Context: I don’t like to think of this blog as existing in a vacuum. You may not be aware of it but I am also an avid user of the twitter and the facebook (my twitter feed is there on the right side of my blog btw.) On twitter (you can follow me at @Uranowski) whenever I notice someone being awesome I like to give them a “You go girl!” It is a friendly, 1990sesque way to acknowledge a job well done. Anyone, man, woman, child, or particularly heroic animal, can receive one. However, last year, I decided that I would start an official, end-of-the-year, “You Go Girl” Award for women in Canadian politics, journalism and public life who have been excellent on multiple occasions. For my “Second Annual “You Go Girl!” Awards, I asked some of my favourite writers profile the 2011 winners. In no particular order, here are recipients of the 2011 “You Go Girl!” Awards:
Margaret Atwood by Joseph Uranowski.
“A sharp-as-a-whip septuagenarian takes on a corpulent ignorant plutocrat in the public sphere” this could be the plot of Mrs. Atwood’s newest best seller, or it could summarize the public budget debate that occurred in Toronto mere months ago. This year, Canada’s most beloved author reminded us all that libraries are part of what makes a great city worth living in. Mrs. Atwood, just like her writing, is fresh, challenging and always relevant. Atwood is an environmentalist, feminist, and urbanist but can never be accused of being elitist. She is respected around the world and Toronto is lucky to have her in residence.
Kathleen Wynne by Tiffany Gooch.
Hon. Kathleen Wynne is a powerhouse in the Ontario Liberal caucus.
Having served as Minister of Education, Minister of Transportation,
and now as both Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Minister
of Aboriginal Affairs, she is a force to be reckoned with in Ontario
This mother and grandmother began her life in service as a school board
trustee in Toronto. She worked to see to it that public schools were
encouraged to purchase modernized teaching materials which reflected
the presence of LBGT parents in society today. Upon joining the
government she was greatly involved in many of the most celebrated
accomplishments of the McGuinty government including Full Day
Kindergarten and bold updates to transportation systems in Ontario.
As the first openly lesbian Cabinet Minister in Ontario history,
Kathleen is not only a magnificent role model for young women but also
for young people in the LGBT community. Despite her political
success, Kathleen on a personal level is down to earth and downright
funny. She is able to relate with people from all walks of life, a
quality which I believe makes her a great political leader. If all of
this wasn’t enough, she is also known in her riding as both a good
listener and a strong advocate for the needs of her constituents,
having secured significant pockets of funding for projects in her
Kathleen has certainly earned her given title as a “Titan” in Ontario
politics. I encourage you to do some research and get to know her
incredible track record which deserves a blog post of its own. For
now I will leave you with a quote from her 2011 election victory
“We have demonstrated that we believe that inclusion and tolerance and
compassion and embracing differences is what we do in Don Valley
I look forward to seeing what more lies ahead for this great woman in
(Tiffany Gooch is Executive Director of the Ontario Young Liberals.)
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale, City of Toronto by Chris Drew.
I didn’t support her nor did I vote for her. I was so busy with other things in life that I barely knew who she was when she was elected my Councillor for Ward 27. What a difference a year makes! Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has been in office for a little over a year and I have been impressed with her work. She stood up for the Jarvis Street bike lanes and the principal of consultation and working with neighbourhoods.
She proactively held neighbourhood community planning meetings in conjunction with the MPP for Toronto Centre, the Hon. Glen Murray. She co-sponsored the Shark Fin ban, which was adopted by City Council. And she spoke out against cuts to child care, even when some of those cuts were for Scarborough, not downtown Toronto.
I’ve met and worked for many politicians in my life. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them and the sacrifices they make to represent us. Being an elected politician is not easy and takes a huge personal toll on your family. At the end of the day, politicians are people and some handle the responsibility and stress differently than others. I’ve seen Kristyn in council, in community meetings and met with her on several neighbourhood issues and I’ve always felt that she was listening and wanted to ensure different viewpoints were included. She’s one of the most relatable and friendly politicians I’ve met.
