The Ontario Liberal Party has moved to only allow women to run for the nomination in more than 20 of its ridings in an effort to improve gender equity in its caucus.
The party provided a list of 22 ridings to Global News where it has made the rule change, including in the Greater Toronto Area, Durham Region and elsewhere in southern Ontario.
Janice Hebbert owns a downtown business in the riding of Oshawa, which is among those selected in the strategy. She said she would rather see the best candidate win, regardless of gender.
“I mean, we’re able to run against the men, in my opinion. We don’t have to have them excluded to win,” she said.
Others out for a walk were more in favour of the move.
“Women have a different perspective on what’s important, what’s high-priority, so I think we’re more likely to put people first,” said Wenda Abel, who lives in nearby Whitby, Ont.
Margaret Egan, who lives just west in Courtice, Ont., said the rule change could influence how she votes.
The effort aims to build a strong and diverse team ahead of the June election, according to the party, with a commitment to gender parity on its team by that time.
“A lot of parties will talk about the fact that we need gender parity but they very much treat it as aspirational goals,” said Brian Johns, president of the party.
“Our leader, Steven Del Duca, has felt very strongly that we needed real tools to make sure that we could achieve it.”
Tim MacNeill, a political science professor at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, said he thinks the move is a positive change but doesn’t go far enough.
“In any democracy you want the elected representatives to look like their populations and this goes some way to do that,” he said.
MacNeill added he would prefer a more holistic approach, with ridings set aside not just for women but also other under-represented groups.
“You could have a very qualified male Indigenous candidate who comes from a low socio-economic background — he is precluded from running and then you end up with a white woman of privilege who gets the position,” he explained.
Johns said for now the focus is on gender parity for women and anyone who identifies as a woman.
“The discussion can kind of go anywhere based on religion, colour of skin, whatnot — the fact is we’re talking about gender parity,” he said.
About 60 per cent of the candidates nominated so far are women, Johns said, with about 70 per cent of those women having benefited from the rule change.
The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and the Ontario NDP were contacted for comment by phone and email but didn’t respond by deadline.
Ontario’s 43rd election is set to take place on June 3, 2022.
List of women-only candidate ridings:
-Bay of Quinte
-Don Valley West
-Humber River-Black Creek