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.