News / Ottawa

Seven in 10 appointees to federal government bodies since 2006 have been men

Most of the people appointed to federal bodies since 2006 have been men – which, at least in the official Opposition's eyes, suggests gender equality is not a priority for the Conservative government.

The Tories have made 5,833 governor-in-council appointments since they came to office more than nine years ago. Of those, only 1,864 – or about 32 per cent – have been women.

Governor-in-council appointments are made on advice of the cabinet. They range from heads of agencies and Crown corporation CEOs to members of quasi-judicial tribunals.

Figures on the number of female governor-in-council appointees were provided in response to an order paper question by New Democrat MP Mylene Freeman, the party’s status of women critic.

The figures show the proportion of female appointees to tribunals, agencies, boards and Crown corporations has mostly hovered around 30 per cent for each year since the Conservatives took office. The number was 37 per cent under the Liberals in 2005.

“It shows that there hasn’t been much progress; that we’re really working at a snail’s pace in terms of achieving equality,” Freeman said. “These are nominations; there’s absolutely no excuse for it to be nowhere near parity yet.”

Crown corporations alone are a more stark case. From 2006 until last year, less than a quarter of appointments to Crown corporations were women.

The NDP introduced a bill last year that would have gradually increased the number of women on Crown corporation boards of directors to achieve equal representation within six years, but it was voted down. There is precedent for such regulation; a 2006 Quebec law requires male-female parity on Crown corporation boards.

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch said in a statement that the government is committed to promoting women’s participation in leadership roles in both the public and private sector.

“The prime minister is leading by example by appointing more women to senior leadership positions in the federal public service and to governor-in-council positions,” she said. “Women hold some of the highest positions of leadership federally, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Clerk of the Privy Council.”

Indeed, the percentage of female appointees has risen lately; 36 per cent in 2014 and 45 per cent in the first four months of 2015. And the proportion is still higher than elected officials; only about 25 per cent of members of Parliament are women.

The issue is not a shortage in the talent pool, said Nancy Peckford, executive director of Equal Voice, an organization dedicated to electing more women to political office in Canada.

“There has to be a bit of a shift in the mindset,” she said. “It’s an issue of what Canadians expect from their governments in terms of these public appointments.”

She pointed to a Norwegian law that requires publicly-regulated corporate boards to be comprised of at least 40 per cent men and 40 per cent women. That model, she said, is "very encouraging" because it’s not just about women or men, but about overall balance.

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