Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made waves last year when he declared he would have a Cabinet that looked like his country — which meant a gender-equal Cabinet. But how does that same idea play out among the provinces?
Last week, I interviewed premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, onstage at the Liberal Biennial Convention in Winnipeg and asked whether she had plans to implement a gender-equal Cabinet in her home province. After initially dodging the question, she eventually answered that she would try.
It seems as though she did indeed.
On Monday, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Ted McMeekin announced he was stepping down from his post to do his part in achieving "gender parity in [Wynne's] next Cabinet." Rumors of a cabinet shake-up began a few weeks ago, when a source told the Globe and Mail that the premier wanted to have her staffers be less "old, tired and grey."
In a Facebook post announcing his resignation, McMeekin attributed his decision to Trudeau's plan for a gender-equal government. "Like our Prime Minister, I’ve never been afraid to call myself a feminist. In fact, I’ve always been proud of being an honourary member of the Women’s Caucus, and working for equality," he wrote. "But sometimes the best way for a man to advance the equality of women may be to step back and make room at the table."
In addition to Trudeau's influence, McMeekin noted the significant impact of the women in his life. "I have three daughters, all confident and accomplished young women. With my wonderful wife, they are the joy of my life," he wrote. "Thinking of them, I’ve often dreamed of a day when the question of gender parity wouldn’t even arise, because it would just be taken for granted."
Meanwhile, when Donald Trump was asked earlier this year whether he would lead a similar initiative and bring on more women in his administration if he were to become president, he dismissed the idea, responding, "I want the best person at each position … I’m going to get the best people for the job."
Of course, to assume that there are so few women in politics because they are not "the best" is shortsighted, especially given that data from the Senate over the past few years shows that women are more effective legislators, pass more bills, and work with their colleagues across the aisle more often. But why recognize structural discrimination when you can distill the argument to merit and relinquish any responsibility to change it instead?
Conversely, Trudeau plays up the merits of having more women in politics on the international stage and said it "improves decision-making." Earlier this year, he told Vox, "Canada is one of the countries that figured out a fair while ago that differences and diversity are actually a source of strength, not a source of weaknesses."
And we wonder why so many Americans are threatening to move to Canada.