Monday, March 16, 2009

Quotas And Kneejerk Reactions

As soon as I read the piece today on the Liberals former gender specific "quota" being put into question, it took about a nanosecond to realize it would be seized upon as evidence of a step back, anti-progressive if you will. Bullocks. In the words of someone who got there on her own merit, and is turning into a star within the party:
"Personally I'm not a fan of quotas," Ms. Hall Findlay. "It's difficult for me as a woman to say that because there are a whole lot of people who feel strongly about quotas, but my focus is on getting more women to run period. I don't need a number to tell me that, and I don't need a number to tell me we don't have enough."

Martha articulates where the focus should be, and it's really the most respectful "formula". In my opinion, there is nothing more pandering to women than a system which says you require artificial help to compete with the boys. I've always hated the past quota ideal, frankly it was a end around to doing the really hard work, a pleasant front that was more about process than progress. Much, much better to have people like Martha using her sway to encourage more potential candidates, that seeks quality, rather than some sort of fundraising thermometer feel.

I would rather the Liberals approach the gender issue as one where we seek out, rather than dictate. Maybe we reach a greater percentage, maybe we don't, but you acknowledge disparity and look for talent. Then, you get in the trenches and let the best bipedal person carry the nomination day. Far better to put people through their paces, than telling a membership who can and can't run, frankly it's all very insulting. Strength of resume, articulation of ideas, sound character, the ability to inspire, those are the pre-requisites. I could care less the gender, given the way we lost swaths of "women" in the last election, despite our attractive banner, I'd say it's inconsequential.

Is there a disparity? Absolutely, but I'm much more comfortable with an approach that recognizes without legislating. In the final analysis, the ideal is much better served without the spectre of quotas, which undermines genuine abilities. It's hard to reconcile how equality is achieved using necessitated inequalities- merit not mandate, with a recognition of attracting.


A Eliz. said...

I say man or woman, whomever can win.

Steve V said...

I just don't agree with anyone who argues it's regressive to get rid of this artificial presentation.

Skinny Dipper said...

"...I don't believe there's been a leader of the Liberal Party that ever abused it," said Ms. Simson [Liberal MP]. I wonder how Iggy got nominated as a Liberal candidate in Etobicoke-Lakeshore when he first ran.

We need some form of proportional representation in Canada so that women and other groups of people will be encouraged to participate and get elected.

I do find that it interesting that the Conservatives will be proposing that protect their incumbents by requiring the 2/3 of the party members in a riding petition to have a nomination meeting. Most of the incumbents are men.

Lori said...

As a graduate of the Women's Campaign School one of the biggest problems I have with the Liberal party's quota (and even worse, the BC-NDP's quota) is that women inevitably end up running in ridings where the Liberals are third, they end up being appointed rather that voted on by the riding association, and/or they aren't well known/liked in that riding.

This puts research done about women and politics into some context. While men almost always volunteer themselves to run as a candidate, almost all of the women in the HoC and most of the women in the provincial legislatures were recruited by their parties to run. MHF herself was recruited.

A different set of decisions have to be made by women in order to make the decision to run, and the parties would be better served by talking to the women in the party and local women of note to actively recruit women who can run and will win.

Oh, and if you know a woman who's thinking about politics... it's worth the flight and weekend in Vancouver to go to Campaign school.

Mark said...

I don't think that people who have been handed a nomination by way of appointment are in any position to be out publicly criticizing a quota system for other women candidates. That's about as intellectually consistent as the Queen saying she supports the end of monarchies in every other country.

Lori said...

As a counter-point to what I just said, I'd also like to point out that there's some evidence to the contrary.

In India, in local government, they reserve 1/3 of the available seats for only female candidates for two election cycles. On the third election cycle, all the seats were unreserved.

Most local governments in India now have 35 to 55% women representatives. Once the women got the seats and the access they were unlikely to lose them, and their example would recruit more women to put their names forward.

Would that happen in Canada?

Don't know... because we've never that 30% women in the HoC.

Steve V said...

That's part of the problem, you end up playing math. To reach your quota you toss in a token woman candidate, into a riding we have no chance of winning.

I don't have the time, but it would be interesting to see the breakdown in "competitive" ridings, say one's where at least had 25% of the vote in 2006.

Anonymous said...

I hope that Liberal women who are concerned about female representation in the House are also members of Fair Vote Canada (, the multi-partisan campaign for proportional representation.

Because as Skinny Dinner notes, PR is the best thing we could do to increase women's legislative representation. The cross-national evidence is clear, more women get elected in PR systems. Why do Liberal women continue to let a male-dominated caucus block reform?

Anonymous said...

The cash problems for the party requires for new standards to be added.

This means membership targets and Victory Fund ABC sign-ups are in. Rules set up by the OLP to ensure Dalton's win in Ontario.

marie said...

I think if more women were electable, good for them and they should run and be considered for the job.. But I also believe that with the bulling going on in Parliment and I don't see that changing much any time soon,why would any women want to be running for anyway. Not unles they are free to cuff a bully now and again. I wouldn't consider running for all the money in the world.

Steve V said...

What is probably more indicative of female representation is the percentage of women candidates running in "winnable" ridings. These are defined as ridings in which the seat is currently held by a woman; where the given party came in second by a margin of 10 per cent or less in the last election; or where there was a three-way contest with a margin of less than 15 per cent between the first- and third-placed contestants.

By that measure, the New Democrats are ahead, with 39 per cent of their candidates in winnable seats; followed by the Bloc, with 32 per cent; the Liberals, with 28 per cent; and the Conservatives, with 15 per cent.

Jim said...

With all due respect - a target is not a quota and there NEVER was a quota to say otherwise is extremely misleading. If Dion didn't meet the TARGET there were to be NO consequences.

Rob Silver I think puts it very well (see here). I'd be curious to see what you have to say about what he said.

If you don't throw a TARGET out there, you'll never get anywhere close.

Note how we've said we'd like to see the budget balanced in 5 years. That's a TARGET, it's not enshrined in stone. We may not achieve it but at least putting it out there allows for something to strive to.

If we don't even have any target whatsoever it says it's not something we care to strive for or that at the least we don't really care how many female candidates we get.

Imagine Ignatieff said "I have no idea when we'll balance the budget, hopefully some day, I'm not interested in setting some kind of target date for when we will achieve that." It would tell he didn't care when we balanced the budget.

Btw if Iggy drops the Dion target it shows he was a bit less than honest during the leadership race:

See here

Sunday, November 16, 2008
Liberal Leadership Debate Recap

Gender Equality? (en francais)

LeBlanc says he liked Dion's policy of having 1/3 female candidates but feels they were too often selected to run in hopelessly unwinable ridings.

Ignatieff also liked this policy and would love to extend it to 40% or 50%. He commented that Harper was very smart to appoint so many female Cabinet Ministers.
Should we not hold him to his promise to rank to file members a mere few months ago? What's changed really that would justify the shift?

Are we really ok with politicians just saying one thing one day and with no explanation just reversing the next?

Do Ignatieff's promises to the membership mean that little?

Note: To be clear I support the leader, I'll vote for him and I've been impressed in general by his performance to date, but if no one else will speak out against policies I personally strongly disagree with then I feel I should do so and hopefully not be subject to ridicule just for speaking my mind.

Steve V said...


Martha used the word "quota", so email her about her misleading characterization of the OBVIOUS.

I disagree, but obviously I respect your right to "speak your mind". Honest debate is great, sitting there everyday thinking of ways to slag Ignatieff, waste of time.

Silver makes points, but you know what? I bet when we see the slate, we will see good things. If not, then..

Jim said...

This isn't about slagging Ignatieff - trying to portray it as this is just setting up a straw man argument - I don't think there is anything disingenous about what I wrote. I can praise Ignatieff for lots of things - his stand on Omar Khadr, his stand for national child care, etc.., but everyone else is already doing that, I could add my voice to the chorus I suppose since I do agree with those directions and do support him and obviously want him to win the next election, but as I said when I see no one speaking my point of view . If I'm in the minority so be it, but it would be nice if someone in the majority view could at least address my points instead of pigeon holing me as some nonsense spewing guy with a grudge.

I don't mean any disrespect but I find when you cast someone as a "troll", "Con supporter", or "Ignatieff basher" it just seems like a convenient way of not having to address the points made by someone - you just say "you're just trying to stir up shit, so what you say has no value".

Try to take your view of my motivations out of the equation and just look at what I said. If you don't agree fine, but at least given some semblance to the idea that you've considered what others wrote.

Why is a fundraising target ok, but not a target for female candidates?

That was the essence of my post and you didn't address that.

No one is calling for quotas and if you look back at what Dion said at the time he was very careful to say then it was not a quota, but just a target, I don't care what MHF says now, maybe soon the media will start calling Dion the "most left-wing Liberal leader in history" it won't make it true.

You should know the difference between the two Steve - a target is synonymn for a GOAL, a quota is in enshrined with clear consequences for non-compliance. And it is disappointing for MHF to portray differently when it's so obviously not true.

I believe a target is useful, and if you read the article Maria Minna, the chair of the women's caucus (who the women's caucus elect by the way, so she can be said to represent the view of women in the caucus better than MHF) she says very clearly
""The commitment is to us, Liberals will have one-third of women, that's what I've been told, that's the direction or the instructions the leader has given to his organizers which means that's what he wants them to do to get ready for the election," said Ms. Minna."

So obviously Ignatieff did lead many people to believe he was going to keep and probably exceed the target.

So IF Ignatieff reverses himself, it's not too much to ask that he explain to the membership:
1) Why he clearly promised to EXCEED the target and praised it's orginal existence under Dion extremely recently and gave the chair of the women's caucus that impression
2) Why he reversed his position.

That's all I ask - this isn't like the Green Shift where everyone knows why it has to be tossed away if you are discarding something you promised the members and the women's caucus you'd do, just explain why....

Steve V said...

Defensive much? I was only responding to your initial comment. Easy.

Koby said...

This would be a welcome change. I certainly hope the Liberals do not stop there. I would like to see the Liberals abolish the women and aboriginal people's commissions and move to a one member one vote.

Oemissions said...

No Woman No Cry:
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
17 Nov 2006 ... Feminisms within Governance Structures: A Comparative Analysis with ..... hence Bob Marley’s hush words “No Woman No Cry”, but a virtual ... - Similar pages -

Oemissions said...

I enjoyed the abstract on this: No Woman No Cry. Its a short read.