I am a columnist for the newspaper The Carillon but I know many of my blog readers do not subscribe to the paper so from time to time I include one of my columns in a blog post. I wrote this column in response to another Carillon columnist who thought it was just fine that Doug Ford the new Ontario premier had made no attempt to have a gender-balanced cabinet. He had simply picked the best people for the job. I thought that was quite ironic.
In his Carillon column two weeks ago Michael Zwaagstra praised the new Ontario premier Doug Ford for making some astute decisions in choosing his cabinet. Zwaagstra highlighted two women in particular, Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliot who ran against Mr. Ford for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Ms. Elliot has been named Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Ms. Mulroney is the province’s new Attorney General and Minister of Francophone Affairs.
As Mr. Zwaagstra suggests these two women are highly qualified and experienced. In fact, a quick read of their biographies and then of Mr. Ford’s makes it abundantly clear the two women are much more qualified and experienced than Mr. Ford himself. Both women have advanced law degrees from prestigious universities, belong to families with a long history of political service and have impressive resumes when it comes to experience and to accolades received in both government spheres and the international worlds of business, philanthropy, and finance.
Mr. Ford, on the other hand, graduated from high school but dropped out of a technical college without completing even one year. He has a little civic government experience and runs a family business. According to articles in the Toronto Globe and Mail that business has struggled both financially and operationally.
It leaves one wondering why Mr. Ford was elected leader of the Conservative Party and not one of the two vastly more qualified women running against him. Kudos to Ford, for putting Elliot and Mulroney in his cabinet but shouldn’t one of them be the premier?
Interestingly Mr. Zwaagstra’s column of two weeks ago is all about how the most important factor for choosing candidates for jobs should be their qualifications and experience, not their gender. Yet in choosing Mr. Ford, the Conservative Party of Ontario clearly ignored the highly superior qualifications and experience of two female leadership candidates and selected a much less qualified and experienced male candidate who was short on substance but for some reason big in popularity and bravado.
This brings to mind the Carillon’s editorial last week in which Grant Burr wonders aloud why Susan Penner is not a candidate for the upcoming mayoralty race in Steinbach. Burr who is a regular observer at city council meetings says Penner, an eight-year veteran of the council, is imminently more capable and articulate and has much stronger leadership skills than the male councilors who are running for mayor. Since she holds many of the same viewpoints as one of the men who has thrown his hat into the ring, Burr says it is unfortunate she isn’t the one representing that political perspective in the race. Burr speculates that Penner may not be running because she would have little chance of beating the male candidate. He appears to be short on substance but for some inexplicable reason big in popularity.
In a Macleans essay former Conservative party leader Rona Ambrose addresses some of the public attitudes that continue to impact the number of women we see in political office. She claims voters have different expectations when it comes to women. She wonders for example if a woman with five young children would have been elected the leader of a political party as Andrew Scheer was. Ambrose talks about her personal experience in politics. She was mocked, dismissed, insulted, threatened, underestimated, disrespected and ignored because of her gender. Despite this she encourages women to run for office. Canada needs their diverse talents and their intelligence. Perhaps there will come a time when expertise and experience win the day in the political realm and gender is irrelevant. We aren’t there yet.