Our Iron Ladies: 10 Canadian women who changed the political game

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For a woman who smashed through the glass ceiling all the way to the Prime Minister’s office, the late Margaret Thatcher was decidedly un-feminist.

Whether her political accomplishments made significant strides for other women leaders remains the subject of fierce debate. But one truth is evident: The Iron Lady was a political game-changer.

Reflecting on who Canada’s game-changing female politicos might be, we tapped three of our favourite political junkies for their picks:

Our panel:
Susan Delacourt – Senior Political Writer for the Toronto Star (SD)
Nancy Peckford – Executive Director, Equal Voice (NP)
Shari Graydon – Catalyst, Informed Opinions (SG)

“Women, for too long, have been seen as the people who do the bake sales in Canadian politics. Here are women who did way more than that.” – Susan Delacourt on her picks.

Anne McGrath
“A quiet force behind Jack Layton, president of the New Democratic Party, then chief of staff to the NDP leader, she is known as someone who gets things done, turning Layton’s charisma into electoral success and conducting herself always as a bridge between conflicting forces, inside and outside the party.” – SD

Audrey McLaughlin
“Audrey McLaughlin served as Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada from 1989 to 1995, the first woman elected to lead a federal party in Canada. She went on to work in Morocco as the Director of Political Party Programs for the National Democratic Institute.” – NP

“When Audrey McLaughlin was elected leader of the NDP, becoming the first woman at the helm of a national party, she also helped bring attention to Canada’s north, by virtue of the the constituency she represented.” – SG

Catherine Callbeck
“Catherine Callbeck was the 28th Premier of Prince Edward Island from 1993 to 1996, the second female Provincial Premier in Canadian history, and the first to win a general election.” – NP

Elizabeth May
“Yes, she’s not in the back rooms, but she is the front and back and centre of the Green Party, and is the hardest-working MP in Parliament. She put the Green Party on the map and in the House of Commons, and she is never unprepared for the formidable jobs in front of her.” -SD

“The indomitable Elizabeth May will go down in history for having fought her way into the televised leaders debate and for giving the Green Party a national profile and voice in parliament.” – SG

Flora MacDonald
“Flora MacDonald was first elected to the Parliament of Canada in October, 1972 and served as Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands until November, 1988. During that time she made history by holding three cabinet posts that no woman had never held: Secretary of State for External Affairs, Minister of Employment and Immigration, and Minister of Communications and Culture.” – NP

Jenni Byrne
“I don’t know Byrne, have never met her, but she clearly is valued by the Conservatives and can claim some success, as campaign manager for the 2011 election that won a precious majority government, unexpectedly, for Stephen Harper. She’s now the director of party operations, not an inconsiderable task, in a government that does party operations 24-7.” – SD

Katie Telford
“Justin Trudeau’s campaign manager. In case no one has noticed, that campaign has been a large success. It didn’t happen only because of his celebrity; it also happened because of organization, which Telford oversaw and managed, very quietly but with incredible efficiency.” – SD

Kim Campbell
In her teens, Kim Campbell became the first female student body president of her high school. Three decades later, she made Canadian history as our first and only female Prime Minister. She “served at both the municipal and provincial levels of government, as well as shouldering the justice and defence portfolios at the federal level before contributing her great intelligence, experience and wit to the role of PM.” – SG

Rosemary Brown
A Jamaican-born immigrant to Canada, Rosemary Brown was Canada’s first black female member of a provincial legislature and the first woman to run for leadership of a federal political party. “By her very presence [she] challenged us to consider just how unrepresentative of diversity Canada’s leadership was at the time.” – SG

Terrie O’Leary
“A very smart woman, with the same economic credentials as Stephen Harper (educated in the discipline, practiced in politics), who was Paul Martin’s chief of staff and is not given enough credit for her role in helping prepare the Canadian public for the deficit-cutting exercise of 1995 and Martin’s ascent to PM.” – SD

If you have any names to add to the list, tweet us @RepresentMEdia

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3 responses to “Our Iron Ladies: 10 Canadian women who changed the political game

  1. How about Pat (Patricia) Schultz (nee Mitchell) a pioneer activist for – Day Care, Women’s Rights, Women’s Studies, a socialist,

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