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Stalled: The Representation of Women in Canadian Governments

By Linda Trimble, Jane Arscott, and Manon Tremblay, Editors

Review By Janni Aragon

March 14, 2014

BC Studies no. 185 Spring 2015  | p. 231-32

This book is a must-read for people interested in Canadian history, gender, and electoral politics in Canada. I cannot say enough about Stalled: The Representation of Women in Canadian Governments, which includes chapters written by well-known scholars, features a strong cross-section of expertise in Canadian political science, covers virtually every province and territory, and contains the different constituent groups within a Canadian context. Each chapter tackles hard questions about progress to date and what is next for particular regions or provinces. The informational boxes at the start of chapters offer a sketch of the history, and sometimes the lack of progress, of women in Canadian politics. This might explain the telling name of the book: Stalled. These boxes will prove useful for teaching purposes.

In her foreword, Sylvia Bashevkin does a fine job of setting up the book and introducing the Canadian political landscape, while Jocelyne Praud’s “When Numerical Gains Are Not Enough: Women in British Columbia” provides a strong overview of women’s gains in BC politics. She notes that: “numerically and symbolically speaking, British Columbia can be identified as a vanguard province” (55). However, when we dig deeper we see that gains did not necessarily mean substantive changes for the status of women or more policy change. Thus, British Columbia is a good example of how we need to focus on policy changes that positively influence women’s lives in the province.

Well-written and appropriate for lay and academic audiences, Stalled is the perfect addition to classes in gender and politics, to upper division courses in comparative politics focused on the status of women and politics, and to Canadian history courses. Chapters convey the differences and similarities between the provinces and territories and offer a great argument for why the Senate should not be abolished. Why? Many gains for women in Canadian politics have been made through Senate appointments. And this only scratches the surface of the book’s contents. Stalled also contains chapters dedicated to the House of Commons and Senate and to Indigenous women and their status within formal Canadian politics. The meta-backdrop of the book suggests that we have made gains, but not enough of them. The various chapters offer glimpses of what is needed, but ultimately we need to understand that candidates, parties, the electoral system, and socialization all are at play with the status of women in Canadian politics. We have lots of work left to do.

Stalled: The Representation of Women in Canadian Governments
Linda Trimble, Jane Arscott, and Manon Tremblay, editors
Vancouver: UBC Press, 2013. 360 pp. $34.95 paper