It seems all of the soul searching over the past year about how to increase the number of women in the Legislative Assembly may have been a waste of time, after all.

Without any government inference and somehow rigging the system, women are now well-represented in the territorial legislature.

It seems almost quaint to now read the final report of the Special Committee to Increase the Representation of Women in the Legislative Assembly, submitted in June of this year.

Just a mere four months ago the goal was to increase female representation in the Legislative Assembly to 20 per cent in this past election.

If that didn’t happen, the committee recommended that a plebiscite be held on its suggested options, including guaranteeing a minimum number of seats for women.

Yet, in just one election, the NWT went from having just two female MLAs to nine out of 19. That’s a quantum leap from a mere 10.5 per cent representation of women in the territorial legislature to almost 50 per cent – the most gender-balanced in all of Canada.

How things change, and quickly.

We always thought that the ideas on changing the electoral system being discussed by the special committee were undemocratic.

Not that we are against more female MLAs. In fact, we are all for that idea.

However, we don’t see anything terribly wrong with the system. We didn’t and still don’t see the current system as being designed in any way to keep women out of the Legislative Assembly.

When the special committee dropped by Hay River during its hearings, one thing that we heard was that women are just as likely as men to get elected in the NWT, if they run. That has apparently always been the problem – getting women to seek elected office.

Of course, that didn’t seem to apply in the recent election as there were a healthy number of female candidates, and it proved conclusively that NWT electors are more than happy to vote for them.

That is all good, and we hope that continues. Assuming that the nine female MLAs run again in the next election, there will be that many incumbents, and you would normally think they would have a reasonable chance at re-election. (Of course, judging by the recent election, incumbency could be a drawback in the NWT these days.)

Nevertheless, the Legislative Assembly now has a solid base of female representation, and perhaps talk of rigging the system will fade away.

Of course, women – just like men – should always be encouraged to run for office and given the knowledge to do so.

While we say that the whole special committee process may have been a waste of time, we will recognize that it encouraged a territory-wide conversation about female representation in the Legislative Assembly. Who knows? That may have encouraged some women to run.

Still, running for office is a difficult decision, both for men and women.

Now that there are more female MLAs in the Legislative Assembly, they can be role models for women thinking about entering politics.

Hopefully, a special committee will never be needed again.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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  1. By supporting the initial Discussion Paper on “Temporary Special Measures” tabled in May 2018, MLAs of the 18th Assembly chose to put their own political futures on the chopping block. They questioned 2015 election results for lacking diversity which likely only insulted voters from 2015 and undermined their own authority as MLAs (if voters got it wrong at the polls in 2015, then the MLAs of the 18th Assembly were, by their own admission, NOT the right stuff!). The 18th Assembly unanimously enforced gender quotas on future election outcomes and despite public engagement that suggested many women felt special seats were an unwelcome gesture, unanimously went ahead and voted to recommend such measures anyways. Regardless of gender, the MLAs of 18th Assembly seemed foolishly hellbent on proving they were not appreciative of the job they had been afforded in 2015 or valued the very democratic process that got them into office.

    Fortunately, in a democracy, the only special committee that really matters is the meeting of voters every four years. Gender, merit, revenge, spite, come-uppance…voters are NEVER accountable to politicians when making their choice at the polls and perhaps voters chose to reward the sentiments of the 18th Assembly by trying to vote anything but incumbent in 2019.

  2. Hey Paul, you sound incredibly sarcastic in this whole article. Also, please clarify your decision to make use of the royal “we” halfway through the article – unless you believe you are speaking for everyone?