Women politicians come under attack by their own parties

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Olive Crane

Trend started in P.E.I. where Olive Crane finally forced to resign as PC party leader

The odds are well past the point of reasonable probability that the sudden demise of women political leaders in Canada is solely because of  blunders and missteps. Last fall, six women held power as premier, heralding an age of political enlightenment, reflecting the proportion of females in the population and finally bringing women into a spotlight so long denied. Men, who seem just as inept, aloof or error-prone as their female counterparts, are safely enthroned in office. For a woman, accusations of being a bully is a terminal affliction but is considered acceptable among men.

These six women won elections or gained party leaderships because they deserved it, either by out-manoeuvring male opponents or because they were the best choice available. And given those accomplishments, they deserve to remain as leader until voters say otherwise. Instead, their ousters from power are coming at the hands of former friends and fellow members in the increasingly fickle blood sport of Canadian party politics.

The latest casualty was Alberta premier Alison Redford last week. It started with Nunavut premier Eva Aariak in November, and then Newfoundland premier Kathy Dunderdale stepped down in January, just two years after winning a massive majority. Redford led her PC Party to an upset win over the even more conservative Wild Rose Party just two short years ago.

Redford’s mortal sin was spending $45,000 of public funds to fly to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa. Dunderdale misjudged the public mood when she said massive power outages this winter did not constitute a crisis. Both were errors in judgment, but should they have cost them their jobs? No. It was nothing to do with public policy.

Other reasons were lightweight — poor team players, poor communicators and not being a nice person. Those adjectives could describe Prime Minister Stephen Harper or other male premiers, yet they seem firmly entrenched in power. Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty was accused of becoming autocratic in his nine-year hold on power but at least his undoing was because of a multimillion-dollar spending scandal over power plants. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, an international embarrassment, is still in office. Would a woman mayor who smoked crack and went on drunken rampages still be in office? Hardly.

Premier Christy Clark survived a coup attempt in B.C. because she fought back and won. Kathleen Wynne in Ontario is considered an underdog in the next election and Pauline Marois is in a fight for her political life in Quebec.

What columnists and observers fail to mention is the start of this national regicide was actually born here on the Island when Olive Crane was forced to resign as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. in late 2012, and finally was given the boot from caucus in October 2013. The proverbial straws were not any grievous political blunders but because she dared ask questions about PNP as Opposition Leader and then as a backbencher spoke to a member of the press too candidly in answer to a question posed to her.

This seminal event can be referenced as the start of a purge of women leaders across Canada. It’s how politics is usually run in this country where a herd mentality consumes the consciousness of elected officials where an ill-advised course of action must be followed through, no matter how stupid or politically suicidal.

It is perhaps an extreme conclusion to say that misogyny has gripped Canadian politics where women are suddenly considered a liability. But few sound explanations remain so accusations of sexism seem well placed. If women are guilty of anything, sadly, it’s a need to be more ruthless and defiant.

Organizations: PC Party, Wild Rose Party, Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I.

Geographic location: Canada, Ontario, Alberta Nunavut Newfoundland South Africa Toronto B.C.

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Recent comments

  • voter
    March 27, 2014 - 07:05

    from what i've seen -women are usually not able to be crooked enough to be around politics any length of time

  • Not all women
    March 26, 2014 - 07:06

    Gail Shea is a strong woman and doing very well in politics, she is the first island woman ever to be in the federal cabinet, is serving as Minister of Fisheries for the second time, a traditional role for a man, she was the first woman to be ACOA minister, first woman to be provincial Transportation Minister. Minister Shea is doing things that many of her male counterparts were too weak to do, fixing EI for rural islanders, guiding the fishery through crisis and working against 3 men (4 if you include the Premier) who want to bring her down to insure PEI is being represented in the federal government. Minister Shea is an example of how honesty and hard work along with a strong desire to serve her community have proven to make a real difference, don't expect her to become ruthless or defiant!

  • Lorne W. from Sneaker Cove
    March 25, 2014 - 18:16

    "Redford’s mortal sin was spending $45,000 of public funds to fly to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa."....................................... .....In Alberta, they obviously see something very wrong in an elected Premier spending $45,000 in an unnecessary flight home from abroad. And they finally did something about it..... here on PEI, our Premier ran up a big expense for changing flight tickets on a junket to India and few in the province cared enough to comment.....I suspect the difference is in Alberta they cannot accept entitlement as an explanation for wasted tax dollars whereas on PEI we care little as the ultimate source of provincial government tax revenue is what some call the Ottawa ATM machine that dispenses about 70% of the provincial budget in direct federal tax grants or others hidden tax transfers in bloated federal provincial programs....I tip my hat to Albertans and don't see any change here on the island as entitlement is too ingrained in the political culture and in political practice.

