Female MPs give ‘20-year-old selves’ a pep talk

Canada Politics

[Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks during question period at Parliament Hill on March 24, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld]

For Lisa Raitt, it was a backhanded compliment repeatedly told to her growing up, which eventually worked in her favour. For Catherine McKenna, it was taking risks and doing things she never thought she’d do that got her to where she is today.

These are just some of the anecdotes female MPs share in a new video launched by Equal Voice Canada called Dear 20 year old me.

The video is part of a youth engagement strategy launched by the multi-partisan organization, which focuses on getting more women elected in Canada. It will reach out to 338 young female leaders — that’s the total number of MPs in the House of Commons — in order to create an action plan that would help create equal representation on the ballot. The plan will be brought forth to all the federal leaders in 2017.

“Remember when everyone in your family told you that we were going to go into politics because you wouldn’t shut up at the dinner table?” asks Conservative MP Raitt in the two-minute clip. “Guess what? You’re a member of Parliament now.”

Liberal MP McKenna warns her younger self about the people who discredited her potential.

“Don’t listen; you will be great,” she says firmly. “I was able to do this and I did it my own way and there were people who thought I could never win. But I’m here.”

Other MPs who share words of encouragement to their former selves include Elizabeth May, Celina Caesar Chavannes, Rachael Harder, Monique Pauzé, Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, Ruby Sahota, Georgina Jolibois, Niki Ashton and Anita Vandenbeld.

They speak about their own experiences, yet their messages can easily speak to young women who might be interested in pursuing public office one day.

The Equal Voice initiative will include digital consultations with high school students, as well as in-person visits, to get their ideas on how to inform the strategy. Consultations will also be held at university campuses across the country.

Currently, only 26 per cent of MPs are women. Female MPs make up 42 per cent of the NDP caucus, while 17 per cent of the Conservative caucus is women. Liberal MPs represent 27 per cent of the governing caucus.

“The highly visible achievement of a 50/50 gender-balanced federal cabinet has created a false perception that Canada has made significant progress on closing the gender gap between men and women in national politics,” Equal Voice executive director Nancy Peckford said in a statement. “However, the reality is starkly different. In fact, between 2011 and 2015, the percentage of women elected to the House of Commons was virtually stagnant, moving from 25 per cent in 2011 to just 26 per cent in 2015.”