The eternal question

A few interesting reads from the weekend: Susan Delacourt looks at new research into the electability of women in Canada, Alice Funke adds her own analysis, and Linda Silver Dranoff reviews Canada’s Unfinished Democracy. From the latter.

She points out that this “women+power=discomfort” equation makes people focus on the contests that women lose and extrapolate from that, that women are losers. Many do run in ridings they have no chance of winning, or for parties that have no chance of governing.

The examples she provides are persuasive, including Agnes MacPhail, Thérèse Casgrain, Kim Campbell and Belinda Stronach, but the one that resonated with me was Flora MacDonald. In 1976, she was considered a shoo-in for the Progressive Conservative leadership; members of her party had promised her enough votes to assure a win. But when they went into the voting booths, they didn’t vote for her. Has Bashevkin provided the explanation about 30 years later? Were MacDonald’s supporters just plain uncomfortable with a woman in power? It would seem so.

One other way of looking at this: what precisely is the model for female political leadership in Canada? Who would you tell a 25-year-old women thinking of getting into politics to model herself after?

Sheila Copps? Audrey McLaughlin? Alexa McDonough? Kim Campbell? Anne McLellan? Belinda Stronach?

Better yet, limit your options to the current Parliament. There are a dozen compelling options—Martha Hall Findlay, Lisa Raitt, Diane Finley, Megan Leslie, Libby Davies, Marlene Jennings, Olivia Chow, Kirsty Duncan, Siobhan Coady—but are any of them thought of as future prime ministers? Who is the next woman to lead a national political party in this country? If Messrs. Harper, Ignatieff and Layton resigned on mass tomorrow—hey, there’s an idea!—is there a woman right now who would be considering anything but a long shot to replace one of them?

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