Brief Submitted to the
Ontario Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Regarding Bill 75
Equal Voice is a multi-partisan not-for-profit organization that works to elect more women at all levels of government. Our research shows that the opportunity to physically modernizing the Ontario legislature can make the legislature a more inclusive environment and will increase the number of women and traditionally underrepresented groups in provincial politics.
We recommend Ontario develop physical spaces that support requirements for hybrid participation and family-friendly considerations to increase the diversity of parliamentary participation.
Bill 75 is an excellent opportunity for the Ontario legislature to take full advantage of restoration in a physical and functional sense that promotes inclusivity and full participation. We know that as times change, our institutions must too. The physical building can impact how work is carried out, and we encourage restoration considerations that promote hybrid participation and family friendly infrastructures.
Ontario has 36% of women elected to its legislature. This is a historic high, but still a long way from gender parity. Part of increasing the representation of women MPPs is making the legislature a better workplace for women. Women are less likely to choose politics as a career, and more likely to step away from politics before average retirement age. Below we outline that hybrid proceedings support gender sensitive legislatures, and support the consideration of physical spaces within the legislature that have the potential to attract and retain more women to provincial politics.
Hybrid proceedings are part of gender-sensitive legislatures
In February 2020, just a month prior to COVID-19 officially being declared a pandemic in Canada, Equal Voice launched a report on Gender Sensitive Legislatures, outlining actions that Federal, Provincial, and Territorial legislatures could take in order to make legislatures better places for women and gender diverse people to work. This report was the result of three years of research, including consulting with elected officials, political staff, national and international partners as well as conducting academic research. The full list of recommendations resulting from this project can be found in in Appendix A.
A major finding that emerged from the study was that legislatures, including the Ontario government, needed to modernize their operations in order to become more gender sensitive. Part of this modernization involves hybrid participation.
The nature and longevity of the pandemic fast-tracked the implementation of a much needed modernized, more technologically-forward way of working. By extension, it challenged traditional approaches to the ways in which work was conducted and shifted perceptions of what a workplace is. Despite the challenge, it sparked a wave of innovation across all workplaces and in many cases, offered a vast array of new opportunities. The workplace of the Ontario legislature also stands to benefit from such technological opportunities. Hybrid participation allows for greater engagement for MPPs who cannot travel to due to illness, pregnancy or other circumstances.
2. Physical modernizations and updates are needed to accommodate family realities of MPPs
MPPs with children would greatly benefit from physical infrastructure for child-minding on legislative grounds. Equipping legislative assemblies with additional childcare facilities, high chairs, change tables, family rooms, spaces for breastfeeding etc. are necessary to accommodate the realities of juggling legislative and family responsibilities. Additionally, we know that long sitting hours in the legislature create pressures of all MPPs, with or without family responsibilities. Modernizing the legislature can take into account the more contemporary view that our elected houses are indeed workplaces like any other.
Caregiving responsibilities disproportionately fall on the shoulders of women, and according to Statistics Canada, women spend twice as much time caring for children than men, including if they are also working outside the home. This adds to some women’s hesitation to not join politics in the first place and/or not to remain in politics.
3. Hybrid proceedings and family considerations have the potential to attract more women to politics.
Equal Voice commissioned a public opinion survey, published in January 2022 to better understand views on politics:
It was found that 86% of the public, of all genders, said that we need more women as elected representatives in Canada. Additionally, 85% of respondents said that having more women in politics would have a positive impact on government policy, actions, and decisions.
Given these results, it is important that politics becomes a better, more realistic career choice for women. In addition to the research above, Equal Voice also investigated young women’s views and perceptions on the subject of political involvement. Our Women in Politics Study, surveyed 1,500 women from the general public aged 18-30 across Canada. Among the findings, we found:
67% of women think being an elected representative is “one of the most impactful ways to serve their communities”, yet only
39% of women say politics offers a work-life balance.
After pay and benefits, work-life balance is the second most important career attribute for young women, so it is concerning that our study found:
81% of women ultimately feel that running for office “would be difficult to manage” with the other responsibilities in their life.
In addition to conducting quantitative studies, Equal Voice regularly meets with women or gender diverse people from all political backgrounds across the country. While we support women running at all levels of government, we cannot help but notice that women or gender diverse people often choose to run at the municipal level simply because they know they will be able to be home to support their families in times of need. From our discussions with women in politics, we have strong reason to believe that more women will seek provincial office if they know that hybrid participation options and family considerations were available for MPPs.
Equal Voice recommends that the Ontario incorporate restoration and infrastructure modernizations that support requirements for hybrid participation and family-friendly considerations to increase the diversity of parliamentary participation.
Based on evidence from Equal Voice’s work, hybrid proceedings will make Parliament a more accessible and inclusive workplace for women, and will attract more women to provincial politics. This will advance the goal of gender parity in politics.
For more information or any questions about this brief, please contact:
Chi Nguyen, Executive Director
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