Three female politicians making a difference in Ontario

The women pushing significant and positive change for the province and its citizens.

Courtesy of Shayna Douglas

It wasn’t until the 1900s that women became involved — marginally — in this realm. In fact, it took until 1921 for the first woman to be elected into the House of Commons in Canada. 

As a result, female involvement in politics remained limited and/or discounted for a long time, ensuring that, until very recently, women who wanted to be leaders of change in their communities could not do so.

Today, women can vote, join political parties and even be elected into office. In June 2022, 47 women and non-binary people were elected to the Ontario legislature, accounting for 39 per cent of Ontario’s MPPs. There are also 103 female MPs in the House of Commons, making up 30.5 per cent of the total amount.

It took centuries but Canadian women are now pulling considerable weight in the political sphere and deserve to have a light shone on their work.

These three female representatives have been working hard to make sure that Ontarians see positive change in their province.

Anita Anand

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The Hon. Anita Anand, a member of the Liberal Party and current Minister of National Defense, represents the riding of Oakville, Ont. 

After moving to Ontario in 1985 from Nova Scotia, she worked as a lawyer, scholar and researcher, even teaching law as a professor at the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, Western University and Yale Law School.

Anand’s main focus is national defence and she has experience working with financial markets and corporate governance. Anand’s role is to ensure that there are solutions to issues such as the Ukraine war and sexual harassment in the military.

In an article written by Shannon Proudfoot in Macleans, Anand is praised for her work ethic and focus on the job: “She comes to it with a deep belief in doing the best you can, not to seek out a prize, but because there is virtue in good work,” Proudfoot wrote.

Anand’s mission is to take actional steps towards mitigating discrimination in the military. “I hope to ensure that we do reach tangible results relating to minimizing, to the extent possible, all forms of discrimination in the Canadian Armed Forces,” she added in the Macleans interview.

Anand’s determination to improve Canada’s military — a sector of government historically off limits to women — is inspiring and her work demonstrated the importance of representation in the government.

Carol Hughes

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Carol Hughes is a member of the NDP (New Democratic Party) in Ontario and currently represents the Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing riding. 

Hughes holds the position of Assistant Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole in the House of Commons and has been an elected official since 2008. Before Parliament, Hughes worked in the Canadian Labour Congress and the Probation and Parole Services.

Hughes’ focus is centred around improving healthcare for all, especially those with disabilities and Indigenous people. She has also introduced new legislation, including a bill to create a Defence of Canada Medal for those who defended national security during the Cold War.

In an article for Wawa News authored by Hughes herself, the politician discussed a demand to improve the healthcare system in Ontario, especially after the events of the pandemic. 

According to Hughes, the people of Northern Ontario have been depleted of the resources necessary to properly support the healthcare system in that region. Emphasizing the importance of healthcare in her campaign, Hughes explains that Ontarians who live in these remote areas are more likely to die from poor healthcare services than anywhere else in the province.

“They deserve to be supported by their government. Instead, years of cuts have left them working in understaffed hospitals and clinics, leading to burnout,” Hughes wrote. 

Using her position to draw attention to the issues that need resolving, such as staff shortages, Hughes aims to get Ontarians in her riding the care they deserve.

Chrystia Freeland

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The Hon. Chrystia Freeland is a member of the Liberal Party and represents the riding of University-Rosedale in Ontario. She currently holds two major roles in Parliament: Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister. 

Freeland was an Alberta-born journalist and author who studied at Harvard University and the University of Oxford before beginning a career in politics. She has written multiple books and her work has been in publications such as The Washington Post and Financial Times.

As Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, Freeland’s political career has centred around negotiating the free trade agreement with the European Union, advocating for human rights and responding to crises like the pandemic and Ukraine-Russia relations.

In 2017, Freeland also served as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. A profile of Freeland in The Globe and Mail by Adam Radwanski provides a closer look at Freeland’s political focuses and general life. 

“Watch her enough, hang out in her world, and you start to wonder if the formula for her personal success – the energy, the ambition, the charm, the lack of artifice, the academic smarts and hard-earned worldliness – might prove infectious in a way it hasn’t before,” Radwanski wrote, describing the energy and passion she exudes.

Freeland’s many accomplishments and the issues she takes on are inspiring for those who have witnessed her work, especially for women who may want to follow in her footsteps.

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