An Inside Look At Gender in Canada’s 43rd Parliament

The results of the gruelling 40-day federal election campaign have not granted an absolute win for any of Canada’s political parties, with the exception of the Bloc Québécois. Canadians demoted Liberals down to a minority government. Conservatives lost and lost big in the Ontario and Québec regions they were fiercely pushing to win. The NDP didn’t gain ground, instead dropping down to 24 seats. The Greens in no way capitalized on the growing environmental concerns among Canadians with a ‘historic’ win of only 3 seats. However, small wins can be gleaned from the outcome of Election 43, including a record number of women being elected into the House of Commons.

Ninety-eight women will be coming to Ottawa, an all-time high. Although, this means only 29% of elected officials in total are women. On the plus side, Canada elected more women in total, considering 2015’s federal election brought the last Parliament only 88 women MPs.

Some of the challenges that parties face include putting women in ‘winnable’ ridings as well as the percentage of women who are putting their name forward that are unsuccessful. While the Liberals will have 52 women sitting in Parliament, a total of 116 women ran for the Liberals in this election. The Conservatives will have 22 women sitting on their side of the House of Commons, which jars against the record number of women the Conservatives nominated as candidates at 106. The party that fell behind throughout the election in naming candidates in a timely way was the NDP. Their Leader Jagmeet Singh said this was largely due to his party ensuring that enough women and minorities were putting their name on the ballot. The NDP eventually nominated 104 women to run for the party, which resulted in only nine winning a seat. The Greens picked up one additional seat in Atlantic Canada, resulting in now having two Green women MPs out of three – however, their party had the highest number of women candidates, running 129 women in total across the country. Lastly, the Bloc Québécois nominated 20 women out of 78 seats, culminating in a win for 12 women BQ MPs.

With the highest number of women MPs elected under the minority Parliament-leading Liberals, what does this mean for the shape of their government? Although only 33% of the new Liberal caucus is women, like the last Liberal mandate, these women will continue to fill at least half of the roles in cabinet, committees and key special advisory roles for the Prime Minister. During their campaign, the Liberals promised to continue to have a gender-balanced cabinet and maintain using a “Gender-based Analysis Plus” lens when working at all policy, decisions and government programs. They recommitted to that today during the Prime Minister’s first press conference. This will mean that all policy in each Department across government will be put through the GBA+ lens, federal budgets, and fiscal updates will be vetted by this standard.

Women’s caucus traditionally meets as a group within each party and are expected to once again form when Parliament returns. Those spaces will be used to talk about the topics that matter most to women across Canada, while bringing in experts across various sectors to further educate and challenge parliamentarians on gender and social issues. Returning big-name women Liberal MPs include previous Liberal Ministers: Chrystia Freeland, Catherine McKenna and Dr. Carolyn Bennett – and are all expected to again receive cabinet positions. On the Opposition fronts, Conservative MPs Candice Bergen and Michelle Rempel, NDP MP Niki Ashton, and, of course, the Leader of the Greens Elizabeth May will also be returning to Ottawa.

Along with those strong women voices, it’s now a waiting game on which newly elected women MPs across parties will be the trailblazers in the 43rd Parliament. However, when looking at the resumes of the 98 women elected to the House of Commons, the expectations and excitement are high from Canadians watching this, and in particular for the roughly 18.5 million Canadian women. All eyes will be on this group of women parliamentarians, and the new Liberal government to find out what their plan is on the issues the majority of Canadian women care about most, including healthcare, equal employment, childcare and the environment.