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Liberals restore Canada to the 21st century in just 24 hours

Well, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started off with a bang. On his first day in office, Trudeau made history by appointing a cabinet with equal numbers of male and female ministers. And less than 24 hours later, he restored the long-form census for 2016.

Both announcements are nothing short of revolutionary. In 2013, Huffington Post Canada reported that women made up only 25% of the federal legislature, and Alison Loat, co-founder and executive director of nonprofit advocacy group Samara cited lack of affordable childcare, long Parliamentary sessions lasting into the evening, and unrealistic constituent expectations as barriers to women serving as Members of Parliament.image-1

A number of countries have introduced quotas to promote female political participation: the UN reported in January 2015 that 34 countries have done so. In India, higher numbers of women on local councils positively influenced projects such as drinking water improvements, while in Norway the presence of women on municipal councils was shown to improve childcare coverage. In Rwanda, with so many men killed in the genocide of 1994, the country found itself with a population that was 70% female. A new constitution introduced in 2003 mandated that 30% of all representatives be women. Later that year, elections resulted in women holding 49% of the seats in the lower house of parliament–ten years later, women held 64% of the seats in the House of Deputies. New laws included the right for women to inherit land, open a bank account without authorization of a male figure, special rights for children, and legislation on women in the work force. Countries like Norway and The Netherlands have mandated that 30% of all management and supervisory boards be female.

Asked why he decided to run with gender parity on his cabinet of 30 ministers, Trudeau responded, “Because it’s 2015.” Canada went from 20th to 3rd in the world for percentage of women in ministerial positions–behind Finland and tied with France and Lichtenstein–prompting Jezebel to comment that “the sexiest thing about Canadian PM Justin Trudeau is his cabinet’s gender parity.” Only 26% of this year’s MPs are female, so clearly there’s a long way to go, but wow.

The long-form Census, mandatory and distributed to one in five Canadian households, was suddenly discontinued in 2011 just a few months before it was due to be sent out. Prime Minister Stephen Harper alleged that the long-form Census was to be cancelled due to citizen concerns over privacy, but when reporters researched the issue they found only a handful of concerns had ever been recorded and there had been no formal complaints to the Federal Privacy Commissioner. The move was widely considered an attack on scientific research, but representatives from the Canadian Medical Association, faith groups like the Canadian Jewish Congress, and economists like former TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond, decried the move. All of these rely upon the Census to determine the needs of the communities and clients they serve. Statistics Canada’s chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, resigned over the issue, saying a voluntary household survey would not produce statistically valid results. The voluntary survey that replaced the 2011 Census cost $22 million more to administer and had poor response rates, as expected: 30% of households did not complete the survey.

Trudeau campaigned on a promise to bring back the long-form Census and to appoint a cabinet with equal gender parity. Like most citizens, we Canadians are used to our politicians promising us things and then failing to deliver (even Liberals). Never have our skeptical souls ever been so surprised as to see a politician keep two of his promises on his first day  in power.

Now all he has to do is introduce proportional representation in the next election…care to make it a hat trick, Prime Minister?


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