B.C.’s former premier Christy Clark is calling for more women to fill leadership positions, following the resignations of three men in Canadian politics amid sexual misconduct and harassment allegations.
In a post on both her professional and personal Facebook pages, Clark – who was the first woman to be elected leader of B.C. – called out the “frat-boy behaviour” that she says existed during her 25 years in the political arena.
“We are watching history being made right now,” she wrote. “Politics is a brutal and very often brutally sexist business — one that has historically reduced women like me to a footnote in history.”
Clark began by thanking the women who have come forward to report issues of sexual harassment and misconduct against Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown, Nova Scotia Conservative leader Jamie Baillie and federal sport minister Kent Hehr.
“Every one of you has set a powerful example and every day more women are finding their voices as a result,” she wrote.
Clark said that one way to address treatment of women in politics is to have a gender balanced cabinet, where sexism and harassment can’t be ignored when a woman is in the room.
“The vast majority of men would never behave the way that Patrick Brown and Kent Hehr are alleged to have behaved. But the fact is that in a workplace with few women, as politics very much still is, sexist and inappropriate behaviour happens a lot,” she wrote.
“Having a gender balanced Cabinet won’t have an impact if the bureaucrats who do the heavy lifting are almost all men.”
Clark called on political parties to do more to recruit women to run for office – specifically parties that are in opposition who have more “open” seats in which there is no incumbent.
In B.C., 33 woman hold MLA positions, compared to 53 men. There is one vacant seat ahead of the Kelowna-West byelection in February, but former Liberal MLA Ben Stewart is the heavy favourite to recapture his old seat.
In the most recent provincial election in 2017, 12 women were elected for the first time, as well as eight men.
Clark said citizens have the power to elect more women – as long as they’re qualified.
“Not every woman is better just because she’s female,” Clark said, “but if she’s smart and capable, give her the chance.”
Horgan says culture of politics changing
In response to Clark’s comments, B.C. Premier John Horgan said that while his government is committed to gender parity equality, the culture of politics has changed in recent years.
“There’s not a frat boy sentiment in our group,” he said while speaking on a teleconference call Friday from Seoul, South Korea, where he is on a trade mission.
“In the time I’ve been a member of the legislature, certainly there is an old boys culture to the institution,” Horgan told reporters.
“But I believe that’s been changing over the past number of years and will continue to better reflect where we, as a society, want to be and the role of women in our government, in our industry and in our communities.”