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Women in Canadian politics look ahead to possible female U.S. president

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould (left) and former prime minister Kim Campbell wait to appear before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights Monday, Oct. 24, 2016 in Ottawa.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
November 08, 2016 - 9:30 AM

OTTAWA - Kim Campbell has made no secret about who she would prefer to see win the U.S. presidential election.

The former Progressive Conservative prime minister has been vocal in her distaste for Republican candidate Donald Trump, who she views as unqualified, untruthful and undermining democratic institutions in a world where many countries still strive for peace and security.

Campbell would welcome a victory by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. And she thinks Americans electing the first woman U.S. president would send a remarkable signal around the globe that yes, women really are up for the job.

"The landscape from which people get their sense of how the world works is a very powerful influence in terms of the subliminal attitudes people have about who gets to do a job," Campbell said in a recent telephone interview from her home in Edmonton, where she is founding principal of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College at the University of Alberta.

"I think it will encourage a lot of young people to think differently about who gets to do that job."

Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer said she saw this kind of effect in action soon after she became the first Muslim and first person of South Asian descent to be named to the upper chamber in 2001.

Jaffer said she remembers walking along Sparks Street — the pedestrian mall that runs one block south of Parliament Hill — when a young Afghan girl approached her and learned she was a new senator.

"And she said, 'Well, if you can become a senator then I can become a prime minister'," Jaffer recalled.

"So, what that taught me that day is that people can see the possible if they see someone like them."

Liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz said that kind of validation is needed, even for women who have already been elected to office.

"I can tell you that not only do we have to prove ourselves to win the nomination, we have to re-prove ourselves every single day and I think that is what she has had to do," said Dzerowicz, a rookie MP from a downtown Toronto riding.

New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson said the success of Clinton could be especially critical for women following this particular campaign.

"It will represent a victory over a Republican candidate that, through his actions before and during the campaign, has shown himself to be a misogynist," said Malcolmson, the NDP critic for status of women, citing his comments on abortion and women's looks and the allegations of sexual assault he faces.

Georganne Burke, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen and former Conservative staffer, is hoping for an entirely different result Tuesday night.

She cast a mail-in ballot for Trump and is also volunteering for his campaign near Fairfax, Va.

"I'm a woman in politics and I find it insulting that people think that I should vote for her just because she is a woman," said Burke, who is originally from upstate New York but is registered to vote in Florida.

"I vote for people based on what they believe in and ... what they plan to do, not based on their gender, their colour, their creed, their religion, their sexual preference or any other such factor," she said.

Burke, who is also involved with the Conservative leadership campaign of Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer, said that based on how he interacts with the women in his family, she disagrees with the notion that Trump is disrespectful to women.

"That tells me that they obviously know a different man, perhaps, than the one that people have been told about through the media," she said.

— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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