While Progressive Conservative leader Heather Stefanson already became Manitoba’s first female premier when she won her party’s leadership race. in 2021a victory for her party on October 3 would make her the first woman to win that office in a general election.
Meanwhile, if NDP Leader Wab Kinew wins, he would become the only First Nations person to hold the title of premier in Manitoba.
Polls suggest that the two main parties are tied in popularityAll eyes are now on their leaders, a level of scrutiny that has intensified because neither candidate is what people might consider a stereotypical politician, says an expert who studies perceptions of politicians who belong to marginalized groups.
Joanie Bouchard, an assistant professor at Quebec’s Sherbrooke University, said such leaders often become representative of their identities, whether they want to or not.
In the case of Stefanson and Kinew, both say they are campaigning for all Manitobans and don’t seem to want to talk openly about the unique challenges they may face because of who they are.
But that doesn’t mean those obstacles don’t exist. Bouchard said voters often have an image of someone in their head based on stereotypes and can be surprised when a candidate acts in a way that doesn’t match that preconceived idea, reacting with anything from interest to disappointment.
And while some people may not believe those stereotypes, those ideas can still influence their view of a candidate, he said.
“We can have conscious thoughts that come in and say, ‘wait… that’s not appropriate.'” But often the first things that come to mind, very sadly, are stereotypes,” Bouchard said.
Contradictory expectations, personal attacks.
In many ways, politics is still considered a man’s game, which means there are often additional expectations for women running for office, said Kelly Saunders, an associate professor of political science at Brandon University in southwestern Manitoba. .
In Stefanson’s case, those expectations have sometimes been contradictory: She was expected to bring a more conciliatory approach than her predecessor, Brian Pallister, but still prove she is tough enough to be prime minister, Saunders said. That has made the PC leader, whose party is running for a third consecutive term, an easy target for criticism, she said.
“We often say that when you’re a woman in politics it’s a bit of a ‘Cinderella syndrome’: that you’re never good enough,” Saunders said.
An example, he said, is in a recent video – published just after a Manitoba liquor and lottery strike ended and a Manitoba public insurance workers strike began, in which Stefanson told Manitoba’s largest public services union that while he would like to say yes to everything, “sometimes the answer has to be no.” “.
SEE | “Sometimes the answer has to be no,” Stefanson says in a video posted on August 28:
This appears to be an attempt to make the prime minister appear tough on labor issues in response to gender expectations of politicians, Saunders said.
There is also the idea that, because of her gender, Stefanson should act in a certain way, more compassionate and aligned with women, said Jacqueline Romanow, an associate professor in the University of Winnipeg’s Indigenous studies department with a background in politics.
This manifests itself in things like “Heartless Heather“, Stefanson’s name was later given refuse to help finance a search a Manitoba landfill for the remains of two First Nations homicide victims, Romanow said.
While he disagrees with the prime minister’s decision on the search, Romanow said that if a man had made the decision, he would have been perceived as realistic, not indifferent.
The reaction to Stefanson, Romanow said, was not “well, she’s very rational… She’s thinking about her role as premier of a province that has, you know, budget problems, that has health care problems, that has all These other things she has to balance.”
Rather, Stefanson was “attacked on a very personal level,” Romanow said.
When asked this week what obstacles she faces as a woman candidate for prime minister, Stefanson said there are many challenges on the campaign trail every day, “but we keep getting up, putting one foot in front of the other, and it’s okay.”
Whether Stefanson speaks or not, there are specific challenges that female politicians face just by being women, something that former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who was the first woman and the first openly gay person In the position he knows it first hand.
In Wynne’s case, those problems included being told that Ontario would never elect a lesbian prime minister, having a meeting room full of men address her chief of staff instead of her, and having to constantly find ways to to disarm people who were uncomfortable with the idea of a female leader.
“You have to show that you’re able to be part of a conversation that women aren’t necessarily always a part of. That’s just a fact of life,” Wynne said.
“And I’m pretty sure every woman in leadership positions in the country has had those same challenges.”
Racist stereotypes, double standards
Romanow said the racist undertones against Wab Kinew in this election come largely from his opponents, pointing to ads at bus stops across Winnipeg claiming violent crime rates would increase under his leadership.
“They’re trying to equate it with some kind of common racist stereotype about indigenous people,” he said.
“Unfortunately, politics often goes to the lowest common denominator, right? They just want short snippets so that… [voters’] The automatic reaction, even without thinking, is going to be distrust.”
Romanow said the ads are reminiscent of Kinew’s. past legal problems: convictions related to drunk driving and assault on a taxi driver, for which he later received a pardon, and two counts of domestic assault involving an ex-girlfriend, which were later suspended and which Kinew has consistently denied.
That strategy is based on the idea of ”good” and “bad” indigenous peoples, forcing candidates to do everything possible to demonstrate that they are professional and qualified for their roles (or, in the case of Kinew, that is a good candidate “despite his Indigeneity,” Romanow said.
In an emailed statement attributed to PC spokesperson Shannon Martin, the Conservatives said “the only ones talking about racism are the NDP” and that their party “will continue to discuss and promote issues that concern Manitobans.” .
Brandon University’s Saunders said Kinew’s past is also a redemption story that, rather than being celebrated, is being used as an example of something that should disqualify him as a leader: an example of a double standard that would not apply to a person who is not a leader. Indigenous candidate, he said.
“If someone is able to overcome their past and become a better person, we would say, ‘Isn’t that great?’ and really celebrate and elevate that person,” Saunders said.
But with Kinew, “it’s seen as something that should negate him as a potential leader.”
Kinew has addressed the issue before, accusing the PCs last month of making their past run-ins with the law a campaign issue. because of his race.
When asked this week how being Indigenous has affected him this election period, Kinew said he was grateful to get “a fair hearing” from Manitobans and added that he doesn’t want to be First Nations prime minister. of Manitoba, but “Manitoba’s best premier.” “Manitoba.”
No matter who ends up claiming that title next month, experts say electing a woman or First Nations member as premier for the first time would be a positive step forward for the province.
Wynne said it’s an opportunity for Manitoba to become a model that provinces like his can look to.
“We need people to work together, so hopefully Manitoba can really push us down that path, instead of pushing us back.”