Canada’s political landscape features more female role models than ever, although there is always room for more.
Five of Canada’s 10 provinces and one of its territories are currently led by women. Still, only 25 per cent of the House of Commons are women and most provinces, according to figures from the Globe and Mail, hover around or below 30 per cent female representation – evidence of a gap that has failed to be addressed.
But perhaps that gap still exists because Toronto Mayor Rob Ford hasn’t offered to address it.
The Toronto Star reports that Ford offered to go for coffee with any woman who was interested in running for politics, to give them pointers about how the system works.
Let’s take a moment to remember that Ford recently won a legal challenge and was allowed to keep his seat as mayor after not reading the council’s code of conduct and therefore not realizing actions may have been suspect.
So perhaps Rob Ford’s first rule about politics is “don’t understand politics.” This tricky conundrum means that anyone who shows up to learn how politics works from Rob Ford has already failed his class.
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Ford’s offer was made on his Sunday radio program and didn’t start out as being an overture specifically to female candidates. Just an offer from a political leader who insists he always remain available to the public.
He said, according to the Star:
I encourage people, I encourage people, I’ve always encouraged people — especially females. We need more females in politics. And it seems everyone says, ‘Oh, it’s male-dominated.’ Well, call me. Call me at home — 233-6934, 416-233-6934 — and [I’ll or we’ll] go for a coffee, and explain how politics works. You have to be over the age of 18, a Canadian citizen, and live in Toronto. And the rest is up to you, how hard you want to work.
Still, females interested in politics can be forgiven for reacting with some trepidation to the idea of taking cues from Ford.
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More than a few scoffed at the idea of taking political advice from Ford. The consensus among the offended is that Ford implied that women don’t go into politics because it is too confusing to understand.
Wanting more women in politics can be admirable, but not if you think they're sparsely represented because they need it explained to them.
— Steph Guthrie (@amirightfolks) April 22, 2013
— Toronto Sun (@TheTorontoSun) April 22, 2013
Sarah Ratchford, a writer for BlogTO, was among those who quickly balked at Ford's offer. In a post on Monday, Ratchford took umbrage with Ford's offer to give "brainless females of Toronto free advice on how to break into politics."
I mean, it's not as if the offer isn't well intended. Politics are very confusing, and as a woman, I have little idea how to behave or how to exercise logic, so I need all the help I can get. I've always wanted to be a politician, but I've also always known that such a career choice will require that I seek out a successful male mentor who can show me the ropes. This is my chance!
There is little to suggest Ford has a political bend against women. His 13-person executive council has only one female member, but that is only because Michelle Berardinetti resigned from his inner circle last year. And that was said to be based on political differences. So there were once two. A split with former ally TTC Chair Karen Stintz similarly surrounded a difference of opinion.
Ford will be attacked heartily for his apparent view about women in politics. But we should keep in mind that this mayor often sets himself on cruise control, issuing vague talking points that include offers to meet face-to-face with voters.
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