The Saskatchewan Election:
A 2020 Perspective
Gender Issues in the 2020 Saskatchewan Election
By Dr. AMBER FLETCHER (PhD), Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina. Her research examines the gender dimensions of public policy and environmental issues.
@Amber_Fletcher | Amber Fletcher | Amber.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. HOLLY K. CAMPBELL, PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies, Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina. Her research examines the dimensions of climate change vulnerability in prairie communities.
Holly K Campbell | Hly.email@example.com
Even in 2020, gender equality remains on the agenda of many Saskatchewan people. Women in Saskatchewan experience economic, social, and political inequality in many forms, from the persistent wage gap[i] to some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence in the country.[ii] Inequality and exclusion also persist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and Two-Spirit people (LGBTQ2+) and others whose identities do not conform to heteronormativity or a binary model of gender. In the months leading up to the 2020 provincial election, individuals and groups worked to get gender and sexuality issues into the party platforms and the public discourse.
Which particular gender issues were raised in the media during the pre-election period? Which issues actually appeared in the official party platforms, and to what extent? To answer these questions, we conducted a content analysis of gender issues during the three-month period preceding the election, with particular attention to those framed as election issues. News articles were collected from CBC National, CBC Saskatchewan, CTV National, CTV Saskatoon and Regina, Global National, Global Saskatchewan, Globe & Mail, National Post, and Prairie Dog from the period of July 26, 2020 to October 25, 2020. These online news sites were systematically searched with these keywords: “gender,” “women,” “woman,” “female,” “LGBT,” “lesbian,” “gay,” and “queer.” A total of 24 news articles were found and entered into a database.
The key gender issues covered in media articles included women’s entrepreneurship (in general and in agriculture), human trafficking / missing and murdered Indigenous women, childcare, pay equity, gendered unemployment trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s underrepresentation in politics, sexual harassment, LGBTQ2 issues, heteronormativity, and sex education curricula. Several articles discussed candidate diversity in each party, and some addressed the NDP’s promise of a gender-equal cabinet. The LGBTQ2 articles revolved mostly around a particular report card initiative, in which two equality-seeking organizations evaluated each party’s plans on LGBTQ2 issues. In some cases (e.g., women’s entrepreneurship and gendered unemployment), news articles were prompted by the release of new reports or data, such as a Statistics Canada report showing disproportionate unemployment for women during the pandemic.
Table 1. Summary of Content Analysis Results, by Keyword and Source
|Keywords||Not framed as an election issue||Framed as an election issue but not by specific parties||Talked about by parties||Media Source|
|Sask Party||NDP||Sask Party & NDP||Green Party||Liberal/PC|
As shown in Table 1, gender issues were explicitly framed as election issues in 41 per cent of cases. The NDP was referenced the most on such issues, at 87 total mentions compared to 21 for the Saskatchewan Party, eight for the Green Party, and four for the Liberals or Progressive Conservative Party. One article discussed gender issues pertaining to female candidates from both the Saskatchewan Party and NDP.
In addition to media stories, we also searched election platforms, press releases, and other official election statements found on the websites of the Saskatchewan Party, NDP, Green Party, Liberal Party, Progressive Conservative Party, and Buffalo Party for references to gender and sexuality issues. Although some platforms included issues with a clear gender dimension—such as childcare, intimate partner violence, or pay equity—we only included cases where parties themselves explicitly linked the issue to gender in the documents, thus demonstrating their awareness and acknowledgement of the gender dimensions.
The results showed significant differences among the parties. The Buffalo Party, Progressive Conservative Party, and Liberal Party platforms and press releases contained no references to gender or sexuality issues. The Saskatchewan Party platform contained one usage of the word “women,” but this was only in relation to “men and women” working in the energy sector, and not to gender issues. In contrast, the Green Party of Saskatchewan platform featured commitments to reproductive freedom, gender equality, and anti-discrimination policies, while the NDP website contained mandates from its Pride Committee and the Saskatchewan NDP Women group, along with one reference each to “gender” and “women” in the platform. Table 1 provides a summary of the data from press releases, platforms, and other election documents.
Despite strong attention to gender and sexual equality in the public media discourse, such issues did not manifest across all party platforms. Only two of six parties displayed meaningful attention to gender issues in their formal written documents. Although each party’s approach to gender issues will necessarily be shaped by its political ideology, the “gender gap” between public discourse and platform issues also raises questions about party responsiveness to public concerns.
Consideration of gender issues seems to correlate with the gender diversity of party candidates themselves.[iii] As five of the 24 media articles in the pre-election period aptly noted, several parties did not have equal representation of female candidates. One article noted that “the NDP has 28 female candidates out of 61, compared to the 12 of 61 running for the Sask. Party.”[iv] Those with equitable representation of women (i.e., NDP and Green Party) tended to show more attention to gender issues in their platforms and documents.
Of all gender issues identified in the pre-election media discourse, the issue of women’s representation in politics was most prominently featured in the actual election discourse (e.g., press releases). Although childcare was mentioned by both the Saskatchewan Party and NDP platforms, it was not explicitly framed as a gender issue in either platform. Other issues that were identified in the platforms (and linked explicitly to women, gender, or sexuality) included elimination of sexist dress codes in the workplace (NDP), control over fertility (Green Party), and respect for sexual minorities (Green Party). Although LGBTQ2 issues were discussed in the media, such issues were not strongly evident across most platforms.
Overall, our research identified a significant difference among the various parties’ attention to gender, with some parties integrating specific gender concerns into their platforms and others not mentioning gender at all. The results also suggest a gap between public discourse on gender equality (as illustrated in media stories) and party priorities in the 2020 Saskatchewan election.
[i] Pelletier, Rachelle, Martha Patterson, and Melissa Moyser. 2019. The Gender Wage Gap in Canada: 1998 to 2018. 75-004-M–2019004. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.
[ii] Conroy, Shana, Marta Burczycka, and Laura Savage. 2019. Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, 2018. 85-002–X. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.
[iii] Greene, Zachary, and Diana Z. O’Brien. 2016. “Diverse Parties, Diverse Agendas? Female Politicians and the Parliamentary Party’s Role in Platform Formation.” European Journal of Political Research 55(3):435–53. doi: 10.1111/1475-6765.12141.
[iv] Latimer, Kendall. 2020. “Prospect of More Female Representation in the Sask. Legislature Remains Dim.” CBC News, October 8. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/saskatchewan-women-election-vote-1.5754470