Monday, May 13, 2013

Christy Clark Loses & So Does Gender Equality

*UPDATE 05/15/13: With Christy Clark's amazing upset I am happy to admit the below post is wrong. BC has its first popularly elected female Premier. Congratulations, it is an incredible victory.

Christy Clark had as much chance of winning BC's election today as Canadian politics has gender equality, and that's close to zero.

With six female premiers, soon to be five, Canada looks like a pretty equitable place, but just as with Christy Clark's chances on election day, looks can be deceiving.

For instance, on the face of it, British Columbia looks like a province of better gender representation, Christy Clark wasn't its first female premier after all, Rita Johnston received that honour back in 1991. But considering the similarities between Johnston and Clark, what is clear is not gender equality, but its absence.

Before Kim Campbell was given the reigns of a doomed government serving as Canada's first female Prime Minister, it was Rita Johnston in BC who in 1991 became the country's first female Premier. Like Campbell she too was not elected into the top office by a general election, instead solely selected by her party of Social Credit. Johnston never had a chance, her predecessor Bill Vanderzalm had left government amid scandal and within seven months her party was drastically defeated.

Despite the expected narrowing of polls in the closing days of the 2013 BC election Christy Clark, like Johnston and Campbell, never had a chance. Though Clark became Premier in 2011, she only took power after her predecessor became the least popular politician in Canada in over four decades.

In bringing in the Harmonized Sales Tax despite promises to the contrary, former BC Premier Gordon Campbell not only caused his approval numbers to drop to the almost unheard of level of 9% which forced his own resignation, but he galvanized thousands of BCers to mobilize to draft the province's largest citizens' initiative. And with over 700,000 signatures an unprecedented petition successfully forced a referendum on the tax and its eventual repeal.

On top of all of that the BC Liberals have been in power since 2001, it was abundantly clear that they were doomed to lose in 2013, not just to 17 of the party's MLAs who chose not to run again. The suggestion that Christy Clark could have turned her Party's fortunes around is a superficial one that ignores the tremendous and historic amount of public disapproval with her party that existed prior to Clark taking office.

Her predecessor was the least popular politician in all of Canada for the last forty years, the BC Liberal brand had been fatally tarnished, and Gordon Campbell had organized and coalesced the party's own opposition by motivating hundreds of thousands of British Columbians to rally against it.

Like those women before her who were chosen to lead failing parties, Christy Clark didn't stand a chance. And unfortunately for Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, Clark won't be the last.

Canadian politics may appear to have gender equality, but the thing about appearances is that they fade, inequalities don't.

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