Politics closes gender gap

A little more than a year ago, it seemed that the United States might be on the verge of electing its first female president or vice-president.

A little more than a year ago, it seemed that the United States might be on the verge of electing its first female president or vice-president.

Hillary Clinton had been the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination for much of the race, only to lose to equally skilled opponent Barack Obama — in no small part because he received an endorsement from a woman (talk show host Oprah Winfrey).

Many Americans had hoped Clinton would be added to Obama’s White House ticket, but alas, that honour fell to Joe Biden (a decent and funny man without the Bill Clinton baggage that would have dogged Hillary).

As for the Republicans, Sarah Palin was added to the GOP ticket in the hope that she could rescue John McCain’s floundering campaign. That didn’t work, but her participation in the contest allowed people to see that it isn’t only political parties from the left that are willing to accept female leaders. The right can be equally enlightened.

Here in Alberta, the only female party leader is from the right: the Wildrose Alliance’s Danielle Smith.

Whether or not she is about to become Alberta’s next premier is anyone’s guess, but surely no one can suggest that she’s less intelligent or charismatic than Ed Stelmach. It’s hard to imagine the premier defeating her in an election debate.

As for Red Deer, we have a number of intelligent and skilled women on city council. A couple of them — Cindy Jefferies and Tara Veer — just might be future mayors.

Alberta’s Conservative government has six female cabinet ministers — including Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski, who is this province’s minister of seniors and community supports — but most of the important posts have been awarded to men. That’s not so surprising, given that relatively few women have thrown their hats into the political ring in Alberta.

As for the federal scene, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has included 11 women in his recent cabinet shuffle (up from seven).

Among them are Calgary lawyer Diane Ablonczy, who is our new minister of state for seniors, and Spruce Grove’s Rona Ambrose, who moved from public works to labour.

Since women and girls make up roughly half of Canada’s population, it’s only fair that half of our elected representatives be female.

Of course, it’s important not simply that they be female, but that they be competent, too.

So if there are any more like Clinton and Smith waiting in the wings, bring them on.

If there are any more like Palin available, perhaps it would be best to leave them in Alaska.

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.

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