Upon reflection, Janine Krieber is not unlike the shiny pair of patent heels she has been sporting in the weeks leading up to the Canadian election.
Both red in literal and figurative character, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s wife and her pumps exude an unapologetically proud Liberal quality, a brand of left-leaning loudness that demands attention wherever each one goes.
And being concurrently sturdy and feminine, both embody the combination of characteristics Krieber feels create a good leader — and precisely the kind she says is in large demand on Parliament Hill.
“I’m working to elect more women…. in order to civilize the political discourse,” she firmly stated in a recent visit to the U of S campus. “When we are half of the population, we deserve half of the representation.”
Like her husband, she speaks quickly, almost urgently, conveying genuine conviction while fitting in a quick interview as she walks from a speaking engagement to another meeting.
It is no surprise that Krieber has made time to attend a USSU-organized event discussing sexual abuse — a topic that, while increasingly affecting both genders, is often of great concern to Canadian women.
Currently a professor at Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont., Krieber has prioritized women — both as representatives and as voters — as she makes her way across the country, mostly independent of her husband.
Not shying away from generalizations, Krieber is convinced that women possess leadership qualities informed by their gender.
“Women don’t take power for power. They seek power to serve,” she said, adding public positions are intended for public service, not for control.
When asked what quality she feels sets female politicians apart from their male counterparts, Krieber is anything but hesitant in her response.
“Caring. It’s really the caring side of women. When people ask: ”˜Why do you want to do this?’ (women) say: ”˜Because I want to serve’,” Krieber said. “That’s why we need more women.”
Early in the federal election campaign, Dion promised one third of Liberal candidates would be female. And with 36 per cent in the running for seats in Ottawa, the leader seems to have followed up on his word.
But that took some effort, according to Krieber, who said certain long-standing social trends mean women are less likely to become involved in politics. She claims the qualities that make women good leaders create the necessary preconditions for their exclusion from public life.
“On the other side of the coin, women feel the burden of the family. They are responsible for their family, for their community. They give their time, they volunteer and that’s why it’s difficult to bring them into politics,” she said.
Before Parliament was dissolved in September, there were 65 women (or 21 per cent) holding seats in the House of Commons, ranking Canada 45th in the world in female representation in a national lower house, ranking behind developing nations such as Rwanda and Uganda.
If more women were elected, it is likely that more issues affecting Canadian women would be addressed, said Krieber, who cites education and early childcare as being at the top of that list. She claims Canada is “really, really late compared to other developed countries” in terms of childcare programs.
According to the Liberal Women’s caucus’ 2007 book of priorities — the Pink Book — the Liberal party should establish a national childcare system through bilateral agreements with the provinces.
Their current campaign sees the Liberals running on a childcare platform involving a long-term goal of “universal, community-based early education and childcare” that would ultimately cost $1.25 billion annually.
The Conservative party is running on its previous childcare platform that saw individual families receive $1,200 per year for childcare costs.
The Liberal party also claims it will reinstate several policies cancelled by the past Conservative minority government, including re-designating “equality” as the main goal of the women’s program at Status of Women Canada and reinstating and doubling the funding for the Court Challenges Program of Canada.