Congratulations to Kathleen Wynne on her election as the new leader of the provincial Liberal party in Ontario, meaning that she automatically becomes Premier of Ontario, the sixth woman in the current cohort of sitting Premiers. If we only counted Premiers, that would mean that we’re approaching fifty percent of the thirteen provinces and territories that are, putatively, governed by women. She is also the first openly homosexual person to be elected to such a high office, though we have had cabinet posts in Ottawa held by LGBTs.
Before proceeding, can we please stop and take a look at the difference between the rhetoric of Campaign Obama 2008 and the ensuing action? As we move into Obama’s second term in office, and as we reflect on another rousing speech at the Inauguration, do we seriously think that there will be the shift from the state surveillance, war, de facto austerity, Wall Street influence? It’s a big disappointment that the first Black POTUS raised our hopes (perhaps he could have been an inspiration to Harper-wait!- he has been) and then hired Tim Geithner, Eric Holder, Hilary Clinton, Arne Duncan and a bunch of other Wall Street/Inside-the-Beltway retreads to carry on the same old same old.
I wonder how people thought of Margaret Thatcher when she came to power? A woman in the PM’s chair? Hmmm… she outmanned the men, took an estrogen scalpel to the social safety net, marched off to war and helped set up an expanded role for the City in all things British, at home and abroad.
Kim Campbell here in Canada hardly counts. She was refreshing after the bluster and bullshit of Brian Mulroney, but never, even in her short caretaker tenure, made any moves to bring some integrity and humanity back to the office. Likewise for Rita Johnson, Socred stand-in to take the fall for Bill Van Der Zalm in BC in 1991.
And now Ms. Wynne joins an élite group of women around the Premiers’ table in Canada. Her companions include Allison Redford, who can’t seem to make the budget work in Alberta despite being awash in a sea of petrodollars (I guess the oily money is so slippery that it wants to head home to Houston) and Christie Clark whose BC Liberals are actually looking for campaign funding in Alberta because there isn’t enough in the CC4BC coffers or the government publicity budget to paper over the many and profound sins of her administration and that of her predecessor (currently languishing is golden exile in London as he represents the interests of the same folks on whose behalf he sacked the wealth of his home province). I can’t speak too much to what Kathy Dunderdale has done/is doing in Newfoundland and Labrador, nor exactly what might be the vision that Pauline Marois might have for Québec, other than an independent nation (no telling whether it would be a more nurturing nation for her efforts), and Eva Ariak of Nunavut hasn’t raised too many blips on the radar.
On the whole, the prognosis for women in power is not entirely positive, mostly because they seem, in large proportion, to govern from exactly the same stance as men, a phenomenon that shouldn’t surprise too much, given that the power that most often guides a government resides in the corporate boardrooms (Gwynn Morgan, how are things at Enbridge and SNC-Lavalin?) and that these boardrooms are dominated by ultra-competitive, testosterone-fired, single-minded greed. It seems to me that Margaret Thatcher, who so completely embodies the image of the woman in power, coined, if memory serves, the phrase: “There is no alternative!”
There are so many counterweights to this stereotype (binders full?) that we could cite them for days on end, but people like Rachel Carson somehow don’t make it into the halls of power. It’ll be interesting to see how Hilary fares in her bid to become the next POTUS: we once got things like “It takes a village to raise a child”, but Clinton’s actions and speech as Secretary of State might lead us to believe that she will be, much like Barry Obama, pretty much the figurehead that all have been in recent history, feeding the Wall Street maw and cavorting with the Pentagon’s pets, Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics and the like as they sell the weaponry needed to protect the vital interests of BP, Exxon and Shell.
I wish Ms. Wynne well in promoting a different agenda than her predecessor and in making a clear distinction between her government and the pretender to the throne, Harper clone Tim Hudak. She’ll need lots of help, given that Dalton has already alienated what should be Wynne’s constituency.