Ontario premier-designate Kathleen Wynne’s recent victory has been described as historic in may circles. Wynne is not only the first female premier of Ontario but also an openly gay premier who lives with her partner, Jane Roundthwaite.
Her victory means that Canada now has five female premiers and one First Minister in Nunavut. We have in Alberta Alison Redford; B.C. has Christie Clark; Pauline Marois in Quebec; Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland and Eva Aariuk Nunavut.
Wynee made it clear in her first news conference that she intends to be defined by what she does for Ontario instead of her sexual orientation. She said she was proud to see that Canadian women were gradually breaking the barriers in politics.
The 59-year-old premier, who has three children from a previous marriage, is expected to be sworn in next week. Her first priority would be to summon the Ontario legislature on February 19. She has already called on the opposition to work with her to solve the province’s problems.
“The rancour and the viciousness of the legislature can’t continue,” she said. “We have to absolutely work out our disagreements. What I am hoping for is that if we can build relationships among the party leaders and the three caucuses, we will be able to have debate without the poison of that real viciousness.
“It is a partisan exercise but many of the issues we face as a province are not issues that are partisan.”
The newly-selected premier is determined to work with the opposition and stop strife within the legislature. Kathleen Wynne says the parties must work together to get the province back on track. She wants to rid the Ontraio legislature of its ‘poison.’
So now we have a bunch of new women in town, who are in charge. As the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente said if things continue to progress in this direction, the highly exclusive club for Canadian premiers will have to start considering affirmative action for men.
“Women really are less adversarial and combative,” says Barbara Moses, a career-management expert and a contributing columnist for The Globe and Mail. She points out several other factors that make the political experience different for women and for men.
Her theory is that men are considered highly competitive and are driven into politics by ego and power needs while women are extremely ambivalent about those things. During the first half of their lives, women tend to be about people-pleasing – parents, bosses, partners, kids. It’s only in the second half that women get less interested in pleasing others and more interested in self-expression and making a broader contribution to society.
There are several reasons why women are reluctant to get involved in politics. Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership undertook a study, which reported several reasons for women’s under representation in politics.
They include,” the reluctance of political parties to support women candidates; structural inequalities within the electoral system; cultural, attitudinal and financial barriers; and the challenge reconciling the demands of political life with family responsibilities.”
But now it looks like women’s time in politics has come. There is no shortage of brilliant and accomplished women who’ve reached the second half of their lives. One thing they have in their favour is that gender is no longer an issue with voters. In fact, research has shown that voters have great trust in women to manage the issues that most affect their lives – health, education and the like.
With these premiers and others becoming role models in high office, young girls will grow up in the belief that being premier one day is just a normal thing to do..