© Guardian photo
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‚Äôs mortal sin was spending $45,000 of public funds to fly to Nelson Mandela‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs a need to be more ruthless and defiant.