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March 9th, 2015

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Seven of the weekend's nine nomination meetings saw women candidates selected – 3 New Democrats, 3 Liberals, and 1 Conservative – and three of those seven women were able to win competitive nominations, in order to secure their spot on their party's ticket.

Indeed, as International Women's Day drew to a close yesterday, there were some 202 women candidates confirmed for October's federal general election, out of a total 708 candidates selected to date, meaning women represent 28.5% of the total. Broken down by party, that works out to:

  • 63 of 157 confirmed NDP candidates, or 40.4%, are women
  • 74 of 216 confirmed Liberal candidates (34.3%)
  • 21 of 64 Green candidates (32.8%)
  • 40 of 209 Conservatives (19.1%)
  • 0 of 4 Bloc candidates
  • 4 out of the 58 others, including 3 of the 46 so-far appointed Libertarian Party candidates (6.5%)

Answering the question of why women candidates don't comprise 50% of the party slates involves a lot of "yeah-buts". If I say that women can win competitive nomination races, the very first 'yeah-but" is:

  • Yeah, but they don't make up 50% of the current incumbent MPs, so they're already behind the curve. Then, there's …
  • Yeah, but men are more likely than women to be sought out by their parties (or, another version goes: Yeah, but men are more confident in their abilities and are more eager to run without being asked too hard or often), and are therefore more likely to be acclaimed than women. Next there's …
  • Yeah, but women have fewer resources to draw on (or, another version goes: Yeah, but women are less competitive by nature or temperament) in order to beat men in nomination contests when they run against them, and are thus less likely to win those races and get on the ballot.

Given the way I'm collecting information about the nomination contests for this election, we now have some more detailed data, in order to examine those factors a bit more rigourously. So, let's work through the elements in a logical order.

First of all, contested nominations are the new black in this cycle, so let's see how every party is picking its candidates, separating out Incumbents from Non-Incumbents.

Duly selected candidates for the 2015 GE, by party, incumbency status and selection type (to March 8, 2015)

Selection Type Cons NDP Lib BQ Grn Ind Oth Total
* Independent candidates who have "self-declared"
** The two founding members of Forces-et-Démocratie have also self-declared in their current seats.
Candidates who are currently sitting MPs
Won Contests 4   1         5
Acclaimed 119 76 29   2     226
Protected Incumbent 8             8
Other           3* 2** 5
Candidates who are NOT currently sitting MPs
Won Contests 28 34 92 2 8     164
Acclaimed 50 47 94 2 54   1 248
Appointed             51 51
Other           1*   1

We don't usually expect to see incumbent MPs challenged for their nominations, and indeed 4 Conservative MPs had to fend off challengers in order to be renominated (with Rob Anders trying twice unsuccessfully to win a nomination), as did a single Liberal MP – Stéphane Dion (with newly-minted Conservative-turned-Liberal MP Eve Adams now facing off against another contestant who had already been in the race for Eglinton-Lawrence for awhile). New Democrat Marc-André Morin lost his bid to be renominated last weekend, so of course he doesn't show up in the above table of nominated candidates.

Amongst non-incumbent candidates:

  • 92 of 186 non-incumbent Liberal candidates won a contested nomination to get on their slate (49.5% non-incumbent contested rate), while 94 were acclaimed
  • 34 of 81 non-incumbent NDP candidates (42% non-incumbent contested rate) had to win a contest in order to run for their party
  • 28 of 78 Conservative candidates faced a contested nomination (35.9% non-incumbent contested rate)
  • The Greens have a 12.9% non-incumbent contested rate, and
  • The Bloc has seen contests in 2 of 4 of its non-incumbent nominations so far

And for those interested in how those contests break down by number of contestants, along with incumbency, and to see what's coming in the pipeline from each party, I've broken it down in the table below (though, note that incumbent MPs who lost nominations are now grouped together with those who won them, due to the different dataset this table had to be prepared from):

[Click on image to enlarge]

Nomination Contests by Party & Number of Contestants, 2015 GE, Incumbent versus Non-Incumbent Seats, to March 8, 2015

Here we notice that, as reported by the Hill Times last week, the Liberal Party has a particularly high rate of so-called "super-contested nominations", i.e., those with 3 or more contestants still on the ballot when voting commences, especially in the non-incumbent races completed to date. The NDP has more contested and super-contested nominations firmly scheduled now, though, and while the Liberals move firmly back into the lead in the not-yet-scheduled group of contests in the pipeline, the tendency has been for their contestants to drop off as the date draws nearer (or be disqualified), so we should treat those numbers as more speculative.

[And, if you look at the historical record back to 2004, it’s not clear that high rates of super-contested nominations reliably predicts any kind of surge. The Liberals have nearly *always* had the highest rates of contested and super-contested nominations, even when their prospects were less rosy than they appear now. It’s a party culture thing: Liberals like to run for everything! I’ll post the historical comparison table in an update a bit later today, if anyone’s interested.]

