Elizabeth May speaks to the News about how politics in B.C. can be an unattractive option for many women.

Political venom in BC, deterrent to female politicians

When Elizabeth May unwrapped a necklace from her daughter this past Christmas, the federal Green Party leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands candidate commented that the jewelry was so pretty, she’d like to wear it to the next leaders’ debate.

“’Mom, you can’t wear that,’” May said, reciting her daughter’s words. “’Remember how the media attacked the necklace you wore last time?’”

May laughs as she recalls the story, but finds little humour in the sexism she encounters or the overall venomous climate that every B.C. leader faces – especially women.

“The political culture is increasingly unpleasant and kind of like a hockey locker room – or worse,” she said. “It’s a rude environment to be in.”

For the first time in B.C.’s history, we could see women leading both of the province’s major parties into an election. The rare turn of events was sparked by the recent resignation of both Liberal premier Gordon Campbell and NDP opposition leader MLA Carole James.

When James announced she was stepping down due to infighting, the NDP’s little known policy on gender equity made its way into the news.

The party’s provision stipulates that at least one of the three top party positions (leader, treasurer and president) must be held by a woman. By these rules, the next party leader must be female, unless a woman takes over for current president Moe Sihota or treasurer Bob Smits.

“If anything, this shows the NDP’s dedication to having – or at least attempting to have – gender parity,” said Janni Aragon, University of Victoria professor of political science, specializing in gender in politics. “The NDP is going to need to do some soul-searching to see where they’re going to go from here.”

May also applauds the sentiment, but calls the method “artificial” and notes that most Green Parties around the world have been able to attract higher ratios of female leaders, without implementing quotas on gender.

As for the Liberal leadership race, Aragon – who is American and does not vote in Canadian elections – considers candidate Christy Clark or any other woman who may take on the role a “sacrificial lamb.” A woman leader would inherit too many of Campbell’s issues and will only further damage the culture of women in provincial politics, she said.

While May strongly disagrees with this sentiment, both women come to the consensus that we are far from parity and something needs to change.

“It’s a really significant challenge for our society to look at our political culture and decide how do we change this to have the kind of political culture which is more welcoming to women, less combative, more focused on cooperation, less partisan and more committed to finding what we have in common instead of accentuating what we have in difference,” May said. “Our politics used to be like that.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Study recommends jurors receive more financial and psychological support

Federal justice committee calls for 11 policy changes to mitigate juror stress

Oak Bay Tea Party: Performers of all abilities REACH for the stage in Oak Bay

REACH Performing Company are live on stage at the Oak Bay TeaParty at Willows Beach again June 2

Smart car takes local commuter challenge, but cyclists overall winners

Local celebration stations set for next week’s Greater Victoria Bike to Work Week

Embrace Twilight traces Bowker Creek tributary, history

The walk departs Fireman’s Park May 27 at 7 p.m

VIDEO: Campers leave big mess at rural Port Renfrew campsite

Vehicle parts, garbage, a mattress, lawn chairs, beer cans, and even fecal matter left in the area

Research needed on impact of microplastics on B.C. shellfish industry: study

SFU’s department of biological sciences recommends deeper look into shellfish ingesting microbeads

Saanich councillor says amalgamation motion has ‘failed’

A Saanich councillor has questioned ongoing amalgamation talks with the City of… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 22

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Singh sides with B.C. in hornet’s nest of pipeline politics for the NDP

Singh had called for a more thorough environmental review process on the proposal

VIDEO: B.C. woman gets up-close view of Royal wedding

Kelly Samra won a trip back to her home country to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say ‘I do’

Single vehicle hits pole in Saanich on Highway 17

A single vehicle collision caused some minor traffic delays southbound on Highway… Continue reading

30 C in B.C., 30 cm of snow expected for eastern Canada

It might be hot in B.C., but the rest of Canada still dealing with cold

Reading between the lines: the many roles of the Victoria Literacy Connection

Saturday fundraiser to help volunteer-run organization teach people to read, write and more

Most Read