Finally, Kristyn uses social media extremely effectively. She’ll often respond to tweets I send her or mention her in quickly. Ward 27 is a densely-populated and complex community and Kristyn’s use of social media is a big asset for outreaching to her constituents.
In my time in politics and being a community activist, I’ve unfortunately encountered fewer women than men in leadership roles and holding elected office. I think that should change and Kristyn is certainly a role model and positive example for many.
Vice-President Administration and Finance, Julia Hanigsberg by Chris Drew.
Julia is responsible for many things at Ryerson and one of the most significant is the physical side of the campus. Julia was a key supporter in the student-led campaign to close Gould Street to cars and turn it into a pedestrian space. I’ve been impressed with Julia’s creativity and support for projects to animate the street now that it’s open for people and not cars. Julia was part of the team that brought a farmer’s market to Gould this summer and supported a student art show on the street. Closing a street was the easy part. Making it an exciting, interesting and friendly space is a challenge, but one that can be easily solved with dynamic and engaging people. Julia is part of a team of students, student leaders, staff and faculty who I have no doubt will make the new Gould into a source of inspiration for universities and communities across the province.
As with Councillor Wong-Tam, Julia effectively uses social media and tweets about her experiences and what’s happening at Ryerson, as well as interesting articles on various subjects including women in leadership positions. Julia’s use of twitter provides an additional an unique angle on the public face of Ryerson and her approach should be replicated by other public-sector institutions and Canadian universities.
(Chris Drew is the Captain of the Bike Union – Ward 27 Advocacy Group, Ryerson Planning graduate, 2009, and tweets at @chrisjamesdrew.)
Shelley Carroll by David Demchuk.
In her eight years on City Council, Ward 33’s Shelley Carroll has worked tirelessly to resolve Toronto’s complicated, challenging budget issues and bring together support from all sides to implement financial reforms at City Hall. However this year, with Rob Ford in the mayor’s seat and his cadre of right-wing councillors supporting his deceitful agenda of wasteful spending on pet projects paid for by cuts to essential services, Carroll seemed unusually disheartened for someone normally so pragmatic and constructive: “City Council just keeps getting harder and harder to watch,” she stated on her website. “It gets harder and harder to be there, let me tell you.”
Yet Carroll has still managed to rally a majority of councillors around motions balancing the need for fiscal restraint and accountability with a compassionate and positive vision of the city. Her greatest efforts have been focused on the 2012 City of Toronto budget, launched November 28, and on educating citizens about the perils and pitfalls that lie within it. So passionate is she on this subject that she’s willing to meet with any group of five people or more around a kitchen table to talk to them about the budget, and about its implications for cherished services and initiatives that make Toronto the successful livable city that it is. This dedication and commitment is what has distinguished her among her colleagues at City Hall and among politicians throughout the nation. For these and so many other reasons, I give Shelly Carroll a great big “You go, girl!” as one of the most impressive women in politics this year.
(David Demchuk is a writer/activist in Toronto. Follow him on twitter @ddemchuk.)
Carolyn Bennett and Kirsty Duncan by Nancy Leblanc.
Thank you to my friend Joseph for asking me to participate along with many others in his annual “You Go Girl” awards. It is such a great thing that he is so supportive of women taking leadership roles in Canadian civic life.
I am happy to give an enthusiastic you go girl to two great Liberal MPs who were re-elected this year, Carolyn Bennett and Kirsty Duncan.
Carolyn Bennett deserves many kudos for her vibrant public service and commitment to it that you can see on a daily basis. What have we seen this year? Follow her twitter stream, Carolyn_Bennett, and you will see a caring MP who is tireless and amazingly accessible. Beyond twitter, she has been a political tech pioneer in Canada, hosting online chats every Sunday night for quite some time now and she continues to do so on Facebook. She has embraced her role as critic on the aboriginal affairs portfolio with gusto this year. Her recent trip to Attawapiskat to help is the most recent evidence of that commitment. Also impressive this year, strong statements on parliamentary democracy like this one: “Power to the people and to the MPs elected to represent them.” Amen. And you go girl.
