Trudeau’s new cabinet: Gender parity because it’s 2019? Or due to competence?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon appoint his new cabinet

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon appoint his new cabinet, which he promises will once again be based on gender parity, the same as it was when he formed his first government in 2015.

Women are in the minority in both the House of Commons and all provincial and territorial legislative chambers. To compensate for this, the appointment of cabinets composed of as many women as men has spread. Although not a new phenomenon in Canada, this parity is still not the norm.

It was Jean Charest who started the ball rolling in 2007, when, as premier of Quebec, he appointed the country’s first cabinet with gender parity. Rachel Notley, elected premier of Alberta in 2015, did the same when she took power, as did John Horgan in British Columbia in 2017 and François Legault in Quebec a year later.

On the federal scene, the appointment of the first cabinet composed of an equal number of women and men by Trudeau in 2015 has received a lot of attention. The retort “Because it’s 2015” given by Trudeau in response to journalists who wanted to know the reasons behind this move, was taken up all over the world.

We sought to better understand the different views expressed in the media when cabinets with gender parity were announced. Media coverage is generally favourable, but it also suggests a number of concerns about measures to support better access for women in the political sphere.

A generally positive picture

Articles and columns that address the parity composition of the cabinet highlight the historic aspect of the announcement or present it as a reflection of a society and an era where inclusion and equality are important values.

The hope of seeing a new standard set following Charest’s announcement in 2007 of a gender-balanced cabinet was also very present: “Gender parity is a feat, a first in North America, which will put pressure on other Canadian governments, the federal government in particular,” wrote columnist Michel Vastel on April 19, 2007.

Whether in articles, columns or opinionated letters to the editor, different persuasive strategies are used to present gender equality and its implementation measures as beneficial for society: the use of statistics on the number of women elected, examples of strategies implemented on the world stage, or the impact of a greater number of women on decision-making.

Researcher Veronique Pronovost, the Raoul-Dandurand Chair at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), wrote this in an open letter published in Le Journal de Montreal in 2015:

“Studies on the consequences of parity within organizations confirm this: whether within companies or decision-making bodies, parity generates many benefits.”

However, support is not always unreserved, and demands for more sustainable measures, such as legislation or a greater effort by parties to nominate an equal number of female and male candidates for elections, are also expressed, mainly in French-language newspapers.

Opposing opinions

The competence of the women appointed by Charest was highlighted. But concerns about these same skills have been expressed in the case of Trudeau. For some, it was the prime minister himself who was at the root of this controversy in 2015, as can be seen in this column written by Mark Sutcliffe in the National Post:

“The fact that women have an equal place at the cabinet table is historic and welcome. It’s just a shame that Trudeau diminished it by predetermining the outcome rather than portraying it as the natural result of the talented people available to him in his abundant caucus. That would have done more for women in leadership than ticking a box from his list of promises.”

The idea that gender parity and competence do not go hand in hand is at the forefront of counter-arguments put forward. Some journalists even go so far as to denounce the injustice experienced by men, who, because they are more numerous in Parliament, are less likely to get a ministerial post.

As columnist Lysiane Gagnon wrote in the Globe and Mail:

“The Liberal caucus counts 134 men and 50 women, meaning that at the outset, every female MP had roughly three chances more than her male colleagues to be appointed to cabinet. Shouldn’t gender equity apply to men as well?”

A question of political will?

The choice to appoint an equal number of men and women is also portrayed as a sign of political will, a way of demonstrating the importance the prime minister places on equality. In the absence of rules or laws that force political parties to act, it is true that the people who lead them play an important role in increasing the proportion of women ministers.

In Quebec, it took 10 years to see a new premier, François Legault, appoint a cabinet with an equal number of women and men as Charest did in 2007 and 2008.

Trudeau announced during this year’s election campaign that his second cabinet would include an equal number of women and men. It would have been difficult for him to do otherwise without seeming to deny the values of equality and feminism that characterized the beginning of his first term in office.

READ MORE: Conservatives’ Scheer wants Trudeau to open Parliament Nov. 25

READ MORE: Trudeau says climate and pipeline are priorities after election

___

This article is republished from The Conversation.

It is written by Carol-Ann Rouillard, Doctorante en communication sociale, Universite du Quebec a Trois-Rivieres, Universite du Quebec a Trois-Rivieres (UQTR) and Mireille Lalancette, Professor, Universite du Quebec a Trois-Rivieres (UQTR) , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ballenas students help keep essential community services going

Club donates $1,000 to SOS Grateful Hearts campaign

Rebound recovery program helps more than 50 PQB businesses remain open

Nearly $90K in aid received through Oceanside Initiatives plan

Parksville-area family receives anonymous letters complaining children are being too loud

Letter said the noise of kids playing in the backyard is ‘unbearable’

PQBeat Podcast: Beloved Parksville volunteer Joan LeMoine

Discussion includes childhood memories, receiving the key to the city and more

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Cooler days help crews fighting fire on mountainside southwest of Nanaimo

Firefighters making progress, but it’s ‘slow-going,’ says B.C. Wildfire Service

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

Most Read