NDP gender clause could force executive resignation
An equality clause in the BC New Democrats' constitution means the party's next leader must be a woman – unless the male president or treasurer resigns.
The document states in Article XIII, Section C that "there shall be representation of both genders" in the party's top three executive positions.
Moe Sihota and Bob Smits are the current president and treasurer, respectively.
Former NDP provincial representative David Schreck called attention to the clause on his Twitter feed Friday.
"That provision's been in there for over 20 years, to the best of my knowledge," he told CTV News Sunday. "It's never been a problem before."
Since the only potential candidates currently being discussed are men, including Mike Farnworth, Adrian Dix and Bruce Ralston, Schreck said it's likely either Sihota or Smits will step down.
Related: Read the NDP's constitution in full here
While the new leader won't be elected until April 17, the New Democrats may only have three weeks to work out the gender issue – that's when current party head Carole James is expected to step down and make way for an interim leader.
"If a woman were elected as interim leader, it would delay the issue until April," Schreck said. "That's not too much of a delay. One way or the other, the party's going to have to come to grips with this."
But Schreck said gender equality is a "fundamental value" for the party, and it's highly unlikely members will try to bypass the issue by amending their constitutional. "I would bet 1,000 to one against the NDP changing the gender equity provisions," he said.
Another clause in the party's constitution requires at least 50 per cent of vice-presidents, members at large, regional members and youth representatives be women.
Douglas College political science instructor Jeanette Ashe lauded the clauses as important steps towards gender equity in politics.
There are two ways to increase the representation of women and minorities, Ashe said: the "fast-track" approach, which includes affirmative action policies, or the incremental approach.
"The incremental approach means that maybe in 100 or 200 years you're going to have gender equity," she said. "What we know about affirmative action policies is that they work."
In the 2009 provincial election, the B.C. NDP reserved 30 per cent of ridings for women candidates – but went beyond the quota, setting a nation-wide record by fielding almost 50 per cent women candidates.
Of the 35 seats the party took in total, 12 were won by women. The Liberals fielded 25 women candidates, of which 11 won.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Penny Daflos