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Op-Ed: What's in a smirk?

A response to the op-ed "Because it's 2015"

by Emmaline English

"I strongly believe that while we should encourage women to put their names forward, candidates should win based on merit and the ability to best represent their constituents, not on the gender they identify with. Because it’s 2015." [Photo: Anna Gainey]
"I strongly believe that while we should encourage women to put their names forward, candidates should win based on merit and the ability to best represent their constituents, not on the gender they identify with. Because it’s 2015." [Photo: Anna Gainey]

Response: “Op-ed: Because it’s 2015”

There have been considerable commentaries, editorials, and reviews of Trudeau’s gender balanced Cabinet he presented on Wednesday and the response to a CBC reporter regarding gender parity, in which he responded a cool: “because its 2015”. While the author of the Op-Ed stated that Trudeau’s comment left her feeling angry, out of all of the reviews and comments I have read, it was her Op-Ed that left me feeling angriest of all.

First, to the point of Trudeau’s response to the female CBC correspondent: as per the Peter Mansbridge behind-the-scenes special of that day in which the CBC had access to a morning briefing with the now-PM, Trudeau was advised to simply refer to the year in the event he was asked a gender parity question. His smirk did not have to deal with the fact that the correspondent was a woman: his smirk was because in our society, it is absurd to not have women represented and playing major roles in Cabinet. His smirk was because this is still a question in 2015 that a reporter asks of a PM.

Second, to the point of female representation in Liberal candidates in Nova Scotia: the Liberal Party ran open nominations in the province to select its candidates. As a young woman who is deeply invested in our political process, I would have liked to see more female representation. However, Party members chose strong candidates who have either represented them very well in their tenure as MPs, or were the best choice for their constituency. It was not an assault against women: it was an assault against Stephen Harper and having the best candidates to deliver a Liberal government.

Third and most importantly – in our riding of Halifax, what is audacious is that Ms. Rose thinks that a candidate should run and win on the basis that they are a woman and identify as such.

Reality check: Haligonians voted for Andy (51.1 percentage of the votes cast compared to 36.6 percent for Megan) because he presented a better platform and resonated better with the average voter. It was not “showing an impudent lack of respect” towards Megan or women as to why Andy ran and won: it was because him and his team worked hard and delivered a better message. Because its 2015, we need to accept the fact that merit is what should win in the end of the day, and that’s what happened in Halifax.

Finally, and this one is going to sting: having a female representative does not make a riding “feminist”. The argument is that by virtue of being and identifying as women, Alexa McDonough and Megan Leslie made Halifax a “federal feminist strong hold” … Yes, it was represented by women. Yes, we have underrepresentation in Parliament, an issue that needs to be dealt with. However, by virtue of these past MPs being women and identifying as feminists, it does not make Halifax a “feminist stronghold”. It makes Halifax a riding that was formerly represented by women, and now is being represented by a man who is committed to investing in our city and making it a place for people to stay and work: regardless of the gender you identify with.

Furthermore, why is the argument made that Andy cannot equally represent women? Because of the simple fact that Andy was born and identifies as a man, this makes him unable to represent women? Or women’s issues? He has a progressive partner, a young daughter, and has shown throughout his tenure as an urban planner and during the campaign that he is willing to engage with, and fight for, issues that matter most to all Haligonians.

As a young woman, I know there needs to be more women in our highest offices in Canada, and more women putting their names forward as candidates. With the presentation of this new cabinet and entrusting several women with senior cabinet positions, our new Prime Minister has made considerable in-roads in terms of breaking glass ceilings and opening new doors. However, I strongly believe that while we should encourage women to put their names forward, candidates should win based on merit and the ability to best represent their constituents, not on the gender they identify with.

Because it’s 2015.


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