can win whatever they set out to win. You do not have to block men from running. Some women can beat any man, without help from condescending, misguided, left wing, back room, politicos and academics. The simple fact is that women can and do win when they want to. Good candidates win nominations and go on to win a seat. To bar candidates because they are male alienates many voters. I can not vote for a party that practices discrimination.
In many ways Margret Thatcher was a disaster. It matters more who the person is and what they will accomplish than what sex they are.

glen p robbins

Jan 12, 2011 at 7:13pm

I witness remarkable things that women do at the community level. The return on investment of quality time - and effort - healing - compassionship, mentoring is terrific. I can think personally of 5 or 6 women who I see often and who have never been in politics - who would be great candidates.

The New Democrats - Carole James, Jenny Kwan - Claire - Lana - should all be out --- running -- getting their message out in the community. Harnessing the spirit that is already present there. Initiate regional leadership debates -- so every candidate need not be there. Just go out and do it -- hey Carole what do you think about the baker's dozen? Hey its all part of the process --- this is a new one -- and I want to be involved -- its all good--(as they say).

The press (and political bloggers) have to respect those candidates who aren't household name candidates--and cover what they have to say - a front page here and there - talk about their families --introduce them to British Columbia. Start positive dialogues with women - about women about men and women ------ public policy --what they believe -- let them loose,

and let's talk about how we are going to mentor young women - high school and up into an interest in the community. Students every week at city hall meetings - they are really very interesting and exciting --- teach civics--------------it is the best investment we will make-----------and everyone reading this knows that this is true and that we can achieve it--

Don't make rules about things -- show women how attractive it is to be in politics -- hold seminars on politics -- teach women (men too) what is expected - and how the game is played---quit suffocating people through the party prism--and conventional press.

Bring in fresh air.

Enough parsing

Jan 13, 2011 at 9:39am

Ms Trevena might want to look in the mirror and see a reason why women are not running. Becuase women got used as pawns to do the dirty work of finishing Bob and the boys take down of the woman leader.

glen p robbins

Jan 13, 2011 at 11:01am

Ep - what's done is done - there is certainly no altruism in politics. The NDP had a leader - who had been stitched to Campbell for years. His departure didn't make the public like her more, but less - sometimes that's what happens---but that's on Carole James.

The NDP knew - they could not be stuck with a stale leader while the BC Liberals went through the process of selecting a new one - no matter what one might think of the options. This gave the NDP the opportunity to have more information - who was the next Premier -- and which of their lot would be best against that candidate. Further, the BC Conservatives will come up with someone and will challenge to one degree or another. BC First could be a major factor is all the elemens of a bona fide party come together - and what if Vander Zalm runs? There is a real percentage of the province who likes this man--many may not---but in this environment - he has to be taken very seriously.

Strategically -the NDP has no choice. Why they just don't say this - instead of plying the same political victimization game is beyond me.

So however the dirty work, history will likely show it was necessary in the circumstances - so move along.

Alex Sangha

Jan 13, 2011 at 11:24am

I truly feel British Columbia is "the best place on earth."

This does not mean that British Columbia would not benefit from more women in politics.

I feel gender equality in the legislature is the ideal.

How can this be accomplished?

Well, the government can double the size of each riding and the citizens can vote for one man and one women from each riding.

The number of MLA's would stay the same.

This will encourage the two MLA's from each riding regardless of which party they belong to to work together on common issues that affect their constituents.

This would facilitate more cooperation.

Politics in British Columbia would be less polarized and partisan.

The citizens would elect the highest ranking male and female candidates on the ballot.

Both men and women would vote for their two MLA's.

The men would essentially be competing with the men and the women would be competing with the women.

I think this is a fantastic way to easily and effectively bring gender equality to the legislature.

Men and women both bring qualities to the decision making process.

I would like to see more political leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Angela Merkel, and Hillary Clinton in public office.

Women make up half the population and deserve to have equal power in a representative system of government.

A provincial election is not far away.

It's time for the women of the province to get mobilized and demand their rightful place in Victoria.

Interior New Democrat

Jan 13, 2011 at 1:21pm

Mr Robbins, I think you are trying to be upbeat and inclusive of women and yet I feel insulted by your comment "show women how attractive it is to be in politics". Women are not stupid and they can see for themselves the consequences of being involved never mind running.

Women are always made to pay a higher price. Men are not judged and queired on their hair style, their clothing, their ability to raise children and do the work at the same time. They have their families used against them, when the opposite is true for men,they have a harder time raising campaign funds as their supporters are often more women who make less $$ / hour, and in the end it is often women who take them down.

Women are still trying to find out how they earned the right to work the second shift - that would be the one at home after their hard days work at their first shift, while men do more important things, i.e. play with their remotes. Voters would often vote for someone of colour or diability rather than a woman. Men in general seem afraid off women. The problem is Gender equity RULES when I believe gender equity objectives and goals make sense more often. The other thing to remember is that those rules are to be implemented iin consultation and cooperation with the constituency executives. Not delivered with everyone in the dark wondering where that bombshell from hell came from.

Strong New Democrat

Jan 14, 2011 at 4:49pm

Glen p - your comments to ep sound like a lecture, a tired old same ol same ol lecture. Given by someone who isnt a member yet thinks they should be a part of directing the parties progress. Look at the damage done. unrecoverable damage - over someones idea of the big picture, constitution be damned! Party policies, practices, rules and constitution thrown down the toilet all while ensuring every voter in the province now believes the NDP is unable to actually form government and govern. This was not right and none of the dissidents have the balls let alone the courtesy to make amends, or at the very least appologize for the collateral damage in addition to the wreckage left.