Friday, July 09, 2010

On democratic diversity

Saskatoon Riversdale MLA Danielle Chartier provides a strong response to Murray Mandryk's column on female candidates within the Saskatchewan NDP. And while there's no doubt that the party has a long ways to go, there's reason for optimism based on both the strategy already in place and the recognition that diverse representation is essential to good government:
Across Canada, political parties of all stripes are not doing enough to ensure that our legislatures and Parliament are more reflective of the diversity of our provinces and our country. We need to elect more women, First Nations and Métis people, people of colour, people with disabilities, and people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

This is not about diversity for its own sake. This is about ensuring all perspectives are brought to the decision-making table so that public policy actually addresses the needs of all citizens.
(A)ll four (Saskatchewan NDP) leadership candidates reaffirmed their commitment to nominating and electing more women. Promising, yes, but problematic, as there was still no strategy in place. The dialogue continues under our leader, Dwain Lingenfelter, and I am pleased there is now a strategy in place to support and develop women candidates for nomination in 2011 and beyond.

I believe this multi-faceted strategy to elect more women is a step in the right direction. Is it going to get us to 50 per cent women nominated in 2011? Perhaps not, but the recent nominations in Regina South and Regina Coronation Park have re-ignited within the party as a whole the much-needed dialogue on how we get there.

The strategy includes formal mentorship of all female candidates. This may be controversial to some, as MLAs have traditionally distanced themselves from nominations. But the words of Albert Einstein are particularly relevant here: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

If we want to nominate and elect more women (and more First Nations and Métis people, people of colour, people with disabilities, people from the LGBT community), and we have not had the desired success thus far, we need to do things differently.
Of course, there's room for discussion as to what the NDP's candidate diversity strategy actually should include. And the recent nomination races offer some fodder for discussion on both sides of the question of whether a combination of mentoring and explicit focus on diversity will get the job done.

To be sure, the fact that two strong female candidates fell short in their campaigns has to be a major concern for the party. But there's more to the story than that.

After all, in Regina Coronation Park it was a candidate who spoke strongly about his immigrant background who won a race featuring three diversity candidates. So while the end result may have made for a disappointment from a gender parity standpoint, it can't be seen as a negative when it comes to the NDP's goal of assembling a more diverse and representative caucus.

What's more, while the female candidates came up short in both nomination races, it's worth noting that the one who placed a much more direct focus on gender representation as an issue achieved substantially better results. And that may signal the value of highlighting the NDP's commitment to diversity and the role a candidate can play in it, rather than counting on members to pick up on the issue for themselves.

Fortunately, there are plenty of nominations left for the NDP to learn from recent events and encourage strong candidates of all kinds of backgrounds. And hopefully the continued discussion of the need for diversity will encourage candidates and potential supporters alike to maintain it as a primary focus as the party puts together its slate of candidates for 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment