Men dominate Liberal delegate race to replace Ontario’s first woman premier

By Sabrina Nanji February 7, 2020

In one leg of the race to replace Ontario’s first female premier, men are dominating. 

Despite half the slate of candidates vying to succeed former Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne being women, an analysis by Queen’s Park Today shows that men are leading the delegate race taking place this weekend. 

On Saturday and Sunday, card-carrying Grits will vote for 1,984 delegates who will represent them at the March 7 leadership convention (there are also about 400 spots reserved for ex-officios, such as former politicians, as well as slots for campus and women’s clubs). The results will offer some insight into how the first ballot will shake out because delegates are obligated to support the leadership candidate who recruited them for the initial round. 

Per a preliminary list of delegate candidates obtained by Queen’s Park Today, about 64 per cent are men and just 36 per cent are women.

Only one contender’s delegate candidate roster, political newbie Brenda Hollingsworth, boasted gender parity, although she has the smallest slate of candidates in the race.

The two other female candidates, Kate Graham and Mitzie Hunter, fared slightly better, with 45 per cent female delegate hopefuls in each camp. Graham claims more women candidates with 280 over Hunter’s 183.

Frontrunner Steven Del Duca’s campaign — which is running the biggest cohort and is backed by more than half of the party members hoping to be a delegate — has 67 per cent male candidates and 33 per cent female candidates. About 65 per cent of would-be delegates supporting Michael Coteau are men and 35 per cent are women. Sixty-eight per cent of Alvin Tedjo’s roster is male and 32 per cent female. 

Meanwhile, 73 per cent of wannabe delegates flying an Independent banner are men and 27 per cent are women. 

(The party is still coming up with the official delegate candidate tally, so some of the final numbers could change slightly.)

Del Duca boasted about running a slate with the highest number of women, about 875, versus over 1,7000 male candidates, and doubled down on his pledge to recruit at least half women candidates in the next general election should he secure the leadership. 

“Getting more women involved in the political process is something I take very seriously. Unfortunately there are many systemic barriers standing in the way of equitable participation that must be addressed,” Del Duca said in an email to QPT

Team Coteau also pumped up the second-highest number of women contenders, 453 who disclosed their gender. 

“I would also point out that we are one of three campaigns being run by a millennial woman of colour, with Sara Alimardani as campaign manager, with women in key leadership roles in the operations, communications, ex-officio and policy aspects of the campaign,” spokesperson Jonathan Scott added. 

Graham said she was “proud” with her 45-per-cent showing of women, adding it’s a “really big ask” of potential candidates to take time off to attend the two-day convention in Mississauga, especially women who are primary caregivers or can’t afford to take time off work. 

Hunter, who recently called out Premier Doug Ford for being “anti-women,” said “more than any candidate” she has “demonstrated that women’s issues are important and a top priority.” 

Hollingsworth said the disproportion between delegates mirrors participation in political parties at all levels. 

“Women want to have a say, but it’s a big deal to put your life on hold, especially if you’re going to run for a nomination,” Hollingsworth said. “There is nothing that’s readily available online on the party website to really walk you through the decision tree that you need to go through to decide whether or not to put your name on there … It’s quite opaque. So [make] that information accessible to the public.”  

Earlier this week ex-premiers Wynne — who served as the province’s first woman and openly gay first minister up until the Grits election historic election defeat in 2018 — and B.C.’s Christy Clark discussed what it’s like being a woman in politics at a panel hosted by Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn

The pair stressed the need for more women to put themselves forward in elections and the importance of parties backing them.

“The only way we’re going to get through this is if women just know that,” Wynne said. 

The Ontario Liberal Party rulebook designates at least six delegate slots for women and two for youth members per riding.