Kirsty Duncan stood out this year for a few reasons that put her on the you go girl radar. As environment critic, this former member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows her stuff and is making a strong case on the need for action on climate change by Canada, speaking of it as a moral issue and one of intergenerational responsibility. She stood up against possible Conservative ozone monitoring cuts, a Canadian science program that provides international leadership. Kirsty’s heartfelt advocacy for clinical trials for CCSVI from multiple sclerosis also garnered significant attention this year. Duncan has also been a strong social justice advocate this year, arguing for a national student nutrition program. She is a strong constituency MP and her re-election this year spoke to that.
If you watch these two women, it’s clear that they are great role models for any woman interested in public life or making a public contribution of any kind. Congrats to both on a great year and here’s hoping for many more you go girl moments from them in 2012.
(Nancy Leblanc writes “Impolitical” and tweets @Impolitical.)
Elizabeth May by Ann Douglas.
2011 was a breakout year for Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May—and not just because she was elected to the House of Commons by the citizens of Saanich-Gulf Islands in the Federal Election in May. She found ways to use her voice to communicate with Canadians across the country about two of her long-standing passions—democracy and the urgent need for climate action.
She documented the numerous ways in which democracy was being whittled away by the Harper government, this despite the fact that it had recently achieved its long-sought Parliamentary majority:
“Since we resumed Parliament in mid-September, the government has moved to shut down debate and rush bills through Second Reading….Over and again, debate has been cut-short. It is a new historical record — and not one of which the Prime Minister should be proud.…More and more of the business of committees is being conducted in secret. In camera committee meetings used to cover private discussions such as which witnesses should be called. Now the hearings can take place in secret when witnesses are testifying, or when a vote is held on motions of importance. After an in camera session, it is not possible to know who said what or how anyone voted. The increasing limitations of debate and reduced daylight on House proceedings is not healthy. Many of us are wondering, with a majority of the seats and no election until 2015, why are the Conservatives in such a hurry? Is democratic debate really such a threat?”
She spoke out about the long-term implications of Canada’s role in obstructing the climate talks in Durban and its decision to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol.
“My biggest story of the year is the on-going refusal to connect the dots and describe climate change events for what they are. Not “Mother Nature” on a rampage; not some “wacky and wild curve ball.” Climate change events, fitting the pattern of increased extreme events one would expect due to, what is in human experience, the all-time high greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere….These disasters are no longer “natural” — their causes are known and our government is charting a course to make them worse, year by year.”
And she campaigned for a need for a return to civility in the House of Commons. (Her small but significant holiday gift to her fellow MPs was a guidebook to living non-violently.)
She has made her mark on the Hill—and she’s done it without resorting to gutter politics or bully-boy tactics. Kudos, Elizabeth May.
(Ann Douglas is an author, Toronto Star columnist, and magazine writer. Her website is anndouglas.ca.)
Christy Clark by Esmir Milavic.
SURREY – Just year ago Christy Clark was one of the most popular radio hosts in British Columbia, today she’s one of the country’s several provincial Prime Ministers emerged to that position through unexpected and almost unwanted leadership races during 2011. Sharp critic of previous government, hard questioner on all important social issues and one of the community leaders on issues of bullying, was one of the most wanted candidates to become new BC premier and BC Liberals leader. Christy Clark refused for a long time to accept calls from large BC Liberals membership to ascend on leadership position and replace highly unpopular premier Gordon Campbell claiming her family and work at mega popular CKNW 980AM station is her top priority at this moment.
In December of last year she ﬁnally decided to throw her hat into the battle and decide to run for leadership position with populist agenda focused on families, job creation and ﬁght against rising debts in BC. Clark’s radio and social media popularity helped her to energize huge crowds of young and vibrant BC Liberals on the road to victory. They helped her to reach the top position becoming Campbell’s successor and taking a responsibility for the future of BC. Today Clark is successfully carving her road to the better BC future trough new jobs agenda, some parts of her families ﬁrst agenda and though hopes of better ﬁscal situation over next few years.
Clark should be praised for her courage and willingness to take a charge in political world and situation when many leaders and politicians are not eager to run for top position. Clarks advantage is being mother, broadcaster, and great personality combined with previous political experience.
As on any other start Clark is faced with uphill but she has a chance to change that in positive way, and I’m sure she’ll be successful if she sticks to her plan and Cabinet members which means to all BC Liberals members. If she receives You Go Girl award that would be just another positive push for her and her team to continue making BC better and stronger place in a situation of global crisis and uncertainty.
(Esmir Milavic is a blogger/journalist. He is the author and editor of From Bosnia to Canada.)
Susan Delacourt by Bryan Bondy.
I may, in fact, have a bit of hero worship for the Star’s senior political writer. When I blog or write (as sporadic and half-hearted as my efforts may be), I aspire to Ms. Delacourt’s smart way with words – and especially I admire the sense of context and political history she brings to both her feature articles and blogs.
What I appreciate on a personal level is Ms. Delacourt’s friendliness; she has encouraged my own writing many times, and we have shared many pleasant conversations not only about politics and journalism but about life in Ottawa, and our shared love for wiener dogs.
I understand why other national political journalists focus more on the image they present so well as professionals. It’s not that Ms. Delacourt is any less professional but she is, I believe, more approachable than many of her colleagues. She listens; I learn.
To those of the conservative persuasion, Delacourt and the Toronto Star political section are as vilified for their supposed “liberal bias” as the CBC. All that suggests to me is that – with her elephant’s memory for Canada’s political past and a strong sense of right and wrong – Ms. Delacourt is willing to challenge assumptions. She challenges mine daily.
For her insight, humanity, and ability to see the forest for the trees, it’s my pleasure to recommend Susan Delacourt for a 2011 “You Go Girl” award.
( Bryan Bondy is a freelance writer.)
Alison Loat and Alison Redford by Theresa Lubowitz.
Alison Loat is the executive director of the non-profit organization Samara. She took this role on after ending a previous project she founded called Canada25. That project focused on involving young Canadians under 35 in the public policy process. The goals of Samara are similar in that the organization aims to involve Canadians in our civic discourse while producing top notch work on the current state of our democracy.
My favourite work of Samara’s so far are the reports they have released on our parliamentary system based on so-called ‘exit’ interviews with former MPs. They cover details about our parliamentarians, their experiences in parliament and within their political parties, and the advice they have for current and future MPs. These reports provide an important perspective on the health of our democracy from those exercising it on our behalf. It is a perspective rarely shared beyond what is found in memoirs and acts as a starting point for discussions about improving our democratic system.
When I first met Alison it made me thankful that there is a bright young woman out there doing such great work to help strengthen our democracy. I recently bumped into Alison again as she was once again making the case for civic participation at a conference I attended. She is a tireless campaigner for a more engaged electorate.
For me, Alison’s unrelenting work at improving civic engagement in Canada makes her a champion of democracy. It is my hope and my expectation that with people as inspiring, hardworking and dedicated as Alison spending each day encouraging citizen engagement, there might yet be hope for our democratic system.
Alison Redford is the current Premier of Alberta and the first woman to hold that position in the province. Redford came seemingly out of nowhere in the race to replace Ed Stelmach as the next Progressive Conservative Premier of Alberta.
I am an Ontarian and have always paid only slight attention to the politics of Alberta. Even then, my focus and I suspect the focus of others has been on the colorful politicians of that province and not necessarily their politics. But I suddenly began to pay more attention when a new Premier became the first woman to hold the position in Alberta and only the eighth female premier in Canadian history.
Her gender, however, is not what is exciting or interesting about Alison Redford. For me, it was of interest to see how this woman, like Christy Clark and Kathy Dunderdale only months before her, was able to navigate and overcome the barriers women face in politics, especially when in pursuit of high office. But what was of even more interest to me was her call for post-partisanship and a different way of doing politics altogether.
