Earlier this year I took an unprecedented step for me and joined a political party. I chose the Liberal Party for two reasons. First, the party policies generally fit more comfortable with my own views than do those of the two other major parties. Secondly, I know the woman who was seeking nomination in my riding. I knew I could support her fully from the nomination process through to the federal election campaign.
In Beaches-Woodbine, I joined the Liberals to support Pamela Shea. Pam would have been an attractive and credible candidate. She has a professional background in both nursing and teaching; she is articulate and competent.
Although Chretien signed the papers necessary for Pam to stand for nomination, he effectively cut her off by appointing Maria Minna as the candidate. Now I don’t know anything about Maria Minna, except I understand that she has support in the Italian community. This is hardly a great plus in Beaches-Woodbine which is predominantly WASP yuppie.
According to the media, Chretien was given the power to bypass the traditional riding selection process in order to help women candidates. Pro-lifers – cynics that we are – suspected another motive. This hidden agenda was exposed in my riding because Pam Shea called their bluff: she is openly pro-life, and does not have any backroom favours to call.
I see two issues stemming from my first dip into riding politics. One is the female “thing,” the other is the so-called instant Liberal phenomenon.
Yes, I joined the Liberal Party over a single issue. I believe that the only way to change Canadian policy towards the unborn is to elect pro-life politicians. To achieve this, we have to work for good candidates. We also have to play fair with the process: it’s not right to join a party whose policies you disagree with only because of a pro-life candidate. (Do not confuse this with casting a ballot on election day for a party you dislike because of a pro-life candidate. These are two separate issues.)
In my case, I joined the Liberals because I can support most of their policies and I could support their candidate, if Pam Shea won. The party took my membership dollars, and those of three other members of my family, and then pulled out the rug from under our feet. As a letter writer to my community newspaper put it, we are denied a “very simple basic right: the right to vote in an open democratic contest for the party nomination in thts riding.”
No wonder so many people consider party politics too dirty a business to become involved in. What Jean Chretien and his backroom boys have done is to hijack the democratic process. And they dressed it all up in the fine feathers of feminism.
While this hijacking in the Beaches-Woodbie is offensively anti-democratic, it is even more offensive for women to be told over and over again that the only way we can succeed in society is through patronizing manipulation. Of course there should be more female MPs, just as there should be more women in the higher ranks of business and the professions. But the women must achieve these positions through their own merits and aspirations, not because agenda feminists keep whining about a male conspiracy to keep out women.
A more balanced representation will inevitable take longer to achieve when individual abilities and experience are the measure rather than a quota system based on gender, but each gain will be a real one. To put women in positions of power simply as tokens in insulting to both men and women; and it demeans the achievements of the women who do make it on their own abilities.
So, Mr. Chretien, in trying to appease the so-called women’s vote, you have just lost min – and I don’t believe mine is the only one. In trying to block the efforts of pro-lifers, you have lost our votes. In parachuting candidates into ridings, you have lost the votes of long-time riding workers, like the man who wrote to my community paper, who were denied their basic rights. This is quite an achievement in one riding.
The Liberal Party would appear to be positioned well for the next federal election, with so many voters disgusted with the Conservatives and the NDP alike. Deliberately alienating so many voters at this stage does not seem to me to be a smart move.