Why Canada’s political pipeline leaves little room for anyone but white men

Good study by Erin Tolley (disclosure: know Erin from our time together at CIC/IRCC and we remain in contact):

For women, the toughest hurdle is at the nomination level, the first checkpoint into the political realm.

Racialized minorities come up against barriers further along, beginning at the candidate selection stage.

That’s according to Erin Tolley, who teaches political science at the University of Toronto.

Tolley is among the first to map the race and gender of more than 800 people vying for a political party’s nomination ahead of the 2015 vote in 136 of the country’s most diverse ridings, where racialized minorities make up at least 15 per cent of the population, half of which are in Ontario. (Her tally uses Statistics Canada’s definition of “visible minority” and therefore does not include Indigenous nomination contestants or candidates.)

Wannabe politicians must first successfully compete for their choice party’s nomination in order to become the candidate in an election.

Though Tolley’s project is still in the works, early findings suggest political parties aren’t doing enough to diversify the pool of candidates.

“The dynamics for women and racialized minorities are different,” she said. “That’s important for parties to know because they therefore need to have different strategies if they want to attract and want to run women or racialized minority candidates.”

Women make up 52 per cent of the population, but only accounted for 33 per cent of nomination contestants across those 136 ridings. The proportion of female election candidates ticked up slightly, to 36 per cent, and 31 per cent of elected MPs in those districts were women.

That suggests women are less likely to throw their hat in the ring, but once they do, they fare well.

“Maybe women don’t want to run, they don’t want to be called ‘Barbies,’ for example,” Tolley said, citing veteran MP Gerry Ritz’s now-deleted and apologized-for recent tweet that referred to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as “climate Barbie.”

Tolley put the onus on political parties.

“Political parties don’t do sufficient work to identify women candidates and encourage them to run,” she said. “Frankly, not enough fingers are pointed at political parties. We don’t need to change the electoral system to get women into politics. All parties need to do is nominate more women. It’s actually pretty simple.”

Racialized minorities don’t experience the same obstacle.

According to the data, minorities declare their candidacy in proportions that match their presence in the population. However, by the time Canadians go to the polls the share of MPs of colour is far below that.

“They want to be nomination contestants, but then the party is less likely to select them, and voters are even less likely to select them,” Tolley said.

Across the 136 ridings, racialized minorities comprised 38 per cent of the population and 37 per cent of nomination contestants. That dwindled to 33 per cent of election candidates, and to 29 per cent of MPs — an eight-point gap between the number of hopeful nominees and those who won a seat on the Hill.

A contributing factor is one Tolley has previously explored — that minority candidates tend to compete against each other in battleground districts.

That’s because racialized minorities are more likely to run, and win, in more diverse ridings, Tolley said. For instance, three candidates of colour may vie for their party’s nomination in an ethnically-rich district, and split the ballot.

“So, you have this big pool of people who are interested, but they’re competing against each other, essentially cancelling each other out — and that’s happening at each level,” she explained.

As for white men, their political possibilities widen.

Thirty-nine per cent of nomination contestants in those diverse ridings were white men, and they comprised 40 per cent of candidates on the ticket. Nearly half, 48.5 per cent, of those who won a seat were white males.

Source: Why Canada’s political pipeline leaves little room for anyone but white men | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: