Petrolia part of celebration of Women’s Right to Vote

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Jenna Simpson had a first hand look at how the Ontario government works.
The 30 year-old Petrolia woman represented Sarnia-Lambton at the “A Remarkable Assembly – Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Right to Vote in Ontario.
And she says in some ways, it was a real eye-opener.
On April 12, 1917, women officially gained the right to vote in Ontario’s provincial elections. Two years later, legislation allowing women to run for provincial office was passed. Although two female candidates ran in the October 20, 1919 provincial election – Henrietta Thompson Bundy and Justerna Sears – neither won their seat. The province would have to wait another 24 years to see its first female MPPs elected. It wasn’t until the 1960s that indigenous women were given the right to vote.
Over 100 women have sat in the Legislature including Ellen MacKinnon, Caroline Di Cocco and Maria Van Bommel in the riding that represented Petrolia.
Simpson found out about the event when she ran into the current MPP, Bob Bailey, at an event in Petrolia. He urged her to apply and she was soon heading to Toronto.
Simpson, who now works in her family business, Albany Retirement Village, studied international development and environmental sustainability and has worked for an arms-length agency of the Ontario government, so she was keen to see what the day would bring.
“I was interested, really interested, to see how they were framing women’s issues and framing some of the deficiencies that I saw when I was working with the provincial government,” she says.
The day was filled with seminars and meeting MPPs to get their perspective on life in government. Simpson also heard the Chief Justice speak. She says it was good to see the role of women highlighted at the event but says there is still some way to go toward equality in government.
“Networking and nepotism play a big role in success,” she says adding men often benefit from that.
“There is a lot of work to do in the area of equity of access for under represented groups… I personally think transparent competitive human resource policies are really important.”
Simpson adds work also needs to be done in the area of contract work, where she says there is also a disadvantage to people who don’t have contacts in government.
The Petrolia woman says her feelings were echoed through the day-long event.
“They also, throughout this event, admitted there is still progress to be made as well – everybody open and honest with the issues that still remain.”
Simpson also had a chance to watch Question Period. Simpson says that was an eye-opener.
The MPPs were marking anti-bullying day and Simpson says while the debate was going on, there were people heckling each other “which to me was bullying… that seemed very ironic to me.”
Simpson raised the issue with some of the MPPs and the Speaker of the House who agreed “there needs to be a cultural shift” to change the way politicians interact.
While the event was interesting, Simpson isn’t ready to jump into provincial politics saying her beliefs don’t line up with a single party and she’s not ready to compromise those beliefs just to run in government.
Simpson says the day was worthwhile. “I usually see the world in terms of system… interesting to see how decisions are made and who makes the decisions and in what context they’re making the decisions.”

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