More Women in Politics can Change Direction of the Country, says ONDP Leader

October 6, 2009, 1:35 PM EST

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The presence of more women in politics could have a real impact on how our governments are run and the decisions they make on our behalf, said Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath to a crowd of nearly 200 women and men.  Horwath's speech was part of an evening dedicated to encouraging more women to enter politics, held on October 5 at the CAW Local 1285 Hall in Brampton, Ontario.

"It is still very difficult to be a woman in elected office because of the perceptions of what you should be doing with your life," said Horwath. She recounted a story of how her entry into municipal politics a little more than 10 years ago was met with disapproval by other Hamilton city councilors on account of her having small children. She said that her male colleagues did not face the same criticism. The presence of more women in politics will change attitudes about women's role in public life, she said.

"No progress can be made on an issue if women's voices aren't there expanding the debate," she said.

Peggy Nash, assistant to CAW president, federal NDP president and former MP, said that women can get involved in politics by putting their passion about a particular issue into action. "Whatever your passion is, there's a political aspect to it."

She said that although some women may not want to run for office, they must put their efforts into electing those women who are willing to go into politics. "We need women's voices in the House before we're going to make a difference for all Canadians."

MPP for Parkdale-High Park in Toronto Cheri DiNovo also weighed in on political life. DiNovo is a former small business owner and United Church minister, who performed the first legalized same-sex marriage in North America.  DiNovo also spearheaded the $10 minimum wage campaign, which was successful with the help of organized labour and a number of community and anti-poverty groups. 

DiNovo spoke about an initiative called Girls Government which invites six girls from two different elementary schools to participate in the year long program where the girls not only see through a chosen project, but also experience the political processes at Queen's Park and Parliament Hill first hand by working with women MPs and MPPs. She said that years down the road, she hopes these same girls will be running for office -municipally, provincially or federally.

The evening was emceed by CAW Local 1285 Women's Committee Chair Gwen Campbell and included addresses by Edna Toth of Elect Women Everywhere and ONDP Women's Committee President Effie Vlachoyannacos and entertainment by the Peel Aboriginal Network (PAN) hand drummers.

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