Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It only counts if you're a Liberal

Most readers will be familiar with the concept of IOKIYAC, meaning "it's okay if you're a Conservative", as a shorthand for the double standards typically applied by the right. But it may be time to unveil a new abbreviation along similar lines: IOCIYAL, for "it only counts if you're a Liberal".

For today's example, let's go to Sheila Copps' column on women in politics:
A record number of Canadian women actually rode into Parliament on a wave created by the election's biggest loser. Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion announced early that he would try to nominate an unprecedented one-third women for the Grit team. In the end, the party topped its target, nominating an unprecedented 113 women or 37 per cent of its candidates.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Dion's bold move encouraged most other political parties to expressly target more women nominations.

The Bloc Québécois ran 20 women and managed to elect 15 of them, defying the prevailing myth that women are somehow less electable than men. The New Democrats nominated 104 women, electing 11.
Copps' claim is a fairly simple one: that Dion's target influenced the NDP and the Bloc to nominate and elect more female candidates. But there's a fairly glaring problem with the assertion if one actually checks the evidence.

After all, a quick look at the Pundits' Guide election numbers shows that in the 2006 election, the NDP led the pack by far with 108 female candidates, with the Bloc running 23 (to 79 for the Libs).

As a result, it would seem to be beyond reasonable dispute that both the NDP and the Bloc were doing plenty to bring female candidates into the fold long before Stephane Dion won the Lib leadership. And moreover, the Libs' target had absolutely nothing to do with the number of female candidates nominated by the other opposition parties.

Now, it's worth noting that attempting to give credit to the Libs for being on the cutting edge is itself a fairly laughable proposition. In every previous federal election in the Pundits' Guide database, the NDP had a healthy lead on the Libs in the number of female candidates nominated - and in both 1997 and 2006 the NDP had already exceeded the 33% target which Copps claims to have been so revolutionary.

Which means that if one wants to give credit to anybody for setting a precedent for relative gender parity that other parties have felt a need to follow, the place to direct praise would be toward Alexa McDonough and Jack Layton. But thanks to IOCIYAL, Copps and her party are apparently well along the path toward editing the history books to delete any reference to female candidates prior to Dion.

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