Canada’s 2021 Federal election was historic in many ways, not the least of which was that it took place during a global pandemic. On a positive note, more women than ever were elected to the House of Commons. Canadians elected 102 women, which was an increase of four women from 2019. Canada has now reached 30% female representation in the House of Commons.
While there is encouragement in these latest numbers, they still are not reflective of the percentage of women in Canada. With a one percent increase (43% versus 42%) of female candidates since 2019; why weren’t there more female candidates to begin with? Why weren’t more women elected? These are questions we are trying to address through our Women in Politics Programme.
During the election, we kept an eye on eight female candidates as part of our series called ‘Women to Watch.’ Of those candidates, only four were elected. In a few cases, the candidates were in tough ridings but some were real contenders. Chrystia Freeland and Raquel Dancho were re-elected, while Melissa Lantsman and Shelby Kramp-Neuman were elected for the first time.
The Conservative Party is expected to quickly elevate Melissa Lantsman – the newly elected MP for Thornhill. Lantsman has decades of experience in Conservative politics and represents a more progressive Conservative Party. We also anticipate that Shelby Kramp-Neuman, a former banking executive, will quickly elevate in the party and become a primary spokesperson for the Conservatives.
As for female representation in the re-elected Liberal government, four additional women were elected, bringing the total percentage to 35% or 56/159 seats. While this is positive news, the Liberals also lost four prominent female Cabinet Ministers; Catherine McKenna didn’t run in this campaign and Bernadette Jordan, Maryam Monsef and Deb Schulte all lost their seats.
We expect Prime Minister Trudeau’s next Cabinet will be diverse and gender balanced, which means we can expect several new female Cabinet Ministers to be included. Trudeau has always argued that governing is most effective when your Cabinet is diverse and represents your country – in that sense we can expect gender parity, minority representation, and Cabinet members from across Canada, including new MPs from Western Canada. This will benefit not only women, but Canadians everywhere who will be able to see people that look like them in Canada’s government.
Women in Politics is a forum designed to promote the advancement of young women in politics. Started by Cumberland associates, Carys Baker and Mackenzie Taylor, the forum promotes discussion about barriers to entry, systemic biases and seeks to learn from those women who have forged a path in a business long dominated by men. Women in politics hosts in person discussions and events while promoting online discussions through our Women in Politics blog. In 2021 Cumberland created the first Women in Politics internship program.