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Action, not talk, needed to ensure women in politics

After the first leaders’ debate of the 2014 New Brunswick election, the CBC reported that “the five men have all acknowledged this week the need to bring more women into politics.”

I’m a small voice in a big pool, but I don’t think I’m wrong when I say there’s nothing like a group of men in positions of power talking about women. Further, there’s nothing quite like words without action.

And here we are, with a Liberal government under Brian Gallant. About to choose his cabinet, Gallant remarked that there were too few women elected. Another thing I’m all for: stating the obvious. Perhaps, and I could be entirely wrong here, if the Liberal party ran more than 13 women in Liberal strongholds there wouldn’t be the problem of too few women in elected positions.

Of the 49 ridings, the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives ran 13 women, the NDP 14, and the Greens 19. David Coon’s Greens deserve recognition for their 19 not only because it is higher than the other parties, but because it is also 19 women out of the 46 ridings the Greens ran candidates in. If the Greens, the party that got an elected candidate and didn’t even run a full plate of candidates, can get 19 women nominated, what’s happening with the other parties?

It’s their own political ideologies. While the PCs outright worked against women’s access to healthcare, the Liberals hummed and hawed while Gallant tried to calm the potential storm. How is it that political parties expect women to join into politics when they can’t even provide full access to healthcare? You can say every encouraging statement you want during a futile leaders’ debate and you can comment a thousand times how your party is a promoter of women’s involvement; the fact will remain that unless you are actively working alongside women to ensure their access to every facet of our society, you are failing.

Not acknowledging that women are just as deserving of appropriate aspects of healthcare as men means women are excluded from one part of society. And if a group has been subjugated in one area, it implies the idea that there are further areas of exclusion. Nope, you can’t have access to abortion, yet we really want you involved in politics.

It doesn’t stop with politics. If you watched election night coverage on CBC, it wasn’t hard to notice that the political commentators were all men. If you only caught a glimpse of the coverage, you might be prone to think that the Suffragettes lost, and only male landowners were allowed to vote in this past election.

Our last legislature had a historical low in women MLAs. This upcoming legislature is nothing to be proud of. I agree with much of Fredericton South that getting David Coon elected was a victory in that we finally have a third party in the legislature again. However, it was also a massive failure (the tabulation confabulation aside).

Gallant is hard-struck to find women for his cabinet and he has little else to blame but his party and himself. There are eight women sitting in this legislature now; four in government, four in opposition. Write to me if I am wrong, but N.B. is made up of more than 16 per cent women. And okay, Gallant has taken action to form a committee on the issue. However, politics and action are two words not often associated in the N.B. political landscape.

And I hear you: we can’t just all of a sudden put women into elected positions. The people and parties need to vote to put them there. And that’s why the biggest problem is the most difficult. It’s the hardest to confront and deal with. It’s even the most stubborn problem.

The real problem is N.B. citizens. It’s you, me, and every other voting, non-voting, employed or unemployed, rural and urban, educated and uneducated individual’s problem. First, we put up with it. We allow a group of boys to rule us. Second, so few of us seem to not even give nod to the fact that women are being excluded from political discourse, political power, and healthcare. And each one of these things go hand in hand.

I don’t deny that abortion is an intricate and complicated issue, but so is every damn political and social issue. The fact is that women are being refused access to healthcare and we sit around wondering why women aren’t feeling especially encouraged to run for politics. Saying that women just don’t want to join politics is like saying a woman got hit on at the bar because she was wearing a bikini. It’s victim blaming and it needs to end. We need to begin not just talking about women in power, we need to start ensuring it.

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