    • Don't think so
      March 25, 2014 - 20:07

      Harper spent 45k taking his family to broadway shows in New York city. He also spent 250k taking a delegation to Israel. What about the 3billion in unaccounted federal spending? You'd think these citizens unable to accept such entitlements would have had something to say about that eh? How do these facts impact your argument? I would say that they point to selective outrage regarding how public dollars are spent. In the case of Mrs. Redford... I'd say she made a poor decision... but given a different premier going to to honour a different foreign leader (Perhaps a Mr. Rightwing going to honour another Mr. Rightwing), it would not have been an issue. I'm just speculating, of course... but the outrage over 45k for Ms. Redford to honour Mandela seems a little misplaced after Harper spent 250k to visit Israel. As for PEI - I agree. We need much more accountability and transparency within our government.

    • Nikki from Stratford
      March 26, 2014 - 15:07

      "...but the outrage over 45k for Ms. Redford to honour Mandela seems a little misplaced ..." The outrage in Alberta within the provincial Conservative Party which is also the government of Alberta today had nothing whatsoever to do with Premier Redford attending a ceremony with other Canadians and politicians who accompanied PM Harper on a Canadian Forces jet. There was lots of seating and all were accommodated on the one flight.....What upset Albertans was the $45,000 additional expense charged to taxpayers because Premier Redford decided to not accompany others on the return flight with the Prime Minister. She changed her flight plans for a 4 hour time difference and sent the bill to the public treasury. Premier Ghiz did the same thing on a trip last year to India and some fellow Islanders were indignant at the thought that the Liberal Party of PEI or the Premier himself pay the extra cost for the upgrade to a last minute first class ticket from India to Canada. Obviously, sensibilities about entitlement are much different in Alberta than on PEI. Sadly, its likely tax dollars collected in Alberta and remitted through Ottawa that paid for the extravagance of Premier Ghiz last year on his return, last minute flight change, to a first class flight from India to Canada. One province is revolted by political entitlement from the Premier's Office and replaces their Premier and the other province celebrates him with a reelection. How long other Canadians will tolerate such high levels of entitlement on PEI in particular, may soon be answered in other provinces where there is growing pressure to turn the Ottawa ATM machine off....

  • voter
    March 25, 2014 - 10:58

    women are failing as leaders ans its all the fault of males !!!!sounds very shallow

    • voter too
      March 25, 2014 - 13:54

      Oh stop taking it so personally. God sakes... she's saying there's a double standard, and there is. She never said it was "all males fault." But if you want to ahead an cry victim... go ahead. Poor you. Poor poor you... having to put up with these shallow accusations. How DO you put up with this discrimination and oppression. Oh my. What a terrible state of affair for you. She's pointing out a legitimate double standard. Get over it.

    • voter
      March 25, 2014 - 14:20

      VOTER TOO----this was a comment from a female

    • voter too
      March 25, 2014 - 16:00

      My apologies for mocking you for taking it personally then. I guess I just think you're wrong then... but not defensive and wrong.

    • voter
      March 26, 2014 - 05:43

      voter too -your answer is evidence of a double standard you practice - when a male says something it is wrong ,he is a bully and worthy of mockery, etc -while a female who says the same is "only wrong"-- stop taking it so personally !!!! lol

    • Voter too
      March 26, 2014 - 12:27

      Yes - in my experience, when a male is railing against a legitimate gender double standard... because he is part of the dominant group which created the double standard... he will take it more personally, and get more defensive when issues of misogyny are brought up. Generally, he doesn't want to deal with giving up some privilege, and deal with giving equality to women, and deal with giving up sexist humour. That has been my personal experience. Women, on the other hand, (in my experience) don't criticize gender double standards because they "don't want to deal with the consequences." Their criticism doesn't come from a place of defensiveness... it doesn't come from a place "taking the criticism personally." ... because generally woman weren't part of the dominant group which created the double standard. So - I while there may be some truth to your comment. I don't think it carries much weight. I think it was more of a cheap shot... Especially considering how you insult the author of the article (who is pointing out a gender double standard), and then insult me (for allegedly using a gender double standard). You seem to have a pretty inconsistent concern for double standards.