Democracy vs. Gender: The Liberal Solution

Dion’s most notable promise of the leadership race was guaranteeing that at least 33% of Liberal Party candidates will be women. This is a laudable goal. Moreover, I suspect the press will follow it closely. If the Liberals fail to reach it Dion’s credibility could be seriously undermined. It is would not be unreasonable to ask: if Dion can’t implement change within a party he controls, how does he intend to affect change if in government?

Some people are – justly – worried about how the goal will be met. Obviously there is a tension between allowing open and democratic nomination contests and ensuring that at least 33% of candidates are women. The easiest option would be to appoint female candidates. This however, carries with it some significant costs. In addition to being bad for morale, disenfranchised riding associations may not donate their time, energy and money to an appointed candidate (male or female) thereby diminishing their chances of winning the actual election.

However, what I have seen in British Columbia (so far) has been an interesting and compelling solution to this quandry. Rather than rig nomination processes (or eliminate them altogether) the party is making two smart plays. First, it is aggresively seeking out highly qualified women in an effort to create a rich pool of candidates. Second, (and this is most compelling part) it is making a direct appeal to members. It is, in effect, saying: when selecting who to support we understand that each of you has a criteria by which you evaluate candidates, we would greatly appreciate it if you made gender a stronger component in this criteria. Interestingly, this appeal could be doubly effective because membership lists may remain closed. Consequently, those campaigning for nomination will probably not be able to sign up new members and with thus have to appeal to the current pool of members (who are more likely to take this messaging to heart).

Best of all, I like what this messaging says about the party. Rather than adopt some centralized top-down way to shape and control the outcome this approach is compelling, appropriate and democratic because it does the exact opposite, it respects and appeals to the intelligence and integrity of party members. Very clever, and very liberal, indeed.

[tags]politics, canadian politics, liberal party of canada [/tags]

2 thoughts on “Democracy vs. Gender: The Liberal Solution

  1. Rikia

    If you check out the Equal Voice website you can see the various Liberal candidates’ approaches to achieving gender equity.

    One of the things that impressed me most about Kennedy was his solution on gender equity. Instead of complicated formulas or appointments, he left it to the ridings and said basically “Within a couple elections, half my cabinet will be women. So you’d better send me a good supply. ”

    When ridings know that nominating a strong female candidate could lead to a voice at the table, it changes the equation.

    Countless studies have shown that voters have no preference between male and female candidates– once women are nominated they are just as likely to win the election.

    Reply
  2. Rikia

    If you check out the Equal Voice website you can see the various Liberal candidates’ approaches to achieving gender equity. One of the things that impressed me most about Kennedy was his solution on gender equity. Instead of complicated formulas or appointments, he left it to the ridings and said basically “Within a couple elections, half my cabinet will be women. So you’d better send me a good supply. ” When ridings know that nominating a strong female candidate could lead to a voice at the table, it changes the equation.Countless studies have shown that voters have no preference between male and female candidates– once women are nominated they are just as likely to win the election.

    Reply

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