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

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

A group of Abbotsford secondary principals’s and vice-principals are at a retreat in Whistler this weekend. (Whistler.com photo)
Abbotsford principals attending retreat in Whistler despite COVID-19 gathering restrictions

Unclear how reported group of 20 will be following COVID-19 protocols during Whistler Pro-D event

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of Abbotsford student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

John Redekop, with wife Doris, was the 2019 recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from UFV. (Photo courtesy of UFV)
Nominations open until Oct. 30 for UFV’s Betty Urquhart Awards

Award recognizes ‘significant impact’ of volunteer work by an individual or group

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read