The life of a politician is not easy, even less if you are a party leader and a woman, says the leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, Dominique Anglade.
In politics, women are judged more harshly in many ways, she says. They feel the pressure to be perfect at all times and constantly have to prove themselves, with little room for anger or mistakes.
And if you have to face Prime Minister François Legault every day in Parliament, it doesn’t get any better, according to Anglade.
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She says her gender played a role in the Prime Minister’s attitude towards her.
“He’s a paternalistic person, that’s for sure,” Anglade said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
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Sitting in a café in Quebec City, it was the end of a difficult week for her party: in Marie-Victorin’s by-election on Monday, the Liberals came in fifth place with only 7% of the popular vote.
Anglade slammed comments made the night of Legault’s victory in the district, when he claimed Quebecers did not appreciate his ‘bashing’ of CHSLD Herron, where dozens of elderly people died in the first wave of the pandemic.
Was the Prime Minister’s comment inaccurate, condescending and even sexist?
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“Absolutely,” Anglade said.
Anglade says she is singled out as “aggressive or whiny” whenever she criticizes the government “in a strong way” – a reality she says does not exist for politicians.
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“The bias is there.”
But Anglade did her best to contain herself in the National Assembly, convinced that she would not be forgiven for the slightest misstep, whether it was a clumsy word or a burst of anger.
Anglade also claimed that Legault treats the men and women around him differently.
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“It is clear that he erases the slate of men more easily,” she said, referring to the three women who have been dismissed from the cabinet since the start of the mandate: Marie-Chantal Chasse, Sylvie D’Amours and Marie-Eve Proulx.
No male minister has suffered the same fate, although some have struggled.
Anglade cited the case of Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, who has been rejected several times by the Ethics Commissioner, but who is still in office.
“I could never have done what Pierre Fitzgibbon did and remained a minister,” Anglade said, adding that she had “much less room to make mistakes” than her male counterparts.
To reverse this trend, she argues that there needs to be more space for female political leadership, a reality that she hopes will be reflected in all spheres of society.
Syndrome of the “perfect woman”
Knowing they have little wiggle room, female politicians strive to be nothing less than perfect, Anglade said.
She says she suffers, like so many other women who have tried to impose themselves in politics, from the “syndrome of the one who must not be mistaken”.
But this reflex “limits you in all that you can be, in all that you can say, in the way that you express yourself”, she said, adding that it “prevents you from being what you are naturally”.
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There is “a dichotomy between the person I am and the perception people have”, she said – a “gap between the public image and the real person”.
With the approach of the elections, the one who has led the party for almost two years intends to be much more present on the ground, to make voters discover the “real” Dominique Anglade.
She is counting on her reconquest of the French-speaking vote in certain regions by advocating increased decentralization of powers. The first announcement on this subject will be made Thursday in Trois-Rivières.
Anglade says he wants to return to the fundamental values of the party, including economic development. Its vision includes the integration of wealth creation and the fight against climate change into a more coherent strategy.
The Liberal is well aware that she has only a few months to get back on track, and “the challenge is enormous but exciting”.
© 2022 The Canadian Press