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Canada should elect a gender-balanced Parliament in 2019

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It was nearly a century ago that Agnes Macphail became the first woman elected to the House of Commons. Her victory in 1921 meant she represented not only the southwestern Ontario riding of Grey South East, but every Canadian woman across the country as well. Half the population had a 0.4 per cent share of the seats in the 14th Parliament.

Things have improved—if ever so slowly—in almost a century. Women now account for 26 per cent of all MPs, but at the current rate of progress it will take almost another 100 years to hit gender parity. Yet recent events at home and abroad suggest we may be on the verge of a major leap forward in this age-long struggle for political equality.

While you won’t hear it from U.S. President Donald Trump, the biggest winners in the recent U.S. mid-term elections were women. In the House of Representatives, a record-breaking 102 women won seats (89 Democrats, 13 Republicans), marking an improvement over the 85 women in the previous Congress. And many of these women represent important firsts, such as the first two Muslim women to be elected, as well as the first Native American woman. “We’ve seen important breakthroughs,” says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

READ MORE: Not your mother’s wage gap: How millennials experience pay inequality

To Canadians, American boasts of 2018 being the “Year of the Woman” may seem a bit overdramatic. Our female federal legislators already exceed their U.S. counterparts’ gender ratio 26 per cent to 23 per cent. And those historic firsts? Old news. Yasmin Ratansi became Canada’s first Muslim woman MP in 2004. And our first Indigenous female MP was Ethel Blondin-Andrew, elected in 1988. Setting aside any cross-border rivalry, however, the recent U.S. results suggest something bigger may be afoot.

Mexico’s general elections this past summer, for example, delivered a nearly perfectly gender-balanced parliament, the result of a 2014 constitutional amendment requiring parties to field an equal number of male and female candidates. Here at home, provincial elections last year in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario all saw record numbers of female candidates running for office. And the newly elected Vancouver city council consists of eight women and three men.

Does all this signal a permanent and rapid shift toward equal representation for women in Canadian politics? The 2019 federal election will tell the tale. The biggest hurdle typically lies at the nomination stage, since ample academic evidence suggests voters do not discriminate between male and female candidates come voting time. And each of the three main parties takes a different route to improving female representation. The NDP is typically the most aggressive in recruiting female candidates, while the Conservatives eschew a formal policy in favour of merit and mentoring. The federal Liberals now require a documented search for women candidates before open nomination meetings can be held.

RELATED: Glad you asked: Why your justification for the pay gap is bunk

There’s also evidence that mounting social pressure can play a big role in rectifying long-standing gender issues. Statistics Canada, for example, recently found that reports of sexual assault rose sharply in the wake of the #MeToo social-media movement: in the three months following October 2017, the number of police-reported sexual assaults was up 25 per cent versus comparable earlier periods. Simply bringing gender issues into the full light of day can deliver tangible results, provided society is ready to change.

Gender parity in federal politics is a means to achieving a more inclusive and responsive political system. Canadians expect the House of Commons to reflect their views and interests—to do so, it should look like Canada looks. “I want for myself what I want for all women: absolute equality,” Macphail once said. Isn’t it about time she had it?

MORE ABOUT GENDER EQUALITY:

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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