Redford’s call for post-partisanship in the face of a hyper-partisan reality is a refreshing take on politics that demands policy solutions that are not from the right or left wing but based on fact and merit. Post-partisanship calls for the ‘smart’ answer instead of the politically motivated ‘solution’. It is this approach by Redford that I find inspiring and it is my hope that politicians across the country follow her lead by instituting smart solutions to the problems we face as a country.
(Theresa Lubowitz is a civic engagement and democratic reform activist. Please visit her website “What Have You Done For Democracy Lately?“)
Nancy Leblanc by Liberal Arts and Minds.
One thing not often thought of or written about are the number of dedicated people, volunteers, behind the scenes.
If you were able to ‘design’ these individuals, you’d likely include these attributes:
– Able to deal with the unexpected
Fortunately, for the Liberal Party of Canada, such an individual exists. In fact, she possesses all of these qualities and many more. Her name is Nancy Leblanc, known to many of you as Impolitical and she is a treasure.
She tirelessly volunteers on campaigns, works with dedication in her riding and contributes to our political discourse through insightful blogging on the issues of the day.
Without hesitation, Nancy certainly deserves to be included in Joseph’s annual “You Go Girl!” Awards post and I’m proud to call her, friend.
(Liberal Arts and Minds is a blogger and journalist.)
Sheila Copps by Christopher Slothouber.
No stranger to staring down the Tories in a majority government
setting, the former Hamilton MP’s tireless efforts in working to
promote equality for women and minorities, and treating LGBTQ
equality as “an issue of fundamental human rights” have played a
significant role in helping marginalized voices are heard, both inside
the Parliament of Canada and throughout the country.
After many years out of the political limelight, she was brought
centre stage after throwing her hat into the ring this year for the
Liberal Party of Canada presidency. Having lamented the listlessness of the Liberal Party before it was en vogue, Copps champions a mission of complete structural overhaul of her party. The breadth of her experience in service to Canada has enriched debate amongst Liberals. Of note is her approach to organization reform that would see no sacred cows excluded in a fundamental rebuild working towards making membership matter through an open primary candidate selection process, generating on-going two-way dialogue, ultimately giving Canadians a meaningful stake in their politics. Beyond being Canada’s best Heritage Minister, the legacy of Sheila Copps includes the establishment of the Canadian federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The environment commissioner reports to Parliament on behalf of the Auditor General on matters concerning environmental and sustainability practices of most federal government agencies and departments. Among her more recent activities as journalist and broadcaster, Ms. Copps also serves on the advisory board for Equal Voice, an advocacy group seeking to elect more women to public office in Canada.
Truly a woman worthy of the honourable styling, Sheila Copps
has more than earned a “You go, girl!” in 2011.
The Queen by Christopher Slothouber.
Love or loath her office, one cannot dispute her contribution
in advancing equality for women in the Commonwealth and around the
world. Dedicating her annual Commonwealth Day address to the
observance of International Women’s Day and the role of women in
During her long reign, Her Majesty has seen the world change
dramatically, the least of which in 2011 saw the modernization of the
rules of succession for the monarchy, eliminating previous male
favouritism where a male heir, though younger, would be given
preference over a female heir.
One of the most well-known women in the world, Queen Elizabeth II
deserves a respectful and hearty “You go, girl!” to Her Majesty, the
Queen of Canada, for tireless dedication to her subjects,
and using her post to focus attention on the quest for equality.
(Christopher Slothouber is the webmaster of ProgressiveBloggers.ca)
Ruth Ellen Brosseau by Micah Goldberg.
There was one story from 2011 that will stick out in Canadian anecdotal history for years to come. As an orange crush gripped Québec, the New Democratic Party tore the race in Berthier-Maskinongé, where 98% of the constituents speak French, wide open. As Canadians witnessed, anyone, even someone who did not speak French, had no post-secondary diploma, or had even visited the riding (forget about living there) had the opportunity to become a sitting member of parliament. Indeed, the good people of Berthier-Maskinongé were willing to elect someone who left the country during the campaign for the City of Sin, so long as they were a New Democrat.
Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the month of May’s most infamous politician has become the poster child of flaws embedded in first-past-the-post: an undeserving beneficiary of her late leader’s popularity. However, I also think she ought to be celebrated as the patron saint of political adaptation. She isn’t merely taking the lavish income and benefits, showing up at Parliament Hill and leaving at the first possible moment. She now has a residence within the boundaries of her new riding, and is taking intensive French lessons. Brosseau has asked the majority of her questions during question period in French, has made several public appearances in her riding presenting herself as bilingual, and has fought for her constituents. Ruth Ellen was undeniably the underdog in her race, a single mother working as an assistant manager at a Carleton University bar, who had no connection to the riding. But while Brosseau’s name was tarnished by political analysts, pundits and hacks alike, she was busy winning an election, something many of those same people who used her success as a punchline have absolutely no experience doing.
Doris Grinspun by Susan Uranowski.
Being a nurse for over 30 years and very concerned with the erosion of our Canadian Health Care System, it seemed only most appropriate to take a moment to acknowledge Doris Grinspun . Doris Grinspun is the Executive Director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), the professional association representing registered nurses in the province of Ontario. She has been in this position since 1996. The ongoing advocacy for healthy public policy and for the role of the registered nurses in Ontario is to be commended. The voice of RNAO was heard in the last provincial and federal election in regards to the importance of the enhancement of Medicare and enforcing the Canada Health Act and a single-tier not-for-profit health care system. In Toronto, the RNAO is also very pivotal in advocating against the “draconian budget cuts” proposed by Rob Ford and the impact on the most vulnerable in our community. Doris continues to be a great leader and visionary and has encouraged political involvement and leadership in other nurses in Ontario. You go Girl!
(Susan Uranowski has been a registered nurse since 1979.)
Megan Leslie by Brent Cotter.
Megan Leslie has been included on many lists of notable parliamentarians since taking the reigns as representative for Halifax from Alexa McDonough in 2008. As a committed community activist Megan Leslie has used her Law Degree from Dalhousie to advocate on behalf of tenants, the impoverished, workers, immigrants while running legal aid clinics in her native Halifax. Her acute understanding of issues she brings forth, and passion, has been recognized in the House of Commons by both Opposition and Government members. Articulate and funny, Megan Leslie has impressed many within and outside the House by speaking powerfully and concisely without notes, unlike far too many of her peers. Whether speaking to constituents, reporters or Parliament she is charismatic and personable, bringing much needed authenticity to politics. With the elevation of her party to Opposition status Megan Leslie has, as Environment Critic, used her increased prominence to lambaste the Government’s retreat on Global climate change, and decreased enforcement of Environmental law. Yet, most notably she presented an alternative Canadian viewpoint in the Keystone XL debate in the United States. In her responses to the most hyperbolic attacks on her patriotism and judgment during the debates in the House of Commons on her trip to the United States and on the Global Climate conference in Durban she has shown her poise and responded more intelligently and respectfully than her opponents. Regardless of one’s political stripes, Megan Leslie has shown not only the qualities of an outstanding MP, but has presented herself in a uniquely authentic, intelligent and personable fashion that more public figures need to emulate to break out of this age of message control and cynicism.
(Brent Cotter is the NDP Membership Executive for the riding of Wellington-Halton Hills.)
Elizabeth J. Roy by Joseph Uranowski.
I met Elizabeth Roy while volunteering on the 2010 municipal campaign in Whitby, Ontario. She was overwhelmingly re-elected to town council in 2010 and is one of the most effective and hard-working councillors. Working on Mrs. Roy’s provincial campaign was an extremely positive experience for me, and all of the Whitby-Oshawa Young Liberals. Her experience as a Public School Board trustee and as a front line health care worker gives her unique insight into the two public policy areas that most concern the people of Whitby. Above all, Liz is one of the most empathetic and sincere public servants I have ever had the honour of meeting and working for.