Diversity on the bench: The need for affirmative action in Canada

Canadian Politics

Yesterday on Power and Politics, MP Megan Leslie did a fantastic job of addressing Minister Peter MacKay’s comments regarding a lack of diversity on Canada’s benches.

According to MacKay, a lack of female representation can be attributed to a lack of female applicants for these positions.

There are so many assumptions ingrained in this statement that I would contend are short sighted at best.

Firstly,  the question posed to MacKay was about diversity. While female involvement is an important aspect of a diverse government, gender is but a mere sliver of the representation that needs to be included in Canada (i.e. ethnicity,language, age etc).

Secondly, stating that the root of female underrepresentation is found in decisions made by women to not participate in government is completely off hand for me. MacKay is skirting around real, systemic issues that exist in our government and which require some form of affirmative action to resolve themselves. Our electoral system, for example, is notorious for disadvantaging minority groups like women.

Thirdly, the conservative government is largely failing to implement these affirmative actions for women. The position that we are taking about provides a clear and effective opportunity for the government to introduce these actions. This is an appointed position. If MacKay thinks that the problem is a lack of willing applicants, then why would you not take advantage of an opportunity where you can appoint female applicants that are skilled and wiling to participate.

Lastly, if there is a grain of truth in MacKay’s statement and women are not applying for government positions due to their deep connection to offspring, then why wouldn’t we make efforts to adjust the system and make it less hostile to these women? If government positions are turning women away because of an unwelcoming and  unaccommodating environment, should it not be this culture that needs to change rather than the people attempting to enter it?

Megan Leslie addresses many of these concerns in the Power and Politics interview, which you can watch here: http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Politics/Power+%26+Politics/ID/2466113330/