In 2011, the then Conservative candidate for Lethbridge federal was asked about his knowledge and support of Womanspace, a local women’s rights advocacy and service centre that had lost all federal funding a few years ago (and was frankly held together by a shoestring, and the sweat, blood and tears of the board). His response was, “I love women! My wife is a woman, my mother is a woman and my daughters will be women!!”. I am only slightly paraphrasing.
That was the only debate the soon-to-be Conservative MP participated in, and it was no wonder why his campaign cut him off from all further public speaking opportunities. While all his responses were patronizing and ill informed, that debate clearly did not change the outcome. He still won the election.
Debates matter in the most ideal of ways. That it means something when ordinary people discuss great ideas. There is nothing stopping us all from making this entire campaign a debate on women’s rights, or from examining party platforms with a inclusive equality lens.
It is no secret that I am a New Democrat, and proudly support the well documented work the NDP have done to advance equal rights.
I am proud to be support the re-election of an MP that brought forward the PMB to create a National Action plan to end VAW and take action on MMIW. I am proud that I am a member of a party that supported legislation to include gender as a marker of discrimination (with the trans rights bill). A caucus of MPs that supported Women’s Forum des femmes. A leader who has promised to hold an inquiry within 100 days. A campaign that has made food security and affordable housing key platform planks. A political party can both lift up smart, good legislation or push really bad legislation through (cough cough, C-51).
Poverty intersects inequality, and often ensures the most vulnerable are defenceless.
I don’t get to vote for Mulcair (or Harper, or Trudeau or May for that matter) but I do get to vote for my local candidate. So I encourage all who are taking the considerable time to attack folks online get themselves to a debate, line up at the mic, and ask a question about gender equality. Contact your local women’s rights group and ask them what issues they would like to see local candidates field. Hold them all accountable. That debate watching party you were gonna host with your feminist grrl gang? Do it. Locally.
Last thing, if you have a wikked great candidate that is holding it down on intersectional feminism, get yourself to their campaign office and do something to get them elected. If you believe in women’s rights, if you care so much about this, make it a thing. Women did not get the right to vote, or access to birth control, or the legal freedom to walk down a street without a chaperone by sitting at home and leaving angry messages for City Hall.
They organized. They marched. They took it to the public spaces they were not supposed to be in.
Because unless you live in the riding a leader is running in, one of those local candidates will become an MP – your representation in Parliament.