What Alberta Premier-Designate Jason Kenney promises to deliver
Canada’s provincial leaders are a boys club again.
Jason Kenney’s victory in the Alberta election Tuesday ends the tenure of Premier Rachel Notley, who took power in the oil-producing province in 2015. Her departure means that for the first time since 2008, not a single province or territory in Canada will be led by a woman.
Canada had six female premiers as recently as 2013, including Kathleen Wynne in Ontario, Pauline Marois in Quebec and Christy Clark in British Columbia. Since then, they’ve been steadily replaced by men, even as Canada’s federal House of Commons holds a record number of female lawmakers, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is half women.
“It’s disappointing,” said Lori Williams, a professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University who studies women in politics. “But it’s not the end of the story -- the example and experience and impetus that’s been generated by these female leaders can have a longer lasting effect.”
Notley, 55, recruited more women to run for her and changed the sitting hours for the provincial legislature in a bid to make it more family-friendly. Women tend to be seen as competent on more issues but also punished for things men aren’t, Williams said.
“If you’re too tough, that tends to work against women more than it does against men,” Williams said.
Canada’s female premiers have rarely lasted long in office. None of them have ever been elected to two full terms. Many of them have won the leadership of parties that had been in power a long time, and whose popularity was waning, forcing them to try to save a sinking political ship.
Misogyny in Politics
“What is it that happens to women in political leadership that makes it more difficult for people to see them continuing there? I don’t know the answer to that but I think we do have to raise it,” said Wynne, the former Ontario premier whose party lost power in 2018. “It raises important questions about women in leadership, I think it raises important questions about how misogyny plays in the current political climate.”
When Wynne joined the five other female premiers in 2013, she assumed the number of women leaders would wane -- but didn’t expect it to happen so fast.
“The loss of women across the country has gone much more quickly than I expected,” she said in an interview, adding she’s taken a less optimistic tone in speaking with young women interested in politics. “I’m not saying ‘change is coming, we’re going to get there.’ I’m saying, ‘we’re going to go back and forth,’” she said. “You need to jump in anyway, and understand what you’re going to be dealing with.”
By comparison, the U.S. currently has nine female governors. Canada has had one female prime minister, Kim Campbell in 1993.