Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Opposition Leader Jason Kenney locked horns Friday on International Women’s Day over the best way to recruit women as political candidates.
Notley said a top-down method is best, while Kenney suggested boosting women candidates from the ground up is the way to go.
Both parties have worked to attract more women as nominees for the upcoming election. Notley announced Friday that the NDP, as in 2015, is fielding a candidate slate balanced between men and women.
“We don’t have quotas. What we have is a committed decision to make sure that we recruit more women,” she said after an appearance in Calgary.
“You can’t just sort of say nice flowery things and then cross your fingers and hope (gender balance) happens,” she said. ”When you do that you end up in a situation where there’s one female premier in the whole country, (and) where only a third of your candidates are women and even fewer than that get elected.”
Kenney, speaking in Edmonton, said he inherited a male-dominated caucus, with just two women MLAs, when the Wildrose Party merged with his Progressive Conservatives to form the United Conservatives Party.
The party has made a concerted effort to change that, he said, and women comprise about one-third of the slate.
He said it’s important everyone has the same opportunity to win rather than installing quotas.
“Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity, not contrived equality of outcome,” said Kenney.
“But we do acknowledge that sometimes there are disadvantages when you have a woman who is brand new to politics and doesn’t have the same experience as a competitor.
“That’s exactly why we help to offer practical support, training, mentorship and things like connecting women nominee candidates to prospective donors. It’s just helping to level the playing field a little bit.”
Kenney said more than 140 women ran for UCP nominations. Notley’s 50 per cent goal benefited from there being few NDP nomination contests with more than one candidate.
“Virtually all of the 27 women so far nominated in the United Conservative Party went through heavily contested nominations, and many of them had never been involved in politics at all.”
On Thursday, Notley criticized Kenney on social media for comments he made about women facing barriers in politics.
“Very typically, women candidates for nominations are running for the first time, and often running against guys who have been in politics for years or decades and have a network and understand tactical politics a little bit better than women, who have been doing usually more useful things like professions and running businesses and helping with families,” Kenney said.
Notley took issue with Kenney’s reference on women and tactics, posting on Twitter: “Jason, Alberta’s largest-ever female caucus and our 10 female cabinet ministers are available to provide you tactical political training any time you need it.”
Asked about her tweet on Friday, Notley said Kenney’s comment “unfortunately revealed what I would say is kind of a unprecedented level of condescension in terms of what I’ve seen for at least the last couple of decades from key leaders in our political world.”
Kenney said he was simply referencing the uneven playing field facing women.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press