Canada has more women in cabinet, but fewer sit on Commons committees

The Globe picks up on the same issues I raised earlier in Diversity on parliamentary committees: Does it matter? | My piece in The Hill Times with interesting commentary from a variety of parliamentarians, but only focuses on gender:

Diversity on committees is important; women believe they bring a different view to issues.

“It’s not that it’s a right or a wrong perspective. It’s just different,” said Pam Damoff, the newly elected Liberal MP for Oakville North-Burlington and the only woman on the public safety and national security committee. “It’s early going so far, but I do think it [female membership] gives a slightly different lens to look at things.”

There are 10 members on each committee – six Liberals, three Conservatives and one New Democrat. The numbers for each party are based on their representation in the House.

Mr. Trudeau’s promise to make committees more independent has also added to the dearth of female representation. There was criticism among opposition during the past government about having parliamentary secretaries, who are considered junior cabinet ministers, on their respective committees. The view was that the Harper government was using parliamentary secretaries to do the bidding of their minister, hijacking the committee’s independence.

Mr. Leslie said his government was “determined not to repeat that.”

And so, parliamentary secretaries are not on committees, giving Mr. Leslie even fewer female MPs to work with (the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, opposition leaders, and the Speaker are also not appointed to committees).

“Do we need more women in caucus? Absolutely,” Mr. Leslie said.

And not just in the Liberal caucus, but in the entire Commons, where there are a total of 88 female MPs and 250 male MPs; women account for 26 per cent of the 338 seats.

The Conservatives elected 99 MPs – 17 are women. They are allowed to appoint three MPs to each committee. The third-party NDP has 44 MPs, 18 of whom are women. They are allowed one MP on each committee.

“We made a decision to put women on key committees,” Ms. Mathyssen said. Her party purposely put women on the foreign affairs committee and also on international trade, given that the massive trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is one of the most important issues facing the Commons for the NDP.

Ms. Mathyssen suggested that women are more pragmatic and work harder than their male counterparts. “We go in prepared … We’ve always had to be very efficient in terms of time management because of all the things women do.”

For Ms. Damoff, being the only woman on the public safety committee was a surprise. She had asked to be on the infrastructure committee. “When I first got appointed, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m the only woman on here.’” she said. But she quickly realized she could play an important role.

“I do bring a different perspective,” she said. Recently, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson appeared before her committee on issues around sexual harassment in the police force. She asked him what he was doing to promote women into leadership roles.

“The only way you change the culture in any organization, whether it is business or politics … is to have women in leadership roles,” she said about why she asked that question. “Not that men may not have thought of it. But it was just a different perspective I was bringing to the issue.”

Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc recognizes that there are too few women on committees, but says the Prime Minister made the commitment to put women in leadership roles in government. “One objective is to encourage more women to run for nominations and get elected to Parliament,” he said. “This would be a direct way to increase the number of women serving on committees of the House.”

Nancy Peckford of Equal Voice, the non-partisan organization advocating for more elected women, says it’s important to have gender parity in cabinet, but the trick now is not to be complacent and think that women have somehow won.

“What this points to is that you have a House that is only 26-per-cent women … so, really, it comes down to electing more women,” she said.

The print edition also has a neat graphical representation.

Source: Canada has more women in cabinet, but fewer sit on Commons committees – The Globe and Mail

Diversity on parliamentary committees: Does it matter? | My piece in The Hill Times

Diversity_on_parliamentary_committees__Does_it_matter____hilltimes_comMy piece in The Hill Times (excerpt):

If we look at the overall committee membership of 288 members in both the 25 House of Commons and three joint Senate-Commons committees (some MPs are members of more than one committee), only 21.2 per cent are women, significantly lower than the overall 26 per cent of women MPs.

For visible minorities, however, committee representation largely matches overall Commons representation at 14.6 per cent, just marginally under the number of visible minorities who are Canadian citizens. Indigenous peoples committee representation is less than their share of the population (3.1 compared to 4.3 per cent).

Looking at individual committees, only the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and Industry, Science and Technology committees have no women members. Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Agri-Food, Environment and Sustainable Development, Fisheries and Oceans, Official Languages, National Defence, Physician-Assisted Dying have no visible minority members.

Women are predictably over-represented in Status of Women (nine out of 10 members) and visible minorities are similarly overly represented in Citizenship and Immigration (seven out of 10 members).

Source: Diversity on parliamentary committees: Does it matter? | hilltimes.com

Liberals insist not interfering in House committee chair selections, despite lack of secret ballots | hilltimes.com

While we do not yet have the full list of Committee chairs (will know by end week), we do know that women are under-represented (21.2 percent) and visible minorities are represented close to the proportion who are Canadian citizens (14.6 percent compared to 15 percent):

As for the gender breakdown on committees—due to there only being 26 per cent women in the House, and the Liberals appointing 26 of their 50 female MPs to either Cabinet or as a parliamentary secretary—only one of the House committees has more than four of 10 members that are female, and that’s Status of Women, which has nine women on the committee. There are also two committees—Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics, and Industry, Science, and Technology—that have no women at all.

When questioned about this on Feb. 3, Liberal Whip Andrew Leslie (Orleans, Ont.) said, “we’ve literally run out.”

This predicament could be further complicated as a result of a successful NDP motion in the House to create a special committee to study pay equity and propose a plan to adopt a “proactive federal pay equity regime.” Party whips have been given until Feb. 17 to name members of this committee. It is possible this committee will determine that more female MPs will have to double up on committee duty, which is already happening in some instances.

Source: Liberals insist not interfering in House committee chair selections, despite lack of secret ballots | hilltimes.com