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‘It’s what ladies do’, New Zealand PM mic-drop

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday she was pregnant!

She made the announcement on live television while being grilled by reporters about her intention to remain in her position. One reporter even asked how she managed to set up a government while experiencing morning sickness. Ardern’s response? “It’s what ladies do.”

Insert mic-drop here.

Ardern’s husband will be acting as a stay at home dad after the birth of her first child. She went on to tell the press that women get pregnant while they are working all the time, and this is no different. Her off-the-shoulder behaviour towards this news is refreshing. The questions from the reporters — not so much?

A woman’s capability to do her job has nothing to do with whether or not she is pregnant, or a mother.  To ask the question makes that correlation. In a Facebook post, Ardern makes it clear she knows more questions about her pregnancy will be coming.

Instead of asking how she is going to run a government or country, why not simply just offer your congratulations!

 

What’s in the title “First Lady”?

The title of First Lady is widely recognized around the world as the descriptor of the wife of the President of the United States. But, what do you call the partner of the Prime Minister of Canada? This question actually popped into my head when editing a piece for Women’s Post. When addressing Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau do you use a title or do you just call her by her name?

In Canada, the spouse of the Prime Minister has no title. While some have mistakingly referred toSophie Grégoire-Trudeau as the “First Lady of Canada”, the fact of the matter is that the partner of the leader of this country has no official responsibilities in parliament. They can be as active as they want to be.

I have to wonder if the title of First Lady creates an image that American’s can’t shake — that the role of a woman is to be sitting at the side of her man. That there is a President, and there is a First Lady. The First Lady has a very specific role within the White House, to be involved in political campaigns, to manage the White House, to champion social causes, and to represent the president at official events and ceremonies. This is an important job to be sure, but it also creates a dangerous association between women and the role of managing a household and representing your spouse’s interests.

Whenever a woman gets close to running for president, there is always discussion about what her husband would be called. Is it First Gentleman, First Man, First Husband? It boggles everyones mind. People become consumed with this idea – of what that man’s title would be and what his role would be, as if it would be different than that of a woman.

In Canada, this association is non-existent. There is the Prime Minister, and then there is his or her spouse. This person does not receive special standing simply because of who he or she married. Most choose to take up social causes and to attend events, but it is not mandatory. And there is no gender-association with the role.

I guess to answer my first question — it’s simply Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, no title, no fuss.

Why does everything take 11 years?

This week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a National Housing Strategy. This is something Canadians have been anticipating for a few years now.

The Liberal government promised to spend $11.2 billion over the next 11 years on housing, something they say will reduce chronic homelessness by 50 per cent. The Prime Minister also pledged to use a portion of the national co-investment fund to repair Canada’s social stock. It is unclear how much funding that would equal. Other aspects of the strategy include:

  • $15.9 billion for a national co-investment fund that will build an estimated 60,000 new units and repair 240,000 others. At least 2,400 units will go to people with developmental disabilities, 12,000 units for seniors, and 7,000 for survivors of family violence.
  • $2 billion for a new Canada Housing Benefit for low-income families and individuals.
  • $2.2 billion to expand homelessness partnering strategy.
  • $4.3 billion for a Canada Community Housing Initiative partnered with provinces
  • At least 25 per cent of investments will support projects that target needs of women and girls
  • And, legislation that would require future federal governments to maintain a national housing strategy.

Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s great the government has finally created a national strategy for housing. With the cost of homes ballooning and the incredibly long wait-lists for social housing; and the city of Toronto declaring a state of emergency with the number of shelter beds available in the winter, it’s the perfect time for this housing strategy to be released.

But, why is it that every single promising investment the Canadian government makes comes with an 11-year timeline? It doesn’t matter whether the issue is transit, infrastructure, or housing, it’s always 11 years. There is probably a budgetary reason for this timeline, but for those who aren’t privy to that information, it comes across as a bit slow. Shelter beds and affordable housing is needed now, not 11 years from now. In 11 years, the people who need the housing will either a) have found a way to get themselves and their family into a housing unit, b) have come to terms with homelessness or c) have died from cold exposure after living on the street or illness from a poorly kept or cockroach-infested building. 