So, how are women faring in the nomination races to date?

[Click on image to enlarge]

Nomination Contests by Party & Gender of Contestants, 2015 GE, Incumbent versus Non-Incumbent Seats, to March 8, 2015

In this table, we see the imbalances in male and female caucus representation amongst those caucus members who have been renominated already:

  • There are 4.43 male Conservative incumbents renominated to date, for every 1 Conservative female incumbent
  • There are 2.75 male Liberal incumbents renominated to date for every 1 Liberal female incumbent
  • There is a 1.57 ratio of NDP male-to-female renominated incumbents to date, and
  • Of course the Green caucus comprises just 2 members, but both are renominated, and they have gender parity between the 2 of them

Whereas, amongst the non-incumbent candidates nominated to date:

  • The male-to-female ratio drops to 3.75 for the Conservatives
  • The Liberal male-to-female ratio is down to 1.82
  • The NDP has dropped further to 1.42 men nominated for every woman, and
  • The Greens get worse, moving up to a ratio of 2.1-to-1 men to women candidates

Now, for women to become candidates, they can either:

  • be acclaimed
  • win a contested nomination over only other women
  • win a mixed-male-female nomination contest over at least one man and perhaps even another woman or women

Looking back to our list of "Yeah, buts", we can certainly see that there remain far more All-Male than All-Female nominations:

  • The Conservatives have held 6.75 non-incumbent all-male nomination contests (either contested or resulting in an acclamation) for every all-female one
  • The Greens have held 2.35 times as many all-male non-incumbent nominations as all-female
  • The Liberals are just below the Greens at 2.28 times, and
  • The NDP has held 1.38 times as many all-male affairs as all-female ones.

What's really interesting, though, and quite encouraging, are the rates at which women are winning competitive non-incumbent mixed-male-female nomination races:

  • Women won 7 of 18 such matchups in the NDP
  • They won 26 of 55 mixed-gender contests held by the Liberals, and
  • Women won more than half of the mixed gender contests in the Conservative and Green Parties, albeit that they've held fewer of those contests.

Now, looking down the parties' nomination pipelines, based on the nomination contestants who are already known, we will still see a preponderance of all-male races or acclamations.

But given that most of them are not yet scheduled, it's still not too late to get into the races, sisters. So, do it. Because if you run, the data say that you have as good a chance to win as the fellas.


Notes to the data:

  • A nomination contest is considered to result in an Acclamation if only only one contestant's name was left to appear on a nomination ballot, after any withdrawals or disqualifications by the party. Of course, in practice such an acclamation could feel very much like a race up until the moment where all other contestants are out of the running.
  • To eliminate any confusion caused by two or more nomination contests for the same party in the same riding, I've eliminated those nomination contests from which the victor subsequently resigned his or her candidacy (e.g., Rob Merrifield in Yellowhead, Glenn Thibeault in Sudbury, or the Liberal MPs whose candidacies were suspended by their party leader pending the harassment case investigation).
  • If a table is drawn from the list of nominated candidates, the nomination outcomes in which incumbent MPs lost are included in non-incumbent candidacies, whereas if the table is drawn from the list of nomination contestants, then the fact that an incumbent MP took part in the contest is what's used to distinguish incumbent from non-incumbent races.
  • Nomination contests reported as having "0" contestants are those for whom I have not yet identified any contestants, in spite of some of them being scheduled (or at one time scheduled, but since postponed)

4 Responses to “Can women win contested nominations? The data say ‘Yes’ … IF they actually run”

  1. I think it is more important to look at in which ridings the women are running, are they getting the nominations in the competitive ridings? It is all great and wonderful to have women as a decent percentage of the candidates but what is the point if they are little more than paper candidates?

  2. OK, fair point, Bernard, and I agree. But one blogpost at a time! First the quantitative, and *then* the qualitative. Plus, there’s the simple fact that if more women run for more nominations, eventually it’s going to help with the second part of the equation.

  3. Craig says:

    Bernard has a good point. One thing political gender equality activists point out is that what’s just as important is not how many women are running but where they are running. If a party places its women nominees in ‘no hope’ ridings but gives the men candidates the best riding slots to run in, it’s not really helping to get more women elected.

  4. Shadow says:

    I disagree somewhat with the ‘where are they running’ view in two ways.

    First there’s still value in participating in an election whether you win or lose. You gain experience, your party gains supporters. There’s been paper candidates who have impressed so much that they have re-located to a safer riding and now sit in the house. So its a foot in the door.

    Secondly who can say these days which ridings are in play and are not. NDP in Quebec is the obvious example. Also the CPC breakthrough around Toronto, think Roxanne James in Scarborough Centre. It took her three tries against an entrenched incumbent in a reasonably safe Liberal seat. With politics being so scrambled and party fortunes being dynamic there’s no point playing the foolish games of seat projectors.

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