Ladies in Red
For those interested, here are the number of female candidates each party ran last election, with the number elected in backets.
NDP 108 (12)
Lib 79 (21)
CPC 38 (14)
BQ 23 (17)
It's interesting to note the high success rate of Bloc Quebecois candidates, showing that the party is committed to running them in winnable ridings, rather than merely offering them up as sacrificial lambs. The end goal should be to get more female MPs in Ottawa, rather than just running them for show in hopeless cause ridings. The Liberals could run 28 visible minority females in Alberta to meet their quotas, but it likely wouldn't translate to any more women in Ottawa.
Looking at those numbers, it's clear that the BQ and NDP have done a good job recruiting, and electing, female candidates. And they've done this not through heavy handed measures or appointments but by genuinely giving a damn about the issue.
As for the specific proposals Dion is making, these two take a page from the work the NDP has done and would be great steps in the right direction:
-Appoint a team of advisors from the women's caucus, the Women's Commission, and the Judy LaMarsh Fund to identify and recruit women to run for the Liberal Party and devote dedicated resources from the Party to support this effort
-Rrequire that a proper and thorough search for female candidates must be demonstrated prior to the approval of nomination dates in each un-held riding
When it comes to appointments for things like the Senate and crown corporations, you certainly want to keep gender representation in mind but crown corporations are multi-million dollar businesses and I don't think we should be passing over qualified candidates, just to meet a quota. Ditto for the Cabinet. Any Prime Minister should make a serious effort to ensure that their Cabinet is representative of the country. But does that mean you put Cheryl Gallant in Justice or Carolyn Parrish in Foreign Affairs. I don't think so.
Assuming the restrictions aren't written in stone, a lot of Dion's proposals could work. There is one section which really bothers me though:
-lead a government that will propose changes to the Canada Elections Act to provide financial incentives to all political parties until we reach gender parity in the House of Commons
The way I read this, we will be paying parties to run female candidates. To me, this is completely unacceptable and almost insulting to women. It also raises the question of why we're paying parties to run women but not minorities or other under-represented groups in Ottawa. Is there anyone who would even consider paying parties to run black candidates?
So, to recap:
The intent is there on an issue which deserves debate and action. Dion has put forward a few good proposals to encourage women to run and to aid in the recruitement of female candidates. However, there are also a few heavy handed measures which I think go too far and would create a lot of problems if implemented (I won't even touch the "appointing female candidates" one since we've seen the can of worms appointing candidates can be). I think the best answer to this problem is actually having people in power who actually care about the issue , rather than setting quotas. Paul Martin appointed qualified women to the Supreme Court without having a quota or benchmark forcing him to. To me, that's really the best approach to take.
Also, Riley Hennessy has a good analysis of this topic. And Jason Cherniak has a very..."interesting" proposal.