A few hundred protestors from big cities across Canada made this exact point this week, saying the national strategy should commit to making some changes in two years time, so that those struggling right now are helped by this strategy. They say housing is needed now to curb the crisis and get people off the street.

Yes, the government should be looking to the future. If they don’t, there will never be any progress. But, when it comes to the livelihood of its citizens — Canada can act a little faster.

Do you care about the sex appeal of your Prime Minister?

It’s started already. The “who’s hotter than who” rhetoric surrounding Canada’s political leaders. Apparently, if your Prime Minister isn’t old and balding (or orange with a toupee), this is what the press focuses on. It doesn’t matter what his or her policy is, whether or not they kept their promises, or what their plans are for the future. It’s all about their hair and winning smile.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m a woman who can appreciate a person’s good looks — but when it comes to the people who represent my interests on a national and international level, I tend to think values matter more. But, that’s just me.

It all started with the election of Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister. The world exploded with jealousy, talking about how sexy he was and how gorgeous his hair is. Newspapers, magazines, and tabloids all posted pictures of him boxing or taking his shirt off for a charity event. They even made some cringe-worthy jokes involving maple syrup. To this day, the media go into a frenzy whenever our Prime Minister steps on foreign soil. There is no escaping those selfies.

Canadians could deal with one good-looking politician. Sure, the press may love to take his picture, but after the first month of his term, most Canadians were over Trudeau’s charm. But now, Canada is in trouble. There are now two — yes, I said two — good-looking political leaders vying for the position of Prime Minister in the next election.

Newly-elected New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh has been praised for his ability to connect with young people. He is charismatic, and fashion-forward. Take a look at any of his photos and you can see a man who knows how to work a camera.

Earlier this week, Singh made a comment about his own luscious locks hidden beneath his turban, saying “I have more hair, and it’s longer, and it’s nicer.” Now, people are going crazy again. Articles have popped up calling those “fighting words”, making the correlation between hair and a vow to defeat Trudeau in the next election. Poor Conservative Party Leader Andrew Sheer has to read articles that compare his sex appeal to that of his colleagues. Yes, apparently sex appeal is the newest factor for a political leader. May I suggest a catwalk for the next televised debate?

While this whole debocle is pretty funny, it’s also a big problem.

First of all, as editor of Women’s Post, I must question whether or not this kind of talk would be the same if a woman were elected as party leader. Would sex appeal be as big of a factor? Would the mere inclusion of that kind of discussion be labelled inappropriate? Would reporters get in trouble for talking about a woman’s hair and makeup instead of her policy platform? No one is talking about Elizabeth May’s appearance, so why are we talking about Singh’s? If anyone was confused about the double standard between male and female politicians, they don’t have to look much further.

While a fight over luscious locks seems entertaining, and may be a good PR tactic to gain the attention of potential voters, it also distracts from the bigger issues facing our country. Unemployment, health care, education, and Indigenous reconciliation are just a few of the important issues our political leaders need to be knowledgeable of. Those are the issues that our leaders should be discussing. Instead, voters are treated to a pageant contest, where the contestants have to dress up, smile, and describe their ideal date.

This is not my kind of democracy, and I think a lot of Canadians feel the same way.

To be fair, a lot of this is the media’s doing. Politicians know that catering to the press is how they get coverage and reach voters — and journalists love to write about sex and controversy. But, the worst mistake a politician can make is to assume voters are stupid and easily distracted. Talking about your hair is not going to make Canadians forget to ask about your policies.

Being charismatic is a good thing. Being able to genuinely connect to Canadians is even better. But at what point do we stop talking about it and focus on the real issues?

Hopefully, it’s before the election.

Jagmeet Singh makes history in Canadian politics

In the short moments before the final results of the NDP leadership race were announced, many spectators in the crowd were already cheering for the clear frontrunner — Jagmeet Singh. The results were announced in alphabetical order and with 35,266 votes, Singh shot past by as much as 50 per cent to win the first ballot support with majority.

Singh’s campaign consisted of a vast network of volunteers and lots of social media influence across the county that helped make it so successful. The newly elected NDP leader made history in more than one way — he is the first person of colour to lead a major political party in Canada. Singh is a Sikh and son of Indian immigrants. His deep cultural and religious connections have given him the ability to speak on behalf of the minority or those marginalized in Canadian politics.

Singh proudly highlighted the fact that he is a visible minority in Canada and often speaks about the struggle of what it means to be racially profiled. As Singh once remarked in an magazine interview, “systematic racism is an undeniable reality. It impacts young people. I want every young person to recognize their own self-worth.” This touch of diversity in Canadian politics hopefully represents a political shift that will encourage other politicians of colour to make their presence known.

Singh follows in the footsteps of those like the late NDP leader Jack Layton, who was known for being very charismatic. He plans to address issues such as affordable housing, income inequality, relations with Indigenous tribes, and climate change among others.

During his acceptance speech after being elected on Sunday, Singh addressed his different look and said,  “It makes you feel like you don’t belong, like there is something wrong with you for just being you, And that is why as Prime Minister, I will make sure no one is stopped by the police because of the way they look, or the colour of their skin.”

 

 

Canada’s new Governor General is a former astronaut!

Earlier this week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Julie Payette, a former Canadian astronaut, will be the country’s next Governor General.

Most would agree that Payette is the ideal candidate for the position of Governor General. The 53-year-old Montrealer speaks six languages, she has a commercial pilot licence and has held positions as a computer engineer, scientific broadcaster, and corporate director. Before serving as CSA’s chief astronaut, she participated in two space flights to the International Space Station.

Payette is a strong advocate for promoting science and technology, which could make her an incredible role model for young girls interested in STEM.

Suffice to say, Women’s Post is absolutely thrilled with this choice.

The role of Governor General is mostly ceremonial. The chosen candidate is recommended by the Prime Minister and then appointed by the Queen. They are also responsible for ensuring that Canada has a stable and functioning government. He or she has the power to dissolve parliament and give royal assent to legal documents.

The term for Governor General is usually five years.

Things Women’s Post loves about Canada

The staff at Women’s Post are patriots! We love our nation, full of its weird currency, giant rubber ducks, and, or course, our insanely sweet double doubles.

While this country, at a young age of 150, still has a lot of growing and learning to do, it remains one

Here are some of the things Women’s Post loves about Canada:

Gender equal cabinet: With that mic-dropping reason being “because it’s 2016”, Canada’s Prime Minister announced that he would be creating a cabinet comprising of equal parts men and women. This was a first in Canada and led to a number of provinces following suit. Way to go Canada!

Tim Hortons: As writers, we practically live on coffee. While we may not all be double-double fans in this office, we are a fan of this Canadian brand and we shall eat our dutchie donuts with pride!

Pride month: There is nothing Canadians like better than to celebrate love and acceptance — and what better way to do that than to celebrate Pride for a whole month! Not only that, but almost all of our politicians (at least on the left), actually walk in the parade.

Inclusion of transgendered people in law: As of June, the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well as the Criminal Code, will be amended to include the words “gender identity and gender expression on a list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. This new law, Bill c-16, also protects transgender Canadians from hate propaganda and makes them an identifiable group under law!

Alcohol: Whether it’s craft beer or some wine from a local vineyard, Canadians love to drink! We also love to drink our own alcohol — no fancy European stuff for us! We love our Canadian whiskey and home grown brews. This business is booming, which means in every liquor store there are dozens of choices to try out. Which will you pick?

Landscapes: The beautiful mountains, lakes, and forests of Canada are truly unique. These majestic landscapes provide character and natural beauty to communities across the country. Nothing is more peaceful than a hike through one of these Canadian treasures — don’t forget to bring your plaid shirt and coffee thermos.

Anne of Green Gables: Women’s Post is talking about our beloved Anne (with an ‘e’), from literary character to it’s newest CBC reprisal. It’s one of Canada’s biggest cultural claim to fame, with musicals, plays, and television playoffs being broadcast. Did you know the gables aren’t actually green? Turns out, Canadians don’t really care — we just love this incredibly inspiring, creative, and scrappy female heroine.

Justin Trudeau’s socks: We all know this is a PR stunt, but here at Women’s Post, we don’t really care. There is something satisfying about a politician geeking out with brightly-coloured themed footwear. The most recent spotting of these funky socks was during pride, when Trudeau sported not just rainbow socks, but they also sported the greeting “Eid Mubarak” to mark the end of Ramadan. Because, why not?

Beavertails: This weird invention of friend dough and cinnamon sugar (in its purest form) is unique to Canada — more because of the name than anything else. Sure, skating on the canal in Ottawa is quite the Canadian thing to do, but doing so while holding/balancing beavertail in one hand is another all together.

These are just a few of Women’s Post’s loves about this wonderful country. What do you love about Canada? Let us know in the comments below!

An open letter to the Conservative Party of Canada

My political beliefs may not entirely align with the Conservative Party, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. The entire premise of our democratic institution is based on having multiple parties and types of people representing different ideas and values within Parliament. This is a concept I am proud of.

What I am less proud of is the state of Canada’s political leadership race.  More specifically, I am disgusted by who you may support as a candidate for Prime Minister.

Yes, I’m talking about Kevin O’Leary.

Can I ask you this: When did the job of Prime Minister (or President for that matter) become something sought after by television personalities? When did we, as a society, decide this was okay?

I understand the appeal. A lot of people are sick of career politicians. Broken promises and hypocrisy appear to be taking over Parliament, and the Canadian people are tired of it. They want someone different, someone who isn’t just a pretty face for the camera. They want someone who will speak to them honestly and candidly, and actually fix some of their problems for a change.

But, the idea is to choose the RIGHT politician. Maybe you shouldn’t hire a guy who spends half his time in the United States telling entrepreneurs they don’t have what it takes to succeed in the financial market. Maybe don’t choose someone who purposely jumped in the leadership race after the French debates because he can’t speak Canada’s second official language? And maybe don’t vote for someone who offered the province of Alberta $1 million for the Premier to resign? These are just a few fun tidbits about the man now who wants to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.

The leader of a country should be a dedicated public servant, someone who has spent his or her life working for the people. Their resume should be highly impressive, with years of involvement in politics, whether in an official capacity or volunteer-based. They should have an intense relationship with their community and a real understanding of the issues facing Canadians at large.

I may not have been the biggest Stephen Harper fan, but no one could deny he was incredibly capable and qualified to be Prime Minister of Canada.

What I’m trying to say is this: the job of Prime Minister should be sacred. It should be a job that is unreachable for most – except for the incredibly dedicated and deeply committed. It shouldn’t matter how popular you are or how much money you have. All that should matter is what you stand for.

I can’t help but think of a quote from the television show The West Wing, when the communications director sits down to speak with the President about re-election. “Then make this election about smart, and not. Make it about engaged, and not. Qualified, and not. Make it about a heavyweight.”

Card-carrying Conservatives — you have the power to elect a heavyweight! Canadians are watching as the President of the United States leads the Republican Party down a giant hole of hatred and bigotry. Donald Trump’s words have impact on a global scale — and so do the words of Prime Minister of Canada.

You can avoid this same embarrassment. You can choose to hold your party, and the office of the opposition leader and Prime Minister of Canada, to a higher standard.

Have a little respect for yourselves and please vote for someone who has not only a tabloid-personality, but someone with real qualifications and a dedication to this country.  I promise you: you’ll regret it if you do it any differently.

PM Justin Trudeau to attend 2016 Toronto Pride Month

Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, will be the first leader in Canada’s history to attend the Toronto pride parade on July 3, 2016.

The Prime Minister has previously attended pride parades in both Vancouver and Toronto, but this is his first pride event as the leader of Canada. He tweeted in response to Pride Toronto announcing Trudeau’s involvement, “Very looking to being there again, this time as PM.”

Trudeau will attend alongside Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory. Since 1995, Barbara Hall established the tradition for the head of city council to march in the parade. This was only broken once in the past 21 years by previous Mayor Rob Ford.

Toronto Pride has a somber history. The first registered LGBTQ pride gathering occurred on Feb. 5, 1981, after the bathhouse raids or “operation soap”, a massive police raid of bathhouses on Church and Wellesley meant to silence the LGBTQ community under the bawdy-house law. The raids were followed by a great show of support and protests throughout the streets of Toronto.

In 1984, Pride was celebrated for the first time on Canada Day and became a fixed tradition. Mayor David Crombie, the mayor at the time, wouldn’t officially recognize the event. It wasn’t until 1991 that Toronto Pride Day was approved by the city. In 1998, Pride Week became official.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s attendance will be a welcome addition to the festivities as thousands of people will gather this coming June to celebrate Toronto’s first pride month. This month-long celebration will feature specialized events and programs around the city, finishing with the 10-day Pride Toronto festival between June 24 and July 3.

Having all three levels of government attend the event is amazing —and surprising. To quote the Prime Minister himself, “It’s 2016”. Why hasn’t a Prime Minister attended Toronto’s pride parade before now? That’s a question worth answering.

Trudeaumania takes over Toronto

Photo taken by Katherine DeClerq

Trudeaumania is real.

Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to Toronto’s city hall to meet with Mayor John Tory. It was the first time in 18 years a prime minister visited the institution, but that wasn’t why people were so excited. It was because they had the opportunity to get close to the celebrity politician.

The media struggled to stay up with Trudeau and Tory as they walked from Queen St. up to city hall. People sporting bright unicorn Trudeau sweatshirts were running through the crowd, trying to get a selfie with the sexiest head of state in the world, while scores of young women stood in his path screaming his name.

One cameraman made a wrong step and slipped on the skating rink in the square. Reporters ran — and I mean sprinted — around the crowd to get better view of the prime minister, just to run face-first into a father holding his kid, trying to get a glimpse of the people at the center of the spectacle. Personally, I was elbowed in the head and shoved into a snow bank.

“Oh my god, it’s Justin Trudeau!” screamed two jumping girls as he made his way into city hall. I have to say I was impressed with the strength of the prime minister’s security force, dawning the stereotypical sunglasses and earpieces, trying to keep everyone at bay. What a job.

After the screaming died down and the swooning stopped, the prime minister got up on stage with the mayor and opened his mouth to talk. And talk he did — although he didn’t say much. In fact, he hardly said anything worthwhile.

It was obvious the prime minister didn’t want to make any promises during this visit, despite the mayor’s attempts to indicate otherwise. There was no mention of a commitment to the SmartTrack or the Yonge Relief Line, and he didn’t even touch on the $2.6 billion promised to the city for transit.

“We are in the middle of pre-budget consultations.” Trudeau said when a reporter asked when we could expect a cheque for infrastructure. “The infrastructure investments that the mayor is counting on are not a problem, they are part of the solution that Canada is facing.” What that means…no one knows.

Really, the only thing Justin Trudeau reiterated was his government’s pledge of $60 billion over the next 10 years towards green and social infrastructure, and public transit. There was no elaboration. Where will the money go? What are the government’s priorities? All are excellent questions that remained unanswered. The rest of the 10-minute question period included the Prime Minister dancing masterfully around each media inquiry, citing what seemed to be election promises and vaguely mentioning the Liberal’s commitment to job creation, economic growth, and international relations.

But, that didn’t matter to the fans. As one grown man standing behind me in the crowd said: “Wow, his hair really is great!”

And I guess that’s all that mattered.

Photo by Katherine DeClerq