During the federal Liberal leadership race, Stephane Dion promised one-third of the party's candidates in the next election would be women. But that's nothing compared to a series of affirmative action proposals being advanced for discussion by the provincial New Democrat's nomination review committee. According to a report, obtained exclusively by Public Eye, "lack of representation of women, Aboriginal people, youth, people with disabilities, visible minorities, and (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) individuals" is one of the principle issues confronting the party's candidate recruitment process.
So the committee is suggesting setting "targets for the next provincial election of 50% women candidates and 65% affirmative action candidates (the latter including women)." And, in order to meet that target, it's proposed that the party's provincial executive should be empowered to "appoint candidates in selected constituencies or designate specific constituencies for affirmative candidates."
Strangely, though, the report - which has been circulating since the fall - seems to pay little attention to how the New Democrats can recruit more winnable candidates. But, then again, winning isn't everything! Nomination review committe co-chair Cheryl Hewitt hasn't yet returned a call from Public Eye requesting comment. The following is a complete copy of the relevant portion of that report, entitled Changing the Nomination Process.
Issues - Perceived and Real
1. Lack of representation of women, Aboriginal people, youth, people with disabilities, visible minorities, and LGBT individuals.
2. Proportionally fewer women nominated in the top (competitive) 30 constituencies than in less winnable (uncompetitive) constituencies.
3. Lack of women's success in contested nominations.
Potential contributing attitudes to under-representation of women and minorities
4. Attitudes/beliefs of potential women candidates who may feel they don't know the issues or don't have the support at home (childcare in particular), and experience a lack of financial resources.
5. Advantage afforded previously successful candidates.
6. Search committees which focus on traditional organizations and communities.
7. General bias against candidates who may not have had traditional public experience.
8. Bias in political parties generally against women or minority candidates (e.g. 'these folks don't have the right attitude', 'women are less electable', 'women with children shouldn't run', etc.)
9. An early start by those aware of the process and rules disadvantages newer recruits.
10. Degree of knowledge of winning nomination strategies.
11. Cost of nomination processes.
12. Women typically don't have access to traditional political networks which may reduce their membership signup and fundraising capacities.
13. Lack of gender-specific candidate training.
1. The Party's social justice agenda includes concern for policies and practices that will enhance democratic participation in the Party generally and particularly among women and identified groups. This includes a recognition that many social, cultural and civic benefits accrue from more inclusive, just and equitable nomination processes and practices.
2. Party policy and practices must be focused on removing visible and invisble barriers to identified groups' participation in candidate recruitment and nomination processes on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, level of education or income, or ability.
3. Education is an important tool to achieve a deeper understanding of and to overcome barriers to equity.
4. It is our collective responsibility, not only the responsibility of members from minorities, to see that equitable and fair processes are adopted and practiced at all levels of the Party. This includes challenging stereotypes about the suitability of candidates on the basis of race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, level of education or income or ability.
5. We need to set measurable targets for women and affirmative action candidates in order to ensure equitable representation.
1. Provie skills training and support for affirmative action candidates seeking nominations through campaign schools and workshops.
2. Organize mentoring for potential women nomineees with established female Party politicians, and later expand this program to other identified affirmative action groups.
3. Update and distribute guides for winning nominations, ensuring that these documents recognize regional, social, cultural, economic and gender distinctions.
4. Establish an Affirmative Action Recruitment Committee and ensure board representation including the Leader, at least two MLAs and two Party Vice-Presidents, as well as the Chair of the WRC and representatives from targeted equity groups, reporting to the Provincial Executive. This Committee will strive to recruit well in advance of nominations. (A very similar committee was set up in June 2006; the Provincial Executive will determine how this committee will relate to the Provincial Executive's overall candidate search process.)
5. All constituency candidate search committees must include representatives from affirmative action groups, including women.
6. Hold regional candidate recruitment seminars beginning early in 2007.
7. Strengthen the ability of the regional representatives on the Provincial Executive and WRC regional representatives to ensure that candidate searches in the regions start early and reach out to women and minority canidates by making this task part of their job descriptions.
8. Leader involvement in candidate search.
Party Regulations/Internal Solutions
9. Dedcate Party staff resources to research "best practices", summarizing what other parties do in Canada and elsewhere to elect more women and minorities; these practices will guide evolving nomination processes.
10. Set targets for the next provincial election of 50% women candidates and 65% affirmative action candidates (the latter including women).
11. In order to meet affirmative action targets and to address emergencies, the Provincial Executive may appoint candidates in elected constituencies or designate specific constituencies for affirmative action candidates.
12. Set aside funding in the provincial Party budgets and pre-election budgets to assist women financially during their nomination races.