Power lunch for women MPs?
Today at noon, we may see the revival of an all-party women's caucus. Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett says that women of other parties have been invited to the regular meeting of her party's female MPs, which takes place every Wednesday in the Parliamentary restaurant after the main caucus meetings.
As Bennett said in an email this morning: "It's exciting to work with (NDP MP) Françoise Boivin, (Greens leader) Elizabeth May and (Conservative) Senator Nancy Ruth to re-establish the All-Party Women's caucus. We are meeting today at noon for the inaugural meeting. In the past women working across party lines have been able to find areas of consensus and truly make a difference in not only what we do in Parliament but how we do it."
I'm keen to see which issues would unite the women on Parliament Hill today -- if there are any.
Back in the 1980s, when I first arrived in the nation's capital, the all-party women's caucus was a highly active presence on Parliament Hill, forging friendships and relationships that transcended partisanship.
Women MPs in the governing Conservative caucus, as well as women MPs among the opposition Liberals and New Democrats, thought it was a good idea to meet regularly and co-operate on some issues that tended to see women largely on the same side, regardless of partisan stripe. Back in the late 1980s, folks might remember, issues such as abortion were high on Parliament's agenda, and it hadn't been that long since women had fought hard for inclusion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But along came the 1990s, and a sense that women had arrived -- if not at equality, at least respectable numbers in politics. Two of the federal parties had even elected women leaders (Kim Campbell, briefly, for the Conservatives; Audrey McLaughlin and then Alexa McDonough for the NDP.) As well, the Reform Party was a rising force on the Hill and Reform, agree with it or not, did not go for the idea of special constituencies within the party -- women, youth, etc. So Reform excused itself from any efforts to have an all-women caucus.
Since then, there have been on-again, off-again attempts to resurrect an all-party women's caucus. Certainly any new amassing of female force in this Parliament would be larger than last efforts -- thanks to the May 2 election, women's share of the seats in the Commons is at a record high. (Still only 25 per cent, but better than the 22 per cent of the 40th Parliament.)
So, the attempt is being made again today to revive the caucus. A question mark remains, though, on what issues/concerns will unite women of the varying political colours in this Parliament.