Does Alberta Signal Change for the Rest of Canada?

There has been abundant talk of the recent election results in Alberta, with the dramatic win of the Alberta NDPs over the long-reigning Alberta PCs. Although there are many interesting opinions regarding this change, this post is going to highlight a different sort of shift in the Alberta government following the election – the shift in female representation in provincial politics.

The 2015 Alberta election is important for several reasons. First, it is only the second time in Canadian history that a province has elected a second female Premier to represent them (British Columbia was the first in their 2011 election). Second, more women were elected in the current Alberta government than in any government caucus in the history of Canada. Third, the surprising backgrounds of the newly elected MLAs could mean a shift in representation.

Alberta’s new government is the closest in Canadian history to hitting gender parity, with 28 men and 25 women – roughly 47%. The election of Notley has, in fact, increased the number of women in Alberta’s government from 26% to 33% – a 7% increase in female representation. In comparison, Ontario and British Columbia, the two other provinces with female Premiers at present, have, respectively, 35.5% and 36% female representation – the highest in the country. This falls in line with the observations of the executive director of Equal Voice, Nancy Peckford, who stated that:

“… the three provinces with women now at the helm have the highest percentages of women in their legislatures.”

The diversity of these women’s backgrounds is also interesting to note. The newly elected candidates are not all CEOs – they also include union organizers who got involved through careers such as registered nurses and Safeway employees, as well as other backgrounds such as professors, retirees, and even students! That being said, it is clear that the new female candidates are also diverse in terms of age, with many of them being younger than the previous government. In fact, the median age of the caucus is only 40. Notley herself is 51.

This shift in Alberta’s parliamentary demographics – more women, more diverse backgrounds, and younger median ages – is important not only because it is a closer representation of Alberta’s population, but also because it signals a change in Canadians’ attitude regarding their leaders.

Although we have yet to see the effectiveness of the new Albertan government, we can imply that if the rest of Canada takes a que from this election, then we can expect to see many more women leading our country.

For reference, here are the statistics taken from Equal Voice’s research regarding the representation of women in provincial and territorial legislatures (before the recent 2015 Alberta election):

Northwest Territories: 10.5%

New Brunswick: 13%

Nunavut: 14%

Newfoundland & Labrador: 14.5%

Saskatchewan: 19%

Prince Edward Island: 22%

Alberta: 26%

Manitoba: 26%

Nova Scotia: 27%

Quebec: 28%

Yukon: 33%

Ontario: 35.5%

British Columbia: 36%


—-Danika Leminski, Official journalist/blogger of Equal Voice uOttawa Chapter


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