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Women facing uphill battle in politics

Posted on December 15, 2016 by Vauxhall Advance

By Nikki Jamieson
Taber Times
njamieson@tabertimes.com

Earlier this month, Alberta politics once again made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

At an anti-carbon tax rally hosted by Rebel Media, the crowd descended into a chant of “Lock her up”, in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, when federal Conservative leadership-hopeful Chris Alexander was speaking. Alexander at one point even looked like he was smiling and gesturing along to the chant.

This, on the heels of MLA Sandra Jansen reciting the threats she received after dropping out of the PC leadership race, due to alleged harassment she had received from another candidate’s campaign volunteers, and crossing the floor to join the NDP, after another woman running for the PC leadership, Donna Kennedy-Glans, dropped out at the same time because she believed their was no room for centralist views in the party.

Insert face palm here.

While it should be noted that Alexander did say that he was ‘shocked’ and ‘mortified’ by the chant, that he tried to change it to ‘vote her out’ and he only let it go on for as long as it did because he was trying to find a moment to ‘interject’, these excuses only leave one reporter with a raised eyebrow going “Really?”

Other Conservative leadership hopefuls have condemned his actions and this incident, referring to it as Trump-style politics, criticizing this wave of intolerance.

The ‘Lock Her Up’ chant was a rallying cry at then-president hopeful Donald Trump rallies, when referring to his rival Hillary Clinton, who was under federal investigation for mis-use of a private email server. Clinton was cleared of any criminal wrong doing, and Trump pledged to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her, and threatened to throw her in jail during a debate.

It should be noted that Trump has since back-pedaled on all those pledges. It should also be noted that David Petraeus, who was one of Trump’s contenders for secretary of state, had actually shared classified information with biographer Paula Broadwell, with whom he was having an affair, leading to him resigning as CIA director in November 2012 and pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, for which he was fined $100,000 and is on probation for.

In this instance, Trump’s supporters believed that Clinton had actually done some criminal wrongdoing, even after she was cleared.

But Notley has not been charged with anything. The only thing she is guilty of is being unpopular among Alberta conservatives and pushing forward legislation like the carbon tax.

Since the May 5, 2015 election, after the PC’s 44 year run as Alberta’s ruling party broke after scandals emerged that then-premier Alison Redford had misused provincial funds for personal and partisan gain, Alberta saw a majority government formed by the NDP — a first in the traditionally blue Alberta —who, under Notley’s leadership, promised change.

While some of her supporters may grumble under the debt downgrade, still sluggish economy and upcoming carbon tax, in most cases, it is always the voice of the opposers who shout the loudest.

In this case, it is those who oppose the carbon tax and legislation like Bill 6. Since Notley’s government formed, there have been plenty of things for them to complain about, as Alberta politics have taken on an air of an ‘If my party didn’t propose this, then it must be evil’ vibe.

While political decorum may make us laugh, like the Fart Incident in my last column or the recent argument about whether you should be allowed to go sans tie in the House, it exists for a reason, to avoid the deterioration of the standard of behaviour that we hold our elected representatives to.
Notley’s government was the first gender-balanced government in Canadian History, followed quickly by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, with the infamous quote, “Because it’s 2015.” But a progressive party with equal gender representation at the helm has not been enough to stop the mudslinging, particularly at our female representatives.

In the 2015 federal election, a record 88 women were elected as MPs, or 26 per cent.

In the Alberta 2015 election, a record of 27 women were elected to the legislature, with all but three belonging to the NDP party, to make up 31 per cent of Alberta MLAs. While both numbers are historic, according to Statistics Canada, women made up 50.4 per cent of Canada’s population in 2010.

Maybe it is because there is so little representation of women in politics, that haters feel like they can threaten or harass female politicians to a degree that MLA Jansen needs security guards — something no other MLA besides the premier has. Maybe they just don’t have a life, or are just seriously screwed up. Not everyone who doesn’t like a MLA’s politics are like that, but as stated before, the loudest of voices are.

But the sad fact of the matter is that this isn’t Trump-style politics; that attitude has always been there. It’s just enough people are finally starting to call it out.

MLA Karen McPhearson was quoted saying in a CBC news article that all the subtle sexism that she, as a female politician, faces everyday just starts to blur all together after, such as being asked if she was a secretary in the legislative building.

And the behaviour is not just limited to those outside the political sphere; last August, Wildrose leader Brian Jean had joked about it being illegal to beat Notley at a town-hall meeting.

He may have apologized, but the fact he thought it was appropriate for him to do so in the first place is not right.

And at the time of MLA Jansen dropping out of the race, PC leadership hopeful Jason Kenney had dismissed her claims, saying that everyone gets harassed, and released a statement on her harassment claims saying that he condemns the behaviour, and that if he found that if any of his supporters had acted that way he would ask them to ‘apologize’ and behave in a ‘positive and respectful’ manner as befitting his campaign — because asking people to cut it out always works.

Clearly, we have a problem here, if people think that this is normal but then backtrack after righteous outrage comes to light.

People still say that if a woman enters the political sphere, they should expect to be harassed, to be bullied. That’s not right. No one — female or male — should have to put up with abuse and death threats for any reason, let alone because they’re a politician.

It is soon going to be 2017. Can we please stop hating women just because they are in a position of power already?

It wasn’t cool back in 1917, when women could first vote provincially but not federally and Alberta got it’s first female MLAs — Louise McKinney and Roberta McAdams — and it is not cool now.

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