Notley, Kenney square off on best way to bring more women into politics

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Opposition Leader Jason Kenney locked horns Friday on International Women’s Day over the best way to recruit women as political candidates.

Notley said a top-down method is best, while Kenney suggested boosting women candidates from the ground up is the way to go.

Both parties have worked to attract more women as nominees for the upcoming election. Notley announced Friday that the NDP, as in 2015, is fielding a candidate slate balanced between men and women.

“We don’t have quotas. What we have is a committed decision to make sure that we recruit more women,” she said after an appearance in Calgary.

“You can’t just sort of say nice flowery things and then cross your fingers and hope (gender balance) happens,” she said. ”When you do that you end up in a situation where there’s one female premier in the whole country, (and) where only a third of your candidates are women and even fewer than that get elected.”

Kenney, speaking in Edmonton, said he inherited a male-dominated caucus, with just two women MLAs, when the Wildrose Party merged with his Progressive Conservatives to form the United Conservatives Party.

The party has made a concerted effort to change that, he said, and women comprise about one-third of the slate.

He said it’s important everyone has the same opportunity to win rather than installing quotas.

“Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity, not contrived equality of outcome,” said Kenney.

“But we do acknowledge that sometimes there are disadvantages when you have a woman who is brand new to politics and doesn’t have the same experience as a competitor.

“That’s exactly why we help to offer practical support, training, mentorship and things like connecting women nominee candidates to prospective donors. It’s just helping to level the playing field a little bit.”

Kenney said more than 140 women ran for UCP nominations. Notley’s 50 per cent goal benefited from there being few NDP nomination contests with more than one candidate.

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