The bar was crowded last night—and it wasn’t because the Jays were playing. Instead, everyone was watching Peter Mansbridge count down the moments until the polls officially closed. The question on everyone’s mind: who would be the next Prime Minister of Canada?
The event I attended was hosted by Women in Toronto Politics, a non-partisan group that promotes inclusive political discourse. It was held at the Handlebar, a woman-owned bar near the Kensington Market in downtown Toronto. Over 100 women—and some men—spent their evening drinking party-designated beverages and discussing Canada’s political future. Was it a bright one? Should we be concerned?
By 9:45 p.m. the CBC had called a majority government for the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau. There were a few cheers from the crowd, but mostly everyone was mesmerized by the local riding results skimming across the screen.
One thing was blatant by the end of the night: there were a fair number of women elected Monday night, but not quite enough.
Of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, 88 women will be representing the people of Canada.
Most consider this progress. Fourteen more women were elected this year compared to the previous federal election. At the same time, it only equates to about 26 per cent of the seats available. See the party breakdown below:
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The event at Handlebar was called “Women are Watching” and was meant to act as a safe space for women and allies to discuss politics without fear of persecution. A lot of the women present had worked for their local MP, but wanted to be surrounded by like-minded people on election night. As the results rolled in, I could hear conversations bubbling about what this new government would mean for health care, child care, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Islamophobia. Many were disappointed that women’s issues such as pay equity and employment were hardly discussed during the extraordinarily long campaign.
I spoke with Abby Plener, Communications Co-Lead for Women in Toronto Politics, who explained the importance of diversity when it comes to Canada’s elected representatives.
“It’s important our diverse population feel represented by politics and its leadership – this applies not just to women, but LGBTQ folks, people of colour, and people of diverse faiths and cultural backgrounds. However, when we talk about diversity in politics, its important to discuss not only how diverse our representatives are, but also whether the policies our representatives put forth are serving diverse groups.”
Spirits were high at the end of the night as the Conservative Party was pushed out of office after nine years of power. But, no one was under the illusion that this new government would be a miracle worker. As one of the attendees said as she watched the Liberal seats pile up: “it could be worse.”