Why Canadian Women Can Make Or Break This Election
If any party has a hope in hell of winning an election in this country, it needs the votes of women.
Earlier this month, Refinery29 Canada unveiled the results of our 2019 federal election poll — a survey of more than 1,000 Canadian women on everything from their worries about abortion access, to their top voting issue, to how they feel about Justin Trudeau’s leadership so far (hint: it ain’t good). As well as showing us what Canadian women care most about, the data offers a revealing look at political engagement. We’re frustrated, yes, but we’re also fired up.
Since launching Refinery29 Canada a year ago, it’s been rewarding (though not surprising) to see our audience devour political stories in the same way they do our beauty tips and Netflix Canada recommendations. Stories like Kathleen Newman-Bremang’s recent column about Trudeau in brownface have been extremely well-read, which is one of the reasons we commissioned the survey and why I was excited to talk about it during radio and TV appearances.
Media appearances are one of the ways editors bring attention to important work, which is not normally something I would write about, but I wanted to share a story about a TV producer who said our survey wasn’t a good fit for a mainstream audience. “Too niche” were her exact words — and let me tell you, that got me a little fired up. The fact that the political opinions of 1,000 voting-age Canadian women could be considered niche at all is as infuriating as it is off the mark. Because newsflash: Any party with a hope in hell of winning an election in Canada needs to win the votes of women, who, by the way, made up 52% of all voters in the previous federal election and are more likely to vote than men. If the Liberal Party has any chance of holding onto power, it needs female voters — particularly the large voting block of millennial women — to come out in support of the party like they did four years ago.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who's found themselves thinking back to that time a lot lately: A freshly elected Trudeau, standing in front of Rideau Hall with his new cabinet ministers, answering a question as to why, for the first time in Canadian history, half of those ministers were women.
“Because it’s 2015.”
Trudeau delivered the now-iconic line with a shrug and grin, as if the question were absurd, as if the answer were obvious: This is what a modern government looks like — get over it. At the time it was thrilling. He had campaigned on an optimistic, inclusive, and feminist vision of Canada, and now, here was the first piece of evidence of his so-called “sunny ways.”
But over the past four years it’s become clear that leading a feminist, future-oriented government hasn’t been as simple for our PM as one-liners and bold gestures. Despite his pro-woman agenda, a shocking 45% of our survey respondents said they felt the Trudeau government had no impact on women. And, while 60% said they were more likely to vote for a leader who identified as feminist (nobody drops that particular F-bomb more than JT), scandals have put both his record of supporting women and marginalized people at risk. (I should point out that our survey took place before last month’s brownface scandal — which obviously hasn’t helped assuage the idea that Trudeau’s image as a prince of progressive values may be yet another offensive costume.)
So will women turn out for Trudeau? We’ll know soon enough.
Certainly he’s got a lot of baggage this time around (enough for two airplanes, apparently). But if there’s one thing I’ll say for the Liberals under Trudeau it’s that it is a party that understands women are not niche. And apparently that’s no small thing. Women matter. Four years ago, that knowledge won the Liberals the election. 2019 is different story, but your vote is no less powerful. Make sure you use it.