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Why shouldn't men get 50 per cent of cabinet seats?

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What is all this fuss about gender parity in the Cabinet?  Surely, reserving 50 per cent of Cabinet seats for men is a fair and reasonable measure.  After all, they are almost 50 per cent of the population! And it goes without saying that they can be just as capable as women.

Now, many will resist the idea, pointing out that although they have done many good and even some very great things, in terms of running the world, they have made a bit of a pig's ear of it -- if the 65 wars or armed conflicts this year, and climate change thanks to environmentally insensitive technologies and economic policies are anything to go by. 

Some will object that men are simply too emotional for politics (although many men, bless them, prefer to call their emotions "reason"). The pathological fears, anger, envy, insecurities, pride, wrath, greed, jealousy, and competitiveness of those in power in both capitalist west and communist east were amply displayed, for example, in the "rational" policies of the Cold War, such as "Mutually Assured Destruction"(MAD).

This approach to diplomacy led to a massive 70-year arms race that has destroyed a lot of the world's people, wasted precious time and resources, polluted the earth, and left us under continuing threat of obliteration by nuclear war, terrorism, or accident.

Still, we must not tar all men with the same brush.  Despite all of the above, there are other good reasons to allow men guaranteed representation (even overrepresentation -- 51.6 per cent or 16 out of 31) in cabinet.

For a start, our new leader Justin Trudeau has rejected the One-Man-Government model practiced for the last decade by You Know Who. We are returning to the more traditional government by cabinet, where the Prime Minister is more Primus Inter Pares - First Among Equals – than tin-pot dictator.  (For the sake of brevity, I shall refer to our PM as PRIMUS because it has the classical gravitas of Latin, but with a hip twenty-first century sensibility, like POTUS.)

This means that power will be more diffused, and ministers will once again be able to make evidence-based decisions and engage the public about them. And now that the 6000-year-old universe has imploded and science is back (thank God!), it is more important than ever to ensure there will always be a critical mass of good men in the cabinet.

This is why Andrew Coyne's recent lament of the "explicit 50-50 gender quota" is so poignant. He points out with great certainty that it is "not a balancing of merit and other considerations" but "a fixed rule…imposed without reference to the numbers of MPs of either sex from which cabinet is to be drawn."

"So far as we are putting representationalism before ability," Coyne points out, "we are also asking the country's interests to take a back seat." It is really sad to think that those female doctors, former UN diplomats, Nobel Prize winners, professors, scientists, human rights lawyers, financial journalists, PhDs, authors, provincial cabinet members, Crown prosecutors, business executives, international trade lawyers, treaty commissioners, community organizers, international development specialists etc. were only appointed because they are women, and the country will suffer as a result.

Of course cabinet selection should not be based solely on gender: we must continue the age-old tradition of appointments based strictly on merit, including the merit of having joined the winning party, the merit of being the only member of that party to be elected from a particular region, the talent of being a friend of PRIMUS (to be kept close) or the aptitude of being a rival or enemy (to be kept closer), the accomplishment of bilingualism, and of course, the ability to be from Quebec.  These exacting requirements have long ensured that no non-meritorious men were appointed, especially when more qualified women were available.

Some will argue that an awful lot of merit must reside in the genitals, since they have for millennia been the Number One Criterion for admission into the Brotherhood of political, economic, social, and cultural powerholders all over the world.  Some feminists even believe that we have always had a policy of affirmative action -- for men -- since even if there were more able women, they were always passed over. 

It is true that women were completely absent from Canadian cabinets until 1957, but only because there were NO women in Parliament to choose from, on account of their not being allowed to vote until 1918 or to run for office until 1919.  And even after that, as Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson explained to Pauline Jewett (MP, B.A. /M.A. Queen's, PhD Harvard) why she was not appointed to cabinet in 1965: "You know, we already have a woman in the cabinet." 

This is one of the compelling reasons to keep the 50 per cent male cabinet: the danger of tokenism. Here is the worry: studies from all over the world are showing an alarming trend, that girls are outperforming boys significantly. Indeed, women are outclassing men at university as well, and the gap is widening.  Hanna Rosin's 2012 book predicts "The End of Men and the Rise of Women", basically a massive switcheroo in the relative power positions of the sexes that will have far-ranging consequences. 

One would hope that if and when the tables turn in the decades ahead, we will not hear of some talented male politician being patronized with the old "You know, we already have a man in the cabinet."  It's a lot harder to pass laws that discriminate against groups if they are in the room in numbers.

For these reasons, those men mourning the sacrifice of merit to representation might be wise to argue fervently that gender parity in cabinet should be the New Norm, then drop the entire matter and never speak of it again.

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