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

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

City of Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc, left, received the plaque from Terrace Community Foundation Chair, Norm Parry at George Little Park. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
VIDEO: Terrace Community Foundation marks 10 years as a philanthropic organization in the city

The plaque presented by the Foundation will be permanently displayed at City Hall

Terrace Search and Rescue vice president Dave Jephson during longline training exercises in 2018. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace Search and Rescue Operations spike in 2020

Last year was the busiest ever for Search and Rescue groups in B.C.

Terrace city staff are in the process of reaching out to local and Indigenous governments in the northwest to form a lobby group to pressure the provincial government to fix the city’s growing social issues crisis. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Province urged to fix Terrace social services ‘crisis’

City wants to form regional lobby group

The report prepared by Independent Investigations Office of BC said that no offence was committed by the police officer from Lisims/ Nass Valley RCMP detachment while responding to a stabbing incident that led to an in-custody death. (Black Press file photo)
Nass Valley RCMP officer cleared in October 2020 police-involved death

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. concludes no offence committed by police officer

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversay of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
VIDEO: